In the history of television, no single episode of television has combined all of the tired tropes of a pilot episode with the contrived plot development of a series entering its tenth season but the Roseanne reboot managed to achieve the impossible on Tuesday night.
Spending far too much time introducing characters who have been pop culture staples for three decades and including story arcs for nearly every member of the Conner family, the show felt as if it was a parody of its former self. The cast seemed far too aware of themselves and the performances felt tongue in cheek as if they were doing impressions of the characters they embodied for a decade.
The writers desperately attempted to capture the relatable edge of the original run by including a political feud between Roseanne and Jacke — a feud that was obviously contrived to generate viral controversy off air — and a grandson who enjoys dressing in girls clothing but it all falls short of being edgy against a modern television backdrop. In fact, every plot point of the two episodes which were aired on premiere night felt forced and disingenuous to these long-established characters.
The show was not without laughs but nothing about it felt natural. There was no nuance to the dialog, just loudly delivered punchlines and less-than-subtle references to the original run of the show. It is obvious that the motivation behind the Roseanne reboot was not because these characters had new and relevant stories to be told but rather another in a line of nostalgia mining money grabs.
Is the reboot horrible? No. Will it enhance the legacy of a beloved television franchise? Probably not. This reboot, like many before it, relies on the audience’s connection with these characters and does not stand on its own as a new series. If this were a pilot episode without nine seasons of backstory attached to it, nobody would be clamoring to see the second episode.
Roseanne changed the face of television but television has changed a few times in the 20 years since it went off the air and this reboot is not up to the task of embracing how television is presented to audiences in 2018.