The show made a brief return to the airwaves, which endeared the characters to an entirely new generation of TV watchers, though it didn’t last long. Let’s return to Lanford’s favorite family with these facts about a show that we all appreciate.
Looking for the Perfect Woman
In 1985, Roseanne's eventual creator Matt Williams pitched a show that focused on a blue-collar working mother to producers Tom Warner and Marcy Carsey. They thought the idea was a good one, but they had trouble finding the right actress to portray the mother.
They searched high and low and found nothing. That was until Roseanne Barr appeared on an episode of "The Tonight Show," showing off an abrasive attitude and droll observations about working-class motherhood. It's like the project was tailor-made for her. Producers approached her with the idea, and Barr was on-board in a heartbeat.
Based on a Real Place
Roseanne and her family were based in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois, a small town in the heartland of America, and a town just like one of the thousands that anyone in the midwest is familiar with: an industry town, with hard-working, tough-talking residents that do their best to put food on the table and live a good life.
Matt Williams, the show's creator, based this fictional town on his hometown of Evansville, Indiana, which was used for exterior shots throughout the show's run. The show has played coy with exactly in Illinois the town of Lanford rests, with multiple contradicting details making it hard to pin down.
Looking to Live Like the Barrs?
Ever want to live like TV stars? It's possible. The “Conner House” is still standing in Evansville and is even on the market. While the inside that we see on the show was obviously a Hollywood set, you can still enjoy the beautiful exterior for the low, low price of $129,000.
A hefty sum, to be sure, but not too pricey as long as the house is still in good condition. Plus, you can verify your status of "Biggest Roseanne Fan Ever" – after all, you're living in her house! There's something very middle America, and something very reassuring, about this kind of home. It's the kind of place to raise a family.
Where Would Roseanne Live?
Producers Tom Warner and Marcy Carsey had lots of success with their award-winning NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show". They figured NBC would be interested in their blue-collar sitcom set in America's heartland. To their surprise, however, NBC declined, requiring them to go on the hunt for a network that wanted them.
They found their home on ABC, a decision that had ABC reaching for the champagne, and one that had NBC kicking themselves in their white-collar butts. The show was lauded for realistic portrayals of blue-collar life and earned plenty of accolades, including landing on "TV Guide's" 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time list.
He's a Good Man
Not only did John Goodman, who played Roseanne's husband, Dan Conner, provide his on-screen wife a perfect delivery service for her brand of relatable humor, but Goodman also became a breakout star in his own right. Nobody watched the show thought that Goodman was anything but perfect for the role, with a charming smile, a boisterous attitude, and enough grit to withstand being married to Roseanne for that long.
Nobody could deny Goodman's fit in the role, but we'll never know what we might have had – Goodman was the only actor who tried out for the role, and the producers agreed that he was perfect.
He Just Wanted a Family
More than two years before his big break as Kevin McCallister, child actor Macauley Culkin auditioned for the role of DJ Conner. Obviously, he didn't get the part, which allowed him to go on to the "Home Alone" series.
Despite the success of those movies, Culkin might have thought being part of the Conner family was a better deal. Who knows if being part of the Conner family would have helped those things.
Becky Number Two
The Conner's daughter Becky, played by Lecy Goranson, decided she didn't want to be part of the family anymore – she wanted to go to college. Instead of writing the character out, the producers brought in Sarah Chalke for three seasons to take Goranson's place. However, for season eight, Goranson came back to reprise her role, while Chalke stayed on the show playing bit parts.
Goranson again left at the end of season eight, and thus Chalke was the sole remaining Becky. Several jokes acknowledge this odd casting back-and-forth, referencing “two Beckys.” These show up in both the original and the rebooted versions of the show.
They Learned Their Lesson
"Roseanne's" original run went for almost ten seasons, so more than one cast member decided it was time to go to college and get a degree. While the producers brought in a replacement Becky when Lecy Goranson left, the problems with that helped to teach them a few things.
