With the Roseanne revival upon us, it's a great time to revisit some history about the domestic goddess sitcom that changed TV. Ratings for her return have been huge. Everyone is catching Roseanne fever. But if you weren't there the first time around, you may not know some of the drama that went on behind the scenes. Today, we take a look at what made the sitcom such a classic with 10 things you never knew about one of TV's most important and influential shows of the 80s and 90s.
A stand-up woman.
Roseanne Barr, both the person and her show itself, was a trailblazer for other comedians. 'Though she'd never acted, TV producers were so impressed with her standup set on a 1985 episode of The Tonight Show that they offered to build a series around her, inspired by her life. There had been other standup comedians on TV shows before, like Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby, but the success of Seinfeld on NBC and Roseanne on ABC paved the way for an unprecedented slew of sitcom vehicles for standups, including Tim Allen, Brett Butler, Ellen DeGeneres, Ray Romano, and Chris Rock.
The original title.
As writer Matt Williams developed the show through several interviews with Roseanne and observing her daily life with her kids and then-husband, the working title was Life and Stuff, which he felt had more of an "ensemble" connotation. Barr insisted they change the name, as after all, the show was based on her life. The pair famously clashed throughout the show's first season. Williams was gone after that and Roseanne proceeded to bring in new writers, including some comedy club pals.
The only Dan.
John Goodman was the only actor brought in to audition for the role of Dan Conner. His chemistry with Roseanne sealed the deal. The producers were just as eager to cast Laurie Metcalf, making sure Barr would be surrounded by seasoned players.
The other DJ.
There's a different DJ in the pilot episode of Roseanne. Actor Sal Barone grew a half -inch after the filming of the pilot and the writers' strike that followed. Roseanne worried that he'd appear too old too quickly and also noted that Barone didn't seem to get along with Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene, so DJ was recast. Incidentally, Macaulay Culkin auditioned for DJ, two years before the release of Home Alone.
Other differences in the pilot.
The Roseanne logo and the Conner kitchen both looked different in the pilot, which was titled Life and Stuff, after the series original working title. Laurie Metcalf wore a curly wig in this and other early episodes to look more like Roseanne's real life sister. (Metcalf was actually edited out of the pilot entirely in later reruns.)
Roseanne the Vampire Slayer.
Roseanne was an early proving ground for several television writers who would go on to create their own successful properties. Joss Whedon was just 24 years old when he wrote four episodes of Roseanne's second season. He of course went on to create several TV shows of his own, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, directed The Avengers for Marvel and stepped in to finish the Justice League for Warner Bros. Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory co-creator Chuck Lorre also worked on Roseanne, as did Gilmore Girls and Bunheads creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Norm MacDonald was another of the show's gifted writers. He returned to work on the series revival, as well.
The Conners had to go to Disney World.
The public is much more aware of corporate synergy these days, to say nothing of shared cinematic universes. Years before the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, the Mouse House snatched up the corporate parents of television giant ABC. A directive came down insisting that characters from various shows must visit a Disney Park, which led to episodes of Full House, Family Matters, Boy Meets World, and Step by Step including Disney World or Disneyland. The Conners made their way to Disney World twice in season eight.
All of Roseanne's ex-husbands were on the show.
Roseanne was married to Bill Pentland for 16 years. He played one of Dan's friends in an early episode and served as an executive consultant for three seasons, even writing two episodes. After the couple divorced in 1990, she married Tom Arnold, a prop-based comedian she'd brought in as a writer, who wrote himself into the show. She married her ex-bodyguard, Ben Thomas, in 1995. He's a cop in two episodes.
There was a cartoon prequel (sorta).
In 1990, ABC aired a single season of a Saturday morning cartoon called Little Rosey, which was based on Roseanne Barr's childhood, if not her TV alter ego's childhood. Roseanne didn't voice her character but is said to have been keen to do so in a second season. ABC reportedly wanted to make some changes, like the addition of more male characters, and after some back and forth, cancelled it altogether. Barr has since said the brass cancelled Little Rosey in overreaction to her headline making rendition of the National Anthem at a Major League Baseball game. The Rosey and Buddy Show saw the series main characters headed to Cartoonland to confront meddling television executives. Variety's review of the one-off 1992 prime time special, which included Tom Arnold voicing Buddy, said, "If it comes to a choice between channel hopping and 'The Rosey and Buddy Show,' put the old thumb on the remote and hang on. There's likely to be something better on the horizon."
Speaking of Roseanne and Tom, the headline making couple whose life on and off the screen dominated tabloid news and talk shows for a while paid a surreal visit to Elm Street. Roseanne had already made She-Devil and Look Who's Talking Too, but 1991's Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare was Arnold's first movie credit.