Roseanne S1E5 Review: “Radio Days”

The Conners gather around to hear Dan play their song

One of the things I’ve wondered as I’ve watched this show over the years is how Jackie is so popular with the men.  That’s not a dig against Laurie Metcalf, by the way– she’s certainly attractive.  But it seems like every time she’s on screen with a man (Dan excluded) he’s coming on to her.  She catches a lot of flak for putting out, so I suppose that’s what the writers had in mind as the reason, but when she’s not being a know-it-all she’s very funny and puts off a bad girl vibe, especially in the early seasons.  Later on she becomes a little neurotic and mopey, but prior to that I can see why her character would be attractive.

I mention this, of course, because the B plot to this episode is Booker coming on to Jackie at work.  First of all, let’s all enjoy Clooney and his luscious locks again:

George Clooney on Roseanne

This plot honestly feels a little shoehorned into this episode.  Not because it doesn’t make sense, it does, but because nothing really happens with it beyond introducing the idea of Jackie and Booker together.  He flirts with her, gives her his number, and then scolds her for flirting with him in front of the other employees, but then that plotline is dropped for the rest of the episode.  I suppose it’s just here to plant the seeds of their romance which will progress over the season, but it’s odd partly because there’s only two scenes on the subject, and partly because Booker’s behavior in those two scenes is pretty inconsistent.  Sure, when he flirted with Jackie the other women weren’t around, but there are some male employees in the corner watching and listening to their conversation, and it’s not like he asked her to keep any of it on the down low.  It makes sense that he reprimands her for inappropriate behavior (slapping his ass), but the lecture he gives actually seems more like lecturing her for letting others know that something was heating up between them.  I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something about their exchange (it’s all a little rushed and unclear when Jackie’s being serious and when she’s being sarcastic) but the whole bit is oddly mushed in here, playing equal to Becky and Darlene bickering as a plot, because I guess they didn’t think either could be beefed up to replace the other.

Also down at the Wellman factory, we get a little more insight into Crystal (for a character that appears in the intro to every episode, we hardly see her or know a darn thing about her yet), and oh boy, is it a doozy.  She describes a series of awful things that have happened to her and I can’t help but think what an unfortunate character she is, and that for some reason the writers intended her to be this way.  Is it supposed to be funny that her life is that of a punching bag?  She’s always irritated me with her moping, low self-confidence, and weird manner of speaking, so it’s sort of a relief when she disappears without a single mention later in the series.  I think we’ll soon be up to the episode with her husband entombed in a freaking bridge, so more on Crystal and her wtf-ery then.

The other secondary plot, if you can even call it a plot, is that Darlene and Becky are bickering.  Becky is the worst, as has been established, and while Darlene is pretty insufferable here, she doesn’t have the venom in her voice yet that Becky does.  And why does Becky, in general, call Roseanne “Mother?”  As she gets later into her teens it gets more and more snide, but the way she says it even in these earlier episodes seems so disrespectful.

Becky whining

That’s the extent of this bit, really, that they just keep yelling at each other.  However, it leads to a great exchange between Roseanne and DJ as she fixes his truck (which, despite his doubts about her ability, she can fix– she can do anything, she tells him, she’s a mom!).

They’re horrible rotten girls, what are we gonna do with them?”  “Kill ’em!”

DJ says Kill em!

The main plot, of course, is that Dan is going to enter a songwriting contest on the radio, at the urging of Roseanne.  After reflecting on some classics he wrote in his youth (“Ooh baby baby give it to me give it to me!”) he writes a little tune for a poem Roseanne wrote many years ago.

Dan sings Roseanne's poem

It’s actually a sweet little song, and John Goodman is very endearing as he plays it.  They end up submitting this song to the contest, which a whopping four contestants have entered, and the family gathers around to hear the results.  Excitement mounts as the runners-up are listed, and yet– they lose.  Their sweet little song got fourth out of four.

The Conners are disappointed at losing the contest

Frankly, it’s refreshing.  Too often in TV and movies people win everything, get everything handed to them.  Hardly anyone loses.  But this is a family that loses pretty often.  In writing this review I thought (as I often do) about the stark contrast of this show and its contemporary, Full House, a show where literally everything works out always and everyone gets everything they could possibly dream of.  (I’m completely serious, by the way. Jesse and Joey are just handed jobs and gigs with the Beach Boys and radio shows without having to do any work ever.)  What fun is a show (or life) like that?  That creates characters who are spoiled and smug and shallow and uninteresting, whereas this family has nuance and character and relationships you want to see get played out on screen.

And because this family loses often, they’re also equipped to cope.  Dan and Roseanne go into the kitchen and crack a few jokes about the loss, and the kids save the evening by requesting that Dan perform the song for them.  They all get into the bit, waving their arms in the air and Roseanne holding up a lighter, and the only thing spoiling the moment is that DJ is desperately trying to sing along to a song he doesn’t know the words to.  The result is Dan singing lovingly while a high-pitched “ah dah bah da river dah ba mountain” sort of whines along behind him.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but it looks like Roseanne is looking at him during that bit like, “What the heck are you doing, kid?”

This won’t be the last time the Conners lose at something and have to soldier on, though it’s one of the lowest-stakes situations.  They’re already used to disappointment, which is good because they’re going to face a lot of it …until season 9.  Oh god, season 9.

It’s okay.  Season 9 is a long way off still.

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