As Roseanne returns to our screens, Sara Villiers considers the sardonic wit of its star.


Rosie for President

From the moment Roseanne Barr stuck a knife into her peanut butterjar and hcrwitchy laugh boomed out on our television screens (which suddenly seemed too small to contain her) it was impossible not to adore this voluminous woman who oozed such confidence and self-respect and delivered a fine line in sarcasm with dimples. Roseanne rises above the definitions of mother and housewife with a big bold declaration; she thinks she’s the tops and defies the kids. or us. to thsagree.

With tubby 'I'V hubby (John Goodman. star of David Byrne‘s True Stories) she creates a perfect antidote to all twee liberal American TV couples. The (‘onnors volley smartass quips at each other but ofeourse are really (and sometimes. ouch. even cutely) in love with each other. This may sound like standard TV formula but it isn‘t. The show sparkles with sardonic wit and happily lacks the cloying sap that pumps through the usual sugary fare of US family sitcoms. This is strictly unsentimental stuff: if Roseanne's brats sulk and threaten to run away she throws back her head. cackles and deadpan dares them to go right ahead. The kids get to-retaliate: when Roseanne and Dan threaten to slip into a reverie ofSixties' nostalgia their offspring make appropriate puking noises.

The programme is unique in that the (‘onnors are a working-class family. with genuine worries

about bills and looming redundancy. Roseanne is l

a working mum but sliern‘t pursuing a glittering career; she and her scatty sister have dreary jobs in the local factory and boss intimidation and child care hassles are always attendant. The American Dream reposes in the (‘onnors’

baeky ard in the skeleton of the boat which Dan wants to build but can never find the money or the time to complete. Despite this they‘re so laid back they 're almost horizontal. with the resultant atmosphere of a tight-knit family which actually seems credible. '

Roseanne gobbled up the American nation

alte r a hilarious appearance on the Tonight show 7 the proverbial lucky break after months of frustrating stand-up routines on the Denver cabaret circuit. (atapulted from years as a ilt)tl\L".\liC (which she defines as someone who clears up the mess of others. unpaid) and mother of three to international stardom was something she u add take in her stride. The irrepressible

Rt iseanne has always had a huge ego ' and had been grooming hersell lor celebrity status as a

u unit or a writer. the latter being an abiding inlatuatit in luelled by her favourite television prom amine. 'l he W'altons.

‘Didn't you just love The Waltons'.’ John Bov was going to grow up and become a writer. And everyone respected him for it. making him into a family demi-god. Not like in a real family. like when you say you're going to be a writer and vour parents laugh at you and act like you’ve got bugs on the brain. like you‘re actually mentallv ill.‘ i

Despite the lack of family enthusiasm her fervour never died and she's just published her autobiography Roseanne: My Life As A Woman ((‘ollins £13.95) which documents her childhood as a paranoid Jew in the Mormon-dominated Salt Lake (‘ity. her sojourn in a mental institution and her hippy years on the road before domesticity and motherhood. She revels in dreams of ' intellectual debate with Woody Allen. becoming queen of the earth and abolishing wars and nuclear weapons ( a recurrent Roseanne obsession). all interspersed with sexual fantasies about eating \ch (iibson alive.

She is constantly perplexed by others' inability to appreciate her obvious talents. Modesty is just not in Roseannc's vocabulary and her unbounded ambition is what jetted her to fame.

But why stop at a successful TV series‘.’

‘What we need is a woman. a mother for President.‘ she says. ‘and I'm going to win some day and my campaign will be “Let’s vote for Rosie and put some new blood in the White House every twenty-eight days."

Bush may be safe awhile as Roseanne is currently pursuing an acting career. She‘s just co-starred with Meryl Streep in the film of Fay Weldon's The Lives And Loves ()f A She Devil. The combination of the dynamic. passionate Roseanne with the fish-like. austere Streep is an interesting one made all the more intriguing by the fact that Roseanne will be playing it straight while Streep will be draping her method acting round some comedy.

The film won‘t be released in the UK until later this year but a new batch of her eponymous series will begin on Friday 23 March. While Bill (‘osby will be trotting off to give his exercise class. Roseanne and her brood will settle down at their big kitchen table to pig out. shoot the crap. noise each other up and generally have a ball. (Sara Villiers)

72 ’l he List 2.3 March ~ 5 April 1990