Roseanne S1E4 Review: “Language Lessons”


This is one of those episodes that flies under the radar – and there’s not a lot to say about it.  The central conflict is between Dan and Jackie, following the classic trope that sitcom men (and, well, men everywhere) must hate their in-laws.  When Bev arrives later on, she’s easily hateable, so it makes more sense than this conflict.

By that I mean, by season 2 Jackie and Dan get along great.  His annoyance with her is gone and they’re actually quite close.  However, in this early stage of the show one of Jackie’s primary characteristics is that she’s a know-it-all.  Dan complains to Roseanne that as soon as Jackie comes over she’s going to say, “Dan, you know what your problem is?”  Of course, I pointed out where she first said this back in “We’re in the Money,” and naturally it’s one of the first things she says when she walks in the door in this episode.

I really hate the trope of men hating their in-laws, be it parents or siblings.  I think it’s crappy that this trope is so pervasive that it’s almost as if men are “supposed” to feel this way.  It really plays into the shrieking harpy wife character that I detest so much, because her family is supposed to be as awful as she is.  Why would any character stay in a marriage like that, where the woman is horrible and bitchy and her family are awful to him?

So when I first thought about this episode, I was annoyed that the show started with this popular sitcom element.  However, the more I think about it, it gives Dan and Jackie’s relationship a direction, and a way to grow over time.  They gradually get closer, and it leads to a real turning point in Season 2, Episode 15 “An Officer and a Gentleman,” when Roseanne is away for the week and the pair must cope with running the household together.  (There’s a lot of issues to unpack in that episode, behind the scenes, but we’re a ways off from there yet.)  The culmination of this growth comes later, when Dan defends Jackie against her domestic abuser in a really emotional episode.

With all that said, I still don’t particularly enjoy this episode, mostly because I don’t like any episodes that center around bickering.  However, with Roseanne not in the spotlight for this episode, she gets to do more silly stuff around the edges, which is some of the most fun that character has in this series, in my opinion.

Roseanne dances in Dan's underwear to lighten the mood

This episode is also one of the first to show Dan and Roseanne play wrestling, and leads me to another point: what I love about this show is the actors are all so comfortable with each other that no one was ever afraid of physical bits with each other.  There are episodes later on where Jackie and Roseanne full on attack each other, Dan puts Roseanne in a head lock, all kinds of crazy stuff, and it all feels natural and real.  Watch any sitcom on today- no one ever touches each other.  It’s just sort of stiff.  I really admire this show and these characters for this, because it’s something so simple yet so effective.  Plus, John Goodman was great at physical comedy.

Roseanne and Dan wrestling

The other plot in this episode focuses on Darlene, who is flunking history and has to build a castle for extra credit.

Darlene builds a castle for extra credit

When DJ breaks the castle, Darlene lashes out at him.  Roseanne points out that Darlene is really mad at herself for messing around all semester and is just taking it out on DJ– it’s not really clear whether Darlene actually learns a lesson here, because this plotline just sort of ends with her finishing the castle and insisting she’s still mad at DJ.

Even so, this plot provides DJ ample opportunity to just show up and be adorable.

DJ sulking

I think it’s also good character work in that we get to see Roseanne full-on parenting, I think for the first time so far.  She has to resolve the conflict with Darlene and cheer up DJ, who insists that Darlene hates him.  As above, it’s unclear how things really turn out with Darlene, but she gets the project done and the audience can see that Roseanne understands her daughter and the situation.  With DJ, Roseanne cheers him up quickly and recruits him to be the official chili taste tester.  Roseanne and Michael Fishman are really fantastic together and it’s adorable to watch them interact — of the three kids, he’s most believably hers.

Roseanne and DJ

So overall, this isn’t an episode I particularly enjoy, but I think when considered with Dan and Jackie’s progression over the next few years it’s an important stepping stone in the set up of their relationship.

Loose Meat:

– The love game bit from the magazine is exactly the kind of crap those magazines print, and I definitely bought into it at Becky’s age.

– “Yeah but my boyfriend’s not here, will my husband do?”

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