Roseanne Season 1 Episode 17 Review: “Becky’s Choice”

5

This episode is one of the many in which Roseanne faces the class divide between the Conners and the Lanford elite, but this one is unique because it’s one of a handful where this issue is central to the plot– and jokes– but also because there isn’t much spite, or jealousy, or derision involved.  In earlier episodes we’ve seen Roseanne snark on those above her in “social rank,” as it were, and many times over the series we watch the Conners tackle the issue of class with cynicism, bitterness, or holier-than-thou-ness.  Some of it is lighthearted; other times, it’s clear how deep that resentment can run.

What makes this episode unique in my mind is that the Conners don’t really fault Chip’s family for being well-off.  They laugh at how ridiculous these people can be, and how oblivious they are to sensing their audience, but there’s nothing mean-spirited about their jokes.  There are a lot of jokes about wealth and poshness in this episode, and yeah, this family is the butt of the joke, but ultimately the viewer comes away with the sense that sure, these people are annoying and clueless and the Conners don’t want to put up with their antics more than they have to, but they’re nice people, and they don’t deserve derision just for being well-off.  The show could easily have had a one-note approach to this issue, but it has the maturity and the sensibility to handle it appropriately (and hilariously) for each situation the Conners encounter.

The set-up for all this is that Roseanne has invited Chip’s family over for dinner; however, Becky has already made plans with a mysterious “Johnny” for the same night.  She gets snippy with Roseanne about the dinner, insisting they must be out the door by 9pm and dumbfounding her parents who are just trying to be cool and get to know her boyfriend’s parents.

Jackie briefly appears in this episode to prepare the dinner, but primarily to provide a sounding board character for Roseanne to bounce the situation off of.  She begs Jackie to stay for the awkward dinner, but Jackie has a date with Booker– surprise, he’s still around, somewhere, despite there still being jokes that Jackie can’t keep a man.  Hasn’t he been around quite a while now?

To give DJ something to do in this episode, there’s a cute little gag where he rings the doorbell, Dan opens it, and DJ announces “Ha Ha.”

Because without this moment, DJ would have literally nothing to do.

Because without this moment, DJ would have literally nothing to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the show to do a lot more with him at this age.  He certainly isn’t going to carry off a whole episode plot.  Frankly I’m impressed, and he’s lucky, that he didn’t fall prey to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome or Demoted to Extra.  He’s just so young.  Aside from The Cosby Show and 7th Heaven, I can’t think of any other sitcoms that successfully pulled off characters that young.

This sets up, however, a lovely introduction between Dan and Chip’s family–

Chip: "It's okay, this is normal."

Chip: “It’s okay, this is normal.”

Much of what follows is an evening rife with jokes and awkwardness surrounding the class divide between these two families.  Chip’s parents order “just mineral water” (Roseanne replies, “Well, we got water and I’m sure it’s got minerals in it”) and “a Tropical Hurricane,” which Edgar has earned for going jogging that morning.  Everything about this exchange, their appearances, and the way they speak, much like the first time we met Chip’s mother, is the epitome of the class divide.  (Wonder how many more times I can say “class” in this review?)

3

My friend Karen decorated it.”  “My friend Rocko paved the driveway!”

Things get more and more awkward as dinner takes forever to cook– even after Roseanne turns on the oven, assuring the group that dinner will be ready much faster now!  During all this awkwardness, Becky sneaks out to meet Johnny, who, as we can see from the costumer’s choices, is A Totally Badass Guy.

4

Popped collar, headband, AND buttons on his denim jacket? This guy is bad news! (Or on his way to a West Side Story audition.)

One thing here– Becky is in 8th grade.  She’s 13, and not even in high school.  It is hard to imagine why a sophomore in high school would be interested in her– the divide between middle school and high school was pretty big, in my experience.  I guess he’s just that type of Badass Dude, who likes to take innocent girls and… kiss them.  Oh noooooo…

Of course, as soon as Becky tells Johnny that her parents can’t tell her what to do, and the pair kiss, Roseanne catches them and sends Becky hightailing it back into the house.

6

Over breakfast, Darlene informs Roseanne and a clueless Dan that Johnny Swanko (of course his name is Swanko) is “the Makeout King,” the “tongue bandit,” and a sophomore.  The Conners justifiably lay into Becky– both for running around on Chip, a decent guy who she claims she still likes, and for dating a guy they absolutely do not approve of.

It’s my business when you start sneaking out of this house to meet some guy that I would consider leaving your father for!”

Becky freaks out– and this is one of those times that I don’t fault her for it.  What teenage girl didn’t have this experience with their parents?  She goes off on them for being uncool, leading them to realize they aren’t the hip, fun parents they intended to be.  They didn’t want to treat their kids the way their parents treated them, and Roseanne questions her initial reaction to Johnny.  She wants to be the mother who trusts her kids, who’s fun and understanding. But things are different now then when she and Dan were Becky’s age, and their perspective has changed.  Dan was a punk when she met him, and she was as innocent as Becky.  Considering this, they call Becky into the kitchen, her expecting them to relent and let her date Johnny after their revelation– but they assure her there’s no chance in hell that’ll happen.

7

Loose Meat:

– This is the only episode I can think of that has mid-credits and post-credits scenes– all of Chip’s parents being insufferably bourgeoisie.  And still, after all their BS, the Conners quietly and politely suffer.

– My apologies for the long delay in posting– I’ve been slammed with work, but I’m getting into a routine now and should be able to resume normal posting regularity.

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