“TV family sitcoms have always been about fathers who know best and mothers who are so enchanted with everything they do. I wanted to be the first mom to be a mom on TV. I wanted to sent out a message about how us women really feel.” – Roseanne Barr
For much of the 1990s, Roseanne was one of the most popular sitcoms on television. Roseanne Conner’s brutal honesty and sarcastic humor were a far cry from the perfect, polished TV moms who had come before her, and millions of Americans identified with Roseanne’s struggle with the issues we all face in everyday life. Now that the show has returned to TV, Roseanne is winning the hearts of a whole new generation of viewers.
Let’s pay a visit to Lanford’s favorite family with these 42 blue-collar facts about Roseanne.
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” – Roseanne Barr
42. Herrrre’s Rosie
In 1985, creator Matt Williams brought the idea of a show that centered around a blue-collar working mother to producers Tom Warner and Marcy Carsey. They liked the idea, but couldn’t find anyone to suit the role—until Roseanne Barr appeared on an episode of The Tonight Show. Roseanne’s abrasive attitude and droll observations about working-class motherhood singled her out as just the woman to star in the new program.
Roseanne was set in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois. Evansville, Indiana—Matt William’s hometown and inspiration for Lanford—was used for exterior shots.
40. On the Market
If you’re looking for a home that doubles as a piece of television history, you’re in luck! “The Conner house” is still standing in Evansville, and recently went on sale for $129,000.
$129,000! You can’t find a parking spot for that kind of money in some towns. There is a good deal if I ever saw one. Hold on while I grab my piggy bank…
39. Looking for A Home
Carsey and Warner had loads of success on NBC with The Cosby Show, so they figured the network would be willing to give their blue-collar sitcom a go. NBC declined, however, and Roseanne had to find a home on ABC.
Here’s guessing that ABC is pretty happy with their decision (2018 debacle notwithstanding).
38. He’ll Do
In addition to providing a vehicle for the relatable humor of Roseanne Barr, Roseanne proved to be the breakout role for John Goodman. While most folks would agree Goodman was perfect for the role of husband Dan Conner, we’ll never know what other actors could have done with the role: Goodman was the only actor to try out.
Macauley Culkin auditioned for the role of DJ Conner a full two years before getting his big break in Home Alone. He obviously did not get the part.
36. Trading Beckys
The original Becky, Lecy Goranson, left the show at the end of season 4 to attend college. She was replaced by Sarah Chalke for three seasons, before resuming the role in season 8 while Chalke stayed on to play bit parts. Goranson left again at the end of season 8, with Chalke reclaiming the throne as sole Becky. This revolving-door situation led to several jokes acknowledging the “two Beckys” in both the original and reboot versions of Roseanne.
35. Exceptions Made
Roseanne’s showrunners must have learned something from the whole Becky debacle, because when Sara Gilbert decided to go to university, they opted to organize shooting to fit her schedule, and allowed her to film her scenes in New York.
Now that is job security. Imagine moving to a whole new city, and your employers bring your job to you. Provided you’re happy with what you do, that’s a pretty sweet gig.
34. Working Title
While Roseanne was the undisputed star of the show, she wasn’t really what the show was about. In an effort to sum up the subject of the new sitcom, creator Matt Williams proposed a vague—but nevertheless relatable—title, Life and Stuff.
33. A Lot of Yelling
Just because you’re famous, successful, and very wealthy, doesn’t mean you can’t be outrageously petty about objectively unimportant matters.
Take parking:Roseanne and Tom Arnold were involved in an ongoing argument with Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfuss over a space in the lot at the studio where both sitcoms were filmed.
Maybe, I dunno, find another one?
32. Trouble at Home
At one point, even John Goodman had grown so frustrated with Roseanne’s behavior that he considered leaving the show. The producers were able to talk him out of it, but reduced his screen time to so he could put more effort into his film career.
And given his absolutely iconic roles in a bevy of wildly successful films since, we’d say that worked out pretty well for him.
31. Happily Married
Roseanne Barr was married three times over the course of the series. All three of her husbands—Bill Pentland, Tom Arnold, and Ben Thomas—appeared on the program at one time or another.
That’s a little bit surprising, no? It’s like finding out the Kermit and Miss Piggy aren’t really on speaking terms behind the scenes. You grow up watching someone on screen, it’s hard to imagine that they have a personal life off of it as well.
30. Just Roseanne
With the start of season seven, and after her divorce from Tom Arnold, Roseanne dropped her last name from the credits; she would be billed only as “Roseanne” for the rest of the series. In a sign of solidarity, all cast and crew are credited by first name only in the season 7 premiere.
29. A Good Ally
Roseanne was one of the first network television shows to feature a queer person in a regular supporting role: Sandra Bernhard’s character, Nancy, was a lesbian. Citing her two siblings as examples, Roseanne insisted that LGBTQ people were part of the fabric of ordinary society, and that needed to be represented.
28. A New Name
In his first episode on the show, Darlene’s boyfriend David, played by Johnny Galecki, is called “Kevin.” This was the character’s original name, and in one episode, Roseanne implies that “David” isn’t the character’s real name, but something Darlene just made up, a joke playing on Darlene’s domineering role in their relationship.
27. What’s for Lunch?
Starting in season five, Roseanne, Jackie, and Nancy open a diner called the Lanford Lunch Box. The specialty of the Lanford Lunch Box was the “loose meat sandwich,” a Midwestern variation of the sloppy joe.
Side note: there has literally never been a bad sloppy joe in the history of the universe. One man in Iowa once tried to make an intentionally terrible rendition of the classic entree… and ended up making a sandwich so glorious, it moved him to tears. Sloppy joes are absolutely incredible, and we applaud Rosanne for bringing that into focus.
26. Eating Your Feelings
The Lanford Lunch Box might have been created to fill a gap in Roseanne’s personal life. In 1990, she and then-husband Tom Arnold opened Roseanne and Tom’s Big Food Diner in Eldon, Iowa, which specialized in—that’s right, the loose meat sandwich. The diner closed after the couple’s divorce in 1994, the same year the Lanford Lunch Box was introduced to the show.
Season 9 took a bizarre turn—not only did Roseanne win the lottery, but Dan was barely around.
In the final episode, it was revealed that all the events of the previous season were just part of a story Roseanne was writing. Roseanne had imagined the whole thing as a way of coping with the fact that Dan had died. It was a criminally easy way to write off the final season, which had been reviled by fans and had received poor ratings.
24. Not So Fabulous
Some fans have blamed British TV for Roseanne’s dud of a final season. Roseanne loved the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous and had tried to get an American remake made. According to one theory, when ABC executives declined the AbFab adaptation, Roseanne compensated by including elements of the British show in her own—including have the two stars of the show guest star as their characters in one episode.
23. Spun Out
Although Roseanne ended after it’s ninth season, Carsey-Warner, Roseanne Barr, and ABC were in talks to do a spin-off which would be, essentially, just a continuation of the original series. After negotiations, ABC declined to invest in the series.
22. Not Even a Bridesmaid
Despite being a critical hit for most of its original run, and at one point the most-watched show on television, Roseanne was never nominated for Emmy.
That being said, series star John Goodman did though. He picked up 11 nominations for his role on the show. And how many did he win?
Exactly zero. That has to hurt a bit.
21. Child Stars
Many pre-fame stars showed up in Lanford. Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all had brief appearances as friends or classmates of the Conner kids.
Good god, what did they have in the water there? It’s like a breeding ground for future leading men. And how come I never got invited?
20. Are You Chicken?
Roseanne once found a sweatshirt backstage while filming. The white shirt was decorated with bright yellow chickens, prompting Roseanne to declare it was “the ugliest shirt [she’d] ever seen.” The shirt became a running joke through season 5: at some point or another that season, every major character is seen wearing the shirt.
19. The Most Obligatory Place on Earth
The Conners never had much money for vacations. Nevertheless, in 1995, the whole family took a trip to Disney World. With the 1995 merger of Disney and ABC, the House of Mouse demanded every family TV show on the network would be required to have its family visit either Disneyland or Disney World.
18. Who Asked For This?
Roseanne garnered a porn parody. It was called, simply enough, Roseanne XXX: The Parody.
You have to wonder what kind of conversations happen in the pitch meetings for these porn studios.
“Hey, we’ve pretty much done every notable movie under the sun. Lord of the Rings… Pirates of the Caribbean… Even Harry Potter, and that was a little questionable. What’s next guys?”
“Uhhhh… Should we do Rosanne?”
17. Drawing Criticism
Roseanne also resulted in an animated spin-off. When Roseanne offered up a screeching rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a baseball game, the ensuing backlash drove Little Rosie off the air, freeing up the Saturday morning slot for a new cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At that exact moment, the wallets of the parents of an entire generation of kids prepared to shrink.
16. Turtle Power
Ironically, while Roseanne Barr did not provide the voice for her cartoon counterpart, she did provide the voice of the villain Kraang in a later run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Which leads to a pretty contentious debate: which is the better role? Sure Rosanne is pretty iconic, but Krang is a freaking brain in a jar! It takes a lot of range to make that voice ring true.
15. Where Are They Now?
Since the conclusion of the original series, Roseanne Barr has occasionally shared her thoughts about where the Conners would be today. Among her suggestions: David and Darlene would divorce, Darlene would come out as a lesbian, DJ would become a published author, and Roseanne would open a marijuana dispensary. Makes sense, considering the real-life Roseanne made moves to open up a dispensary at one point.
14. Stories Up Her Sleeve?
In a 2008 interview, a reporter asked Roseanne if she’d be willing to expand on these statements. Roseanne replied that any such creations were her intellectual property and that she’d prefer not to share them, sending fans into speculation that a reboot of Roseanne might be in the works.
13. Return of Roseanne
In 2017, it was announced that Roseanne would be returning to ABC. The series would serve as a mid-season replacement, and catch up with the Conner family in Lanford 20 years after the events of the final season.
Guess that didn’t last too long though…
12. Familiar Faces
Not only were fans excited about Roseanne returning to television—virtually all old cast members were eager to reprise their roles on the show. Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman have returned, as have several other recurring cast members, most notably Laurie Metcalfe, Johnny Galecki, and Sandra Bernhard.
And who wouldn’t? It’s the biggest hit of many of these actors careers!
11. The Final Becky
We know what you’re wondering: But who will play Becky? (That’s right, we can read your minds!)
Lecy Goranson has agreed to come back for this iteration of Roseanne, while Sarah Chalke will be playing a new character, Andrea. We’ll see how long that lasts.
10. Back from the Dead
John Goodman will reprise his role as Dan Conner, despite his character being killed off in the original series’ final episode. The showrunners had a perfectly reasonable explanation for Dan’s reappearance, however: they’re ignoring it. Which you have to admit, is a bold move. That’s basically the writer’s equivalent of a surgeon misplacing your heart mid-operation and just sticking in a Mr PotatoHead doll instead. “Ahhhh, it’s roughly the same shape. Who’s going to notice?”
Then again, considering what happened in the final episode, that’s probably for the best.
By ABC’s own admission, the return of Roseanne was an attempt to draw in more conservative, middle-American viewers, and in the reboot, Roseanne will be a supporter of Donald Trump. Roseanne Barr is, in fact, a Trump supporter in real life and has tweeted several conspiracy theories regarding Hilary Clinton. Roseanne’s return to television drew considerable criticism from those who feel such voices should not be given a platform on national networks.
8. Instant Success
Despite the backlash, Roseanne was a massive hit. 18.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the first episode, making it the most-watched episode of a comedy program since 2014. One episode was all it took to make sure we’d be seeing more Roseanne in the future. Just three days after the ‘Season 10’ premiere, ABC executives agreed to a second season of the rebooted sitcom—the ratings were simply too good to say no.
7. Call from the White House
You know you’ve really made it in entertainment when you cross over from popular culture to politics. And over the years, Rosanne managed just that.
Even President Trump—a guy who knows a thing or two about television—called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on the show’s “yuge” ratings.
6. Nude Dude
Throughout the first season, future Academy Award winner George Clooney appeared in a recurring role as Roseanne’s boss, Booker Brooks. Clooney got on quite well with the cast—so well, in fact, that one drunken night the crew managed to catch a candid shot of a naked Clooney. The photo—tastefully obscured of course—remained pinned to the Conner’s fridge for years.
Be honest: if you had a naked pic of America’s SilverFox himself, you’d keep it on the fridge too.
5. Big Family
Everyone remembers the revolving Beckys, but she wasn’t the only character to get replaced. DJ was played by Sal Barone in the pilot, but in the period between the filming of the pilot and the show going into full production for the rest of the season (which was lengthened by a writer’s strike) Barone went through a growth spurt. Michael Fishman came in to replace him and lasted for the rest of the series. Darlene, played by Sara Gilbert, was the only Conner kid to go unreplaced.
4. The Bullpen
Roseanne quickly assembled one of the strongest writing teams on television. In addition to Roseanne and her one-time husband Tom Arnold, staff included Joss Whedon, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and Chuck Lorre, all of whom would go on to create their own classic TV shows—Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Two and a Half Men, respectively.
3. Take a Number
Roseanne made all the writers wear shirts with numbers on them, and would refer to them only by number. She saw this as a way to address “their colossal self-entitlement.”
We can verify this one. It is immensely difficult to take yourself very seriously when your name has been replaced by a series of digits. Just ask Jean Valjean.
2. Roseanne sans Roseanne
The writers weren’t the only ones who found Roseanne difficult to work with. During the second season, there was talk of firing her because of her erratic and hostile behavior, and centering the show around Dan and Jackie, after an episode featuring the two showed that it was possible to get laughs without Roseanne. When Laurie Metcalfe and John Goodman went to Roseanne and told her about the plot, she was impressed by their loyalty and won her support for the rest of the series.
1. In Loving Memory
One character who would not return for the reboot is Becky’s husband and David’s older brother Mark, as the actor who played him, Glen Quinn, died tragically from an overdose in 2002. Quinn, an Irish actor, used an American accent to play Mark between season 3 and season 9. In the new series, an episode was dedicated to the memory of the late actor, and in a particularly emotional scene, Darlene and Becky discuss the aftermath of the character’s death and how it has changed the life of his widow, Becky.