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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
Roseanne: The Complete First Season (1988-1989)

Dan: There coffee?
Roseanne: Isn't there coffee every morning?
Dan: Yes
Roseanne: In the 15 years we've been married, has there ever been one morning when there wasn't any coffee?
Dan: No.
Roseanne: Then why do you have to ask me every morning if there's coffee?
Dan: Is there toast?

- John Goodman, Roseanne Barr

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: August 29, 2005

Stars: Roseanne Barr, John Goodman
Other Stars: Laurie Metcalf, Lecy Goranson, Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman, George Clooney
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some sexual humor)
Run Time: Approx. 505 min.
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 013131328691
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B-B C

DVD Review

Sit-coms are typically anything but realistic, but Roseanne was the first time I'd ever seen a family on TV that looked just like my own. In an era when beautiful stars ruled the evening soaps and most family sit-coms took place in the fantasyland of Full House, the Connors were the average, Middle America family. They certainly didn't look like they belonged on TV—Roseanne and Dan Connor (John Goodman) were about the same size and shape as my parents, and their drab little house in run-down Lombard, IL wasn't too far from my own well-worn tract home in Richton Park, about 40 miles away.

Against all odds, the show was a smash success from its first airing in October 1988. In the bonus material included on this release of the 23-episode first season, the real-life Roseanne explains how she had to fight to bring her original vision of the series (based on her own family) to the fore; the TV writers couldn't get a handle on the character—a brash, acid-tongued and independent woman who does what she has to do for her family, but doesn't take any crap from them (a self-described wife, mother, and domestic goddess)—and wanted to turn her into a caricature. Roseanne's battles to control the show became the stuff of TV legend, but I think her strive for reality (save for the odd duck last season) is what kept the show fresh and attracted an audience of, well, regular people.

Roseanne is a simple, realistic look at family life, and while there's definitely a bit of the sit-com formula at work, it avoids annoying, cutesy clichés at every turn. Take the relationship between Roseanne and her husband Dan, for example. A lesser show would turn her into a domineering loudmouth, and probably make Dan look like an idiot for marrying her. Instead, we see their minor power struggles and the everyday ins and outs of marriage, and though Roseanne is a smartass and Dan is a little lazy, it's always clear that they love each other.

The Connor's kids, teenage Becky (Lecy Goranson), pre-adolescent Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and little D.J. (Michael Fishman) are the antithesis of the Tanners over on Full House—no cutesy catch phrases, no lame punch lines (nice to watch a show where the laugh track is actually warranted), and, thank heaven, no forced family bonding or end-of-episode lessons learned. The kids simply fight and argue, like kids do, and as a result, they seem like the kids next door.

The Connors problems are far from the contrived sit-com conundrums, too—far from worrying about Mr. Roeper finding out the truth about Jack, the family is more concerned with putting food on the table (when, in the pilot, someone comes looking for food for "poor people" a donation drive at school, Roseanne replies, "Tell them to drive some of that food over here."). Roseanne has a job in a soulless factory (run by no less than a pre-ER George Clooney) with her sister Jackie (Laurie Meltcalf), and money is so tight, the $500 advance Dan receives for a construction job feels like a million dollars.

Season One isn't the show's strongest—though a great comedian, Roseanne wasn't yet much of an actress, and she often seems to be doing little more than racing to the next laugh line—but all the building blocks are in place for the next seven years. The ensemble already feels like a family (I love the prickly dynamic between the loveable Goodman and Meltcalf, who can sell any joke).

Unfortunately, this release, which purports to be "the complete first season," is nothing of the sort; the episodes are presented in their trimmed syndicated versions, each cut by around two minutes in order to cram in more commercial time. The edits noticeably disrupt the flow in some cases, with awkward fades and abrupt scene changes. Of course, I saw these episodes for the first time in syndication anyway, as I didn't really start watching it until later on (I was only 8, give me a break), so I don't really know what I'm missing, but it's still annoying. Though Anchor Bay is releasing the series, the decision to put out the shorter shows was made by the production company, Carsey Werner. Why they want to slap their logo on an inferior product, I'll never know, but die-hard fans will probably want to think long and hard about a purchase.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: In the world of TV on DVD, a 1980s sit-com is considered vintage, so you never know what to expect in terms of video quality. Roseanne looks decent, but isn't exactly pretty. The show was shot on video, and looks it—colors are a little dull and many scenes look a little hazy. Still, the quality is better than what you can see in re-runs on TV, and the disc is free from digital anomalies like artifacting or excessive aliasing.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a basic English stereo mix that preserves the dialogue quite well. Other than that, there's not much to say—this isn't a series known for flashy sound effects or the use of music.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Grounded for Life, 3rd Rock from the Sun
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers
Extras Review: Though the sets uses the shortened, syndicated versions of the episodes (a big negative), there are some newly produced bonus materials to ease the pain.

Roseanne on Roseanne (9:06) is a new interview with Roseanne (who, by the way, looks better now than she ever did on the show) talking about how she came up with the concept for the series and how she wanted to see a normal family on TV. She discusses, but downplays, her notorious on-set antics (though it's hard to argue with the fact that, whatever problems there were producing it, the show was a success). The interview even covers the end of the series, so it's tough to say whether Roseanne will continue to comment on future season sets.

John Goodman Takes a Look Back runs for 7m:04s, but I'd say easily half that is taken up by episode clips. His recollections are kind of interesting, but there isn't much substance in-between the highlight reel.

The 10-minute blooper reel has a lot of great moments with the cast bumbling lines. It's the same as most other gag reels, actually—lots of blown takes and goofing off—but it's actually funny, because these are funny people (even the kids). Roseanne was supposed to be a terror on the set but she looks like a lot of fun here.

There are two montage featurettes, Season One Highlights, with a bunch of the season's funniest scenes edited together, and Wisdom from the Domestic Goddess, which features clips of Roseanne's particular style of parenting. The latter is made up of clips from throughout the series, from the looks of it. It ends with the "top five pearls of wisdom" from the DG. My favorite—Roseanne: What did I tell you kids about eating cookies before dinner?
Becky: Use a plate.

The four discs are packaged in two slim keep cases, and the whole season takes up the same amount of room on the shelf as a single normal keepcase. The cases are clear, and the flipside of the cover art includes some trivia questions.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Roseanne has been called one of the greatest television shows of all time (by TV Guide); it's certainly among the best sit-coms of the last 20 years. If the episodes were uncut, this set would come highly recommended. As is, I still think fans will have a hard time passing it up.


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