There’s a new intro! It’s fundamentally the same as the pilot intro, but with the new DJ. There’s quite a lot going on around the table during this intro, so I tried to read some of their lips to see how the actors filled in the time recording it. After Becky waves some nail polish around in her face, Jackie responds, “I like that one,” before turning to Dan and saying, “What are you throwing? Don’t do that!” Boy, this must have been awkward to shoot.
We begin again in the kitchen, this time at night where Darlene is doing her math homework. The first thing I noticed in this episode? Michael Fishman hasn’t even said a line yet, just reacted to Roseanne’s line to him, and he’s already such a huge improvement for that character. Really cute, and great chemistry with Roseanne without even saying a word.
There’s some business about Darlene stealing the batteries from Dan’s flashlight, and she gets a lecture about lying. After this, Dan and Roseanne have another fantastic scene in the kitchen discussing a potential drywall job and showing off their fantastic chemistry. It is, again, several minutes of them just sitting and chatting in the kitchen, but it’s such fun to watch them tease. Dan remarks that he’s hoping to get a drywall job, and Roseanne responds, “You’re not gonna get it,” followed by this face:
There’s some more playful teasing back and forth before Dan proclaims himself the Drywall Master of the Universe, winning raucous support from the studio audience.
The next scene is Darlene putting DJ on a makeshift seesaw so she can shoot him up in the air. Roseanne walks in and delivers one of my favorite lines of the season, “What did I tell you about killing your brother in the living room!”
Dan gets the drywall job and a $500 advance, but because Becky is the queen of brats, she demands they use the money to buy her a pair of designer jeans. Seriously, I suppose Becky is modeled on one of Roseanne’s daughters or some real teenage girls out there who are this insufferable, but they ought to have given this poor character some redeeming qualities at some point.
At Wellman the next day, Roseanne talks to Crystal and Jackie about the advance, the bills, and her conversation with Dan about wishing they could buy her perfume and his captain’s bell with the money. We still don’t know much about Crystal yet, but she gets established as a hopeless romantic, suggesting that Roseanne and Dan go to a “theme motel” for a romantic getaway. Is that really a thing, theme motels? Where each room is a different theme like Roman Empire or the jungle? I’ve never heard of such a thing and it seems Google hasn’t either, so I guess this is something the writers invented, but it’s pretty perfect: just the right combination of romance and trashiness for a character like Crystal in a town like Lanford.
It seems like they haven’t really decided what they want to do with Jackie’s character yet, aside from the know-it-all thing, but I think that aspect of her personality doesn’t really make it beyond the first few seasons, eventually reversing so that she becomes clueless and always runs to Roseanne for guidance. At this point, however, she’s lecturing Roseanne on her money problems, and we get the very first instance of, “Do you know what your problem is?” That “catchphrase” gets planted here so that in a few episodes when Dan harangues her for saying it, it actually makes sense. Jackie tells Roseanne to buy the perfume, and gives her a hard time for being just like their mother and doing whatever “hubby says.” I don’t think we actually meet their parents for a while, but the comparison of Roseanne to her mother and Jackie to her father starts here and continues throughout the series. (I point out consistencies like this because there are so many inconsistency problems later on that are frankly comical– and this makes for good character work, in my opinion.)
Roseanne goes to the store to buy the perfume, and the saleslady is Monica’s mom from Friends!
Roseanne has doubts about the purchase, but then launches into a playful bit with her unsuspecting counterpart, a hobby she deploys very often in the series. This time, it’s telling the saleslady about her boyfriend, Lance the racecar driver. The saleslady buys it completely. These bits are played out frequently, with the audience loving it and the innocent bystander simply thinking “Wow, what an interesting woman.” I wonder if we would have the same reaction as the audience if we knew a person who did this in real life– I’m inclined to say it wouldn’t be as endearing.
It seems like it boils down to one of the central themes of the show, in the end, after the reveal that the content of the show was Roseanne’s rewrite of real life. (Uh, spoilers I guess, though I think most people know how it ends even if they haven’t seen the show. It’s always on those listicles of “The Top 23 Worst Series Finales” or whatever, right after The Sopranos and Alf.) These exchanges with random people where she lies about her life are very similar– she’s imagining a better, more interesting and fantastic life for herself than her blue-collar reality. This mechanism is also often used as a joke on the show, such as in the pilot when she says “Well, there goes the Porsche.” Funny enough, Darlene, who becomes more and more similar to her mother as the show goes on, adopts a very similar comedic style, imagining far more fantastical responses to others’ mundane questions or demands.
Another thing I noticed during this episode is that Michael Fishman actually is a pretty good child actor. Sure, he recites his lines as told, but he keeps acting even when he’s not the focus of a shot or a scene. Early on, he and Roseanne make faces at each other once the central action has moved to Dan and Darlene, and later, when his interaction with Dan in the shed is over, he continues to pretend to take shots with his water gun as Dan checks that the coast is clear. That’s the sort of thing that adult actors do and isn’t very noticeable, yet in his first episode Michael Fishman had it down.
There’s sort of an overly saccharine ending to this episode. Roseanne gets caught with the perfume, and Dan, looking to leverage this so he doesn’t get into trouble, offers to buy his bell and allay Roseanne’s guilt– but she guesses he’s already bought it, and as Dan denies it, DJ comes through ringing the bell with a huge grin on his face. It’s a saccharine ending because everyone ends up with what they wanted– Roseanne gets her perfume, Dan gets his bell, and Becky inexplicably gets her freaking jeans despite being a tool about it.
One thing I want to point out here is another element of Roseanne that sets the show apart from a lot of sitcoms, in my mind– John Goodman and Roseanne were not afraid to show real physical affection, and were completely comfortable with it. In the scene where they pay bills in the kitchen, there’s an established chemistry and natural interaction between them in which Dan kisses Roseanne’s arm. It’s very sweet and genuine, whereas a lot of other shows would have couples offer a peck on the lips as the extent of their physical interaction. Maybe a big hug after a fight, or one of those “rubbing her shoulders and whispering sweet nothings in her ear in order to get some” moves, but not anything quite like this.
Of course, her reaction to this display (“Go away, you’re making me puke!”) is the perfect encapsulation of their relationship: tender, comical, passionate, and witty.
– How did Becky end up blonde?
– “Why are you so mean?” “Because I hate kids! And I’m not your real mom!”
– It’s not even fair for me to point out people’s terrible hair. They all have terrible hair, because everyone did back then. I mean, the entire cast of Full House had mullets at one point.