"Roseanne," one of TV's landmark sitcoms, premiered 32 years ago this week. Here is an edited version of Newsday TV critic Marvin Kitman's original review that ran on Oct. 18, 1988:
The "Roseanne" show, starring Roseanne Barr, which opens on ABC tonight at 8:30, is great. The first episode is the funniest first episode of the new fall season.
Roseanne Barr is the one you've been hearing all about, the housewife from Salt Lake City who found that life in the trailer park with the children was not that fulfilling. Her real life story sounds like Sally Field's in "Punchline" — only it's funny.
Roseanne Barr is a real comedian, not just somebody TV viewers can identify with. Roseanne Barr is visually funny. She has that dead-frying-pan look on her face and a big mouth and wide shoulders with lots of chips on them. Like great comics, she has a way with a line and a sense of timing that is impeccable. When she says "This is why some animals eat their young," to a child's asinine remark, she makes me howl.
"Roseanne" is like a sit-down routine by a stand-up comic. She's usually sitting at a table with the standard domestic sitcom props: two kids and a husband. But it's like she's from another planet when she delivers her line. The show has a different point of view about a traditional subject: raising a family. Her point of view is what laughingly can be called the real world — as compared to the TV world.
Roseanne looks like a real person. Her husband looks like a real person. Whoever cast John Goodman in the role deserves a medal. He is perfect.
Everybody is wondering how men will take "Roseanne." There is some vicious, anti-male stuff in it — like the speech she makes about how
men are like doughnuts, under the influence of their mothers, and all the macho stuff they get from beer commercials. She makes a lot of
sense, even at her most biting.
She is the angriest person on a sitcom since Ralph Kramden or Basil Fawlty. .
This is not "The Cosbys." It's more like "Married … with Children." It's a blue-collar family. It's so rare that we see a family like this.
May "Roseanne" run for 450 episodes so we can have a new role model.
But she has two enemies. The papers are already filled with stories about her fights with the producers. It's said Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, those experts on reality from "Cosby," are doing market research in Illinois to find out the concerns of blue-collar workers.
The second enemy is Roseanne herself.
Will she become a star? Will she become a pain to ABC like Cybill Shepherd? Will she take diction lessons and go L.A.? Right now she's Salt Lake City — refreshing and wonderful. The producers are telling her to keep her mouth shut, and be like everyone else. Take the money --- and stay.
But Roseanne Barr is a true subversive, a troublemaker. I predict there will be lots of trouble with "Roseanne."