So, when Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene Conner, decided to go to University, the producers juggled around the shooting schedule to allow Gilbert to continue acting since she filmed all of her scenes – and went to school – in New York. It was tough on Gilbert for a while, but better for the show overall.
The Working Title of a Blue-Collar Show
Despite the title of the show, "Roseanne" isn't really about Roseanne. Sure, she's the star of the show, but the big (and ever-growing) Conner family took center stage in all its forms. Before Barr signed onto the project, Matt Williams had to come up with a title that summed up the show. His working title was vague, but nevertheless relatable: "Life and Stuff."
Maybe not as eye-catching as the title eventually became, but it was an accurate way to portray the situations the show would go through, from trying to keep your family fed and clothed to relationships, breakups, homework, and, despite all of it, love.
Roseanne's Connection to Seinfeld
Roseanne Barr and her husband, Tom Arnold, had a long-running, ongoing argument with an actor from another show about something that could very easily find its way into both shows. The argument was all about a reserved parking spot at the studio where both "Roseanne" and "Seinfeld" were filmed, and the person they were in an argument with was none other than Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.
From nasty notes to trashing each other on national television, this feud continued long after Louis-Dreyfuss accidentally parked in the wrong spot. A reserved parking spot was often seen as having made it big in the entertainment business, and neither Arnold nor Roseanne were ready to let it go.
The Conners Almost Split Up
Apparently, Roseanne (Barr) wasn't easy to work with. While her sarcastic humor and cutting remarks brought plenty of laughs while she was filming, the same things made a working relationship difficult. John Goodman once got so frustrated working with Barr that he considered leaving the show – his movie career was growing, and he wanted to devote time to it.
The producers were able to talk him out of it, but he required that they reduce his screen time so that he could film movies. You've surely seen or heard Goodman in films like "Barton Fink," "Argo," and "Monsters, Inc."
Happily Married (Three Times)
Over the course of the series, Roseanne Barr was married to three different men, and each one appeared on the show at one point or another. The first was Bill Pentland, from 1974 to 1990, was Roseanne's writing partner, and played a one-off character Freddy Meeker in a 1989 episode.
Tom Arnold married her in 1990, the two divorced in 1994, and Arnold played the character Arnie Thomas as well, in one episode, the character's sibling Jackie. Her final showtime husband was Ben Thomas, from 1995 to 2002, who played a pair of cops in episodes two years apart.
Kind of Like Cher
When the seventh season began, Barr had just divorced from husband, Tom Arnold. For this reason (though we're not really sure what she was trying to accomplish with the move), Roseanne decided that she would drop her last name from the credits and billed as only “Roseanne” rest of the series.
As a way of showing solidarity, all cast and crew are credited with only their first name for the season 7 premiere. We still don't really know why she did this, but maybe it was to let everyone know she was her own woman and didn't...need a last name?
An Insisted Addition
"Roseanne" was an interesting first in the history of television. It was one of the first network television shows to feature a queer character in a regular supporting role. Sandra Bernhard's character, Nancy, was a lesbian. Roseanne insisted that LGBTQ individuals be a regular part of the show, seeing as they were a regular part of daily life, and even cited two of her siblings as examples.
They were a part of society's ordinary fabric, and Roseanne said that they should be represented on the show. It was a big step forward for queer representation that would set the stage for more and more.
What Was Your Name Again?
Long before he was the love-struck nerd from "The Big Bang Theory," Johnny Galecki played Darlene Conner's boyfriend in the very first episode of the show. Darlene referred to him as “David,” even though the character's name is Kevin. In one episode, Roseanne implies that “David” isn't the character's real name, and is in fact, something that Darlene made up.
It was implied that Darlene was so dominating, and “David” was so weak-willed that Darlene could call him a different name as a power play, and he would still respond. She definitely wore the pants in the relationship, but at least “David” had Penny to look forward to.
It's Sloppy in Everything but Name
The Conner family did a lot of things to keep the money coming in and keep themselves living well. Starting in season five, Roseanne, Jackie, and Nancy come together to open a diner called the Lanford Lunch Box. This diner featured a specialty sandwich called the “loose meat sandwich,” which is little more than a Midwestern variation of the sloppy joe.
