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In its prime, Roseanne was the most honest reflection of American life ever shown on television--and also one of the funniest. The second season of this essential sitcom, built around former standup comedian Roseanne Barr, was perhaps its best. The sterling cast--which featured John Goodman (Raising Arizona, Matinee) as Roseanne's husband Dan; Laurie Metcalf (Dear God) as her sister Jackie; and Lecy Goranson, Sara Gilbert, and Michael Fishman as Becky, Darlene, and D.J., her three kids--were confident and eagerly stretching themselves. The writers (including Joss Whedon, later to create Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly) knew how to write smart but credible dialogue and stories; in one episode, Darlene writes a poem that sounds exactly like a 13 year old girl's poetry, yet squeezes your heart. Watch almost any other sitcom and then watch Roseanne; it's startling how much more natural Roseanne feels. In the season opener, Becky passes gas in front her classmates at school; but that in itself isn't half as funny as the glee that Darlene takes in describing the event--the kind of viciousness that only real families can cultivate. That's the key to Roseanne's success: The utter believability of the relationships. Dan and