There are as many names for this famous sandwich as there are creators. It's been called a Manwich (which is a brand that sells tinned sloppy joe meat), a slush burger, “yum yums,” barbecue, dynamite, and even a sloppy jane.
Food Art Imitates Food Life
The Lanford Lunch Box came from real life – Barr and her then-husband Tom Arnold opened Tom's Big Food Diner in Eldon, Iowa, in 1990. The restaurant specialized in the loose meat sandwich. The diner, just like the marriage, didn't last too long – it closed at the same time as the couple's divorce in 1994, and in the exact same year, the Lanford Lunch Box appeared on Roseanne's show.
No doubt Barr took her experience trying to run the restaurant into her award-winning show, though the Lanford Lunch Box has lasted much longer than Tom's Big Food Diner.
An Ending That Fans Hated
Season nine was nothing short of mind-blowing. A number of incredibly unexpected things happened to shake up the show, much to the displeasure of the fans. First, Roseanne won the lottery, allowing her to live the high life with a maid and many fewer problems than before. Second, Dan was barely around (due to John Goodman wanting to focus on his movie acting).
At the end of the season, and thus the show, it was revealed that these were all events from a story that Roseanne was writing. She had imagined the entire thing as a way of coping with Dan's death. The season as a whole, and the reveal in the series finale, was reviled by fans and got poor ratings.
Trying to be Fabulous
A few fans have pointed the finger for "Roseanne's" poor final season at a British TV show called "Absolutely Fabulous." It turns out that Barr loved the British sitcom and tried to get an American version of the show greenlit, but ABC executives declined the new project.
It's been thought that Barr put in a lot of details from "Absolutely Fabulous" in the final season by way of compensation, even going so far as to have the two stars of the show guest star in Roseanne as their characters from "Absolutely Fabulous" in one episode. Whether or not this was why the odd final season went the way it did is unknown, but it seems to have played a part.
With "Roseanne" ending after the odd ninth season, there were talks of spin-offs. Carsey-Warner – the production company – Barr, and ABC had long talks about possible options, but the only idea they could come up with was little more than a continuation of the show as it was.
With Dan dead and Roseanne mourning him with her story-writing, fans weren't interested in watching just more of the same. After many meetings, ABC declined to invest in the series. However, it was just a matter of time before Roseanne would try again, and we eventually got our reboot series in 2018.
Never a Bride. Not Even a Bridesmaid
"Roseanne" is remembered as one of the most well-liked shows to run during the nineties. And while Barr and Laurie Metcalf both won Emmy Awards for their performances in the series, and the series as a whole was nominated for twenty-seven Emmys overall (which includes the revival), it neither won nor was ever nominated for Best Comedy Series.
This, despite the show, was, at one point, the most-watched series on television. The show did win Golden Globe Awards, and the series won a Peabody Award in 1992, and the People's Choice Award for Favorite New Television Comedy Program in 1989.
Plenty of Stars, Pre-Fame
Macaulay Culkin tried to get a spot on the show, and Johnny Galecki appeared as Darlene's boyfriend, but there were lots of other young actors and actresses who made brief appearances as friends and classmates of the Conner children.
Some of these names include Leonardo di Caprio, Tobey Maguire, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as well as older stars like Alyson Hannigan from "How I Met Your Mother," George Clooney, and even Bruce Willis. However, he was already on his way to big fame even in season one of the show. From Brad Garret of "Everybody Loves Raymond" fame to Bob Hope, Sharon Stone, Tim Curry, and even Chris Farley, lots of big names showed up here.
Come on, Wear the Shirt. Everyone's Doing It
One time, while peeking around backstage during filming, Barr found a certain shirt. This shirt was white and decorated with bright yellow chickens and what looked like either cooked or broken eggs. She promptly declared it “the ugliest shirt [she'd] ever seen,” and it became a running joke almost immediately.
At some point during season five, every single major character, part of the Conner family or not, had a scene wearing the shirt. The shirt steals the show; it's the kind of item that is hard to ignore, even when actors and actresses are plying their trade right in front of you.
Contractually Obligated Vacation
Since "Roseanne" was part of the ABC family, and in 1995, ABC found itself merged with the Disney Corporation. One of the stipulations of this big merger was that every family TV show on the network would have the main characters go to either Disneyland or Disney World.
Despite "Roseanne" featuring a blue-collar family that never had a lot of money to blow on frivolous things, the Conner family took a trip to Disney World during 1995, season eight of the show. The family throws caution to the wind in order for some family fun and to not get dropped from their network.
"Roseanne" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Part One
"Roseanne" was, at one point, popular enough to create an animated spin-off, which had Roseanne as the main character while she was a child. However, the show didn't last very long: during an early episode, young Roseanne is given a chance to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a baseball game and did her best to burst all the eardrums in the stadium with her screeching singing voice.
The backlash for such a disrespectful act drove "Little Rosie" off the air, which freed up the Saturday-morning slot for a new sure which was sure to fail, called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
"Roseanne" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Part Two
People who were parents when Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello burst onto the scene can still feel the money zipping out of their wallets. This animated show proved so popular with kids of the era that everybody knew who they were, producing television shows, books, comics, movies, and tons and tons of action figures.
In a strange bit of irony, while Barr didn't offer her voice to her younger self in "Little Rosie," she did end up voicing one of the villains in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," the alien Kraang, in the original version of the show.
What Has Happened to Them?
Roseanne Barr has often shared her thoughts about where the Conners would be once the original series concluded. According to her, David and Darlene would be divorced, and Darlene would come out as a lesbian after the divorce, while DJ would end up being a published author.
Barr also posited that Roseanne would open a dispensary, which makes sense since Barr herself made moves to open a real-life dispensary at one point. While the renewal series that began in 2018 didn't exactly follow what Barr thought would happen, there are plenty of details similar to what she envisioned.
A Reboot in the Works? (Yes)
In 2008, Barr had an interview, and she was asked to expand on these thoughts about where all of the characters would end up. However, Barr declined to share much more, stating that the creations and ideas were her intellectual property and that she would rather not reveal them just yet, which of course, sent fans into wild speculation about a possible reboot or spin-off.
Of course, that's exactly what would happen, though it took ten more years for this reboot to show up, and even then, it had plenty of growing pains as it changed and fit into its new role.
She's Coming Back
In 2017, ABC announced that this blue-collar family would be coming back as a mid-season replacement. It had been twenty years since we last saw the Conner family, and we have a lot of catching up to do. The entire cast – including both Beckys, though Sarah Chalke plays a different role – is back for more fun. Even John Goodman, now a big Hollywood star, signed on for the revival.
This long-awaited season ten began on March 27th, 2018, and ran for a total of nine episodes until May. The season got great ratings and generally positive reviews from critics. It was renewed for an eleventh season on March 30th.
Back to their Childhood Home
Yes, the entire original cast is back with the Conners. Roseanne, John Goodman, and all the children reprise their roles, and other recurring cast members such as Laurie Metcalf (as Jackie Harris), Sandra Bernhard (as Nancy Bartlett), and Johnny Galecki (as David Healy) return as familiar faces.
A few more people appear as guests, including Estelle Parsons, Adilah Barnes, and even – Great Scott! – Christopher Lloyd. The same set is used, though, of course, after twenty years, plenty of things have changed. All of the characters have changed and grown during the show's time off the air, and all of them have nothing to work through.
Who is Becky?
Both Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke have returned to the show, but Goranson is locked in as Becky. Instead of taking her place as part of the Conner family (the two actresses are now too obviously not the same person), Chalke is playing a new character, Andrea, a married woman who hires Becky to be her surrogate – there's some stunt casting for you.
This big storyline came with a paycheck of fifty thousand dollars for Becky (the original Becky), which was something she desperately needed since she was widowed and worked as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant. However, Andrea believes Becky is ten years younger than she is.
I Got Better
John Goodman reprised his role of Dan Conner, which might come as a surprise to some people since it was revealed in the final episode of season nine that he had passed away. How did the showrunners rectify this? Easy – they didn't. They ignored the issue completely.
Dan's first moment on episode ten was Roseanne going into the bedroom to show him wearing a sleep apnea mask. They never gave any details – did Dan survive the heart attack? Did he not have one? Was Roseanne lying when she said he had died? It was all swept under the rug to get John Goodman back.
How Dare They!
ABC has publicly admitted that bringing Roseanne back was a way to reach out to more conservative viewers.
Roseanne Barr is on the conservative side herself and has even taken to Twitter to talk about conspiracies involving the 2016 election.
The Critics Got it Wrong
Despite the controversy, 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 on our small screens. Just three days after the ‘Season 10’ premiere, ABC executives agreed to the second season of the rebooted sitcom—the ratings were simply too good to say no.
A Big-Name Fan
With almost twenty million people tuning in to watch the show, the details of the revival reached the biggest ears in the country. Even then-president Trump heard about the great success of the tenth season of the show.
Donald Trump is a guy who knows a thing or two about television ratings after fifteen seasons of his show "The Apprentice." Trump gave Roseanne Barr a call after season ten began, congratulating her on the huge ratings of the season premiere.
Didn't He Become a Doctor?
Before he became the A-list Hollywood star and Academy Award winner he is today, George Clooney was part of the original show. He appeared numerous times as Roseanne's boss, Booker Brooks. Clooney was quite friendly with the cast, getting along well with all of them, and during one drunken night of fun, the crew managed to catch him prancing fully unclothed.
The photo – blurred in certain places, in order to keep the show on the air, and to keep from embarrassing Clooney too much – was stuck on the Conner's fridge for years, even through season ten.
A Constantly-Changing Family
We already know about the two different Beckys, but she wasn't the only character that had more than one face attached to it. In the pilot episode of season one, a young man named Sal Barone played DJ. Still, thanks to a long period between filming the pilot and the show going into regular production, lengthened due to a writer's strike, Barone went through a huge growth spurt.
Michael Fishman came in to replace him, lasting the rest of the series. The only Conner kid not to be replaced was Darlene, played by Sara Gilbert. Of course, both Roseanne and Dan didn't need to change the actress or actor.
A Standout Writing Team
Every TV show lives or dies on the strength of its writing, and Roseanne had one of the strongest teams ever. Not only was Roseanne Barr herself one of the writers, but her husband for four years, Tom Arnold, was part of the team too. In addition, writers included Amy Sherman-Palladino, Joss Whedon, and Chuck Lorre.
Every one of those writers would go on to create legendary television shows. Whedon made "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," as well as writing the first "Avengers" movie. Sherman-Palladino created "Gilmore Girls," and Chuck Lorre is one of the most well-known showrunners around, creating both "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory."
Knocking Them Down a Peg
Of course, such big-name writers and TV executives have a pretty big view of themselves, but Roseanne, in keeping with her caustic humor and sensibilities, had a way of deflating them a bit. All of the writers had to wear shirts with different numbers on them, and during writing meetings and even while filming.
Instead of referring to them by name, Roseanne would just call out their number, which she did in order to counter their, as she called it, “colossal self-entitlement.” Seeing as how one of the writers she subjected this treatment to was Joss Whedon, we can't really blame her.
Roseanne Without Roseanne?
It turns out it wasn't just the writers who had trouble working with Barr. As early as the second season, producers were talking about firing her due to her strange and sometimes hostile behavior. After an episode that showed it was possible to get laughs without Roseanne in the picture, a show around Dan Conner and Jackie might have worked.
When John Goodman and Laurie Metcalfe found out about this possible coup, they went to Barr and informed her. They won her loyalty, and at the same time, realized she needed to shape up, or she would be shipped off.
Art Imitates Sad Life
The renewed season ten saw almost every cast member return to take up his or her old character. There is one notable exception. Becky's husband, and David's older brother, Mark, died during the twenty-year skip, leaving Becky widowed. This is due to Mark's actor, Glen Quinn, sadly dying of an overdose in 2002.
Despite being from Ireland, Quinn had a flawless American accent with only a few slip-ups. An episode of season ten was dedicated to Quinn – the episode featured an emotional scene where Becky and Darlene discuss the character's death and how it changed Becky's life. It's easy to see the actresses might have been talking about their friend Glen.
Canceled Yet Again
While the revival season got huge ratings, and an eleventh season was in the works, it wasn't to be thanks to Barr's poor conduct, which finally came back to bite her. The tenth season had barely ended when Barr made the bizarre choice of making a discriminatory tweet.
It was impossible for any producer or showrunner to ignore this incredibly stupid decision and the eleventh season of "Roseanne" was canceled immediately, no matter what the ratings were. The eleventh season hadn't even gotten off the ground, so it was an easy decision.
It Wasn't the End
However, fans wanted more Conner goodness, and TV executives are nothing if they don't do what their fans are looking for. Barr found herself kicked off the project, and the eleventh season retooled into an aftershow spinoff called "The Conners." It was greenlit in June of 2018 and premiered in October of the same year.
For all intents and purposes, it was the same show, though lacking Barr. Goodman and all the kids, as well as Jackie, appeared. The show is, as of this time, working on its third season. Roseanne's absence is explained as substance abuse.
What, Me? Pregnant?
Laurie Metcalf, who played Jackie, Roseanne's sister, got pregnant during one of the seasons. It tends to happen. At first, producers resorted to all their old tricks to hide the pregnancy, including dark clothing, big coats, and hiding Metcalf's midsection with props.
Jackie sat in the bathtub covered by a large quilt. However, Metcalf's baby bump soon grew to a preposterous size, and rather than have the character disappear for a long period of time; they wrote in a pregnancy due to a one-night stand so Metcalf could continue appearing.
A Nice Guy in Real Life
Jackie, at one point, has a relationship with a man named Fisher. He starts out a charming character and one who gets along especially well with the Conner children, mostly DJ. However, he turns abusive after losing a poker game against Dan and hits Jackie, continuing to do so after he loses his job and is unable to find work.
Jackie dumps him, and that's the end of that. However, Laurie Metcalf ended up marrying Matt Roth, the actor who played Fisher. This, as it often does, lead to Metcalf being in a family way, which resulted in the huge baby bump the producers tried so hard to hide.
The Network Favorite
"Roseanne" was in no way ignored by ABC, but it's gone on to become the darling of numerous other TV stations. WE, TV Land, Logo, & Laff all liked to show marathons of it for an afternoon of comfort watching. There was even a period when you could have been forgiven for thinking it was the only show on Nick at Nite.
When news of Barr's poor conduct and the show's cancellation came in 2018, these networks all dropped the show like they would a bad boyfriend. The show has reappeared on TV Land and CMT by October 2018, and then got to Cozi TV in 2020, mostly thanks to the success of "The Conners."
A Show With a Foe
Roseanne wasn't the only show on network television that had a blue-collared family providing laughs and lessons at the time. "Married... with Children" also featured a wisecracking, dysfunctional family in Illinois, and both shows even ended in the same year.
Roseanne received more critical acclaim and awards, but MWC lasted a full decade and is often remembered just as fondly, if not more so, than Roseanne. "Married... with Children even had a character named Marcy D'arcy as a direct parody of Roseanne producer Marcy Carsey.
What Happened to Jerry?
Remember Jerry? You might not. He was, in fact, Roseanne and Dan's fourth child, born early in the eighth season. Despite this new character getting a relatively high amount of screen time before the show got canceled (the first time), he's never even been brought up in conversation in either the revived tenth season or the reboot show.
In fact, he didn't even have much screen time in the ninth season. According to Barr, the revival would have gotten around to talking about what happened to Jerry, but they just didn't have the chance to do it. One possibility is that he was a fisherman off the coast of Alaska. He could have also formed a band with grandsons of the Conners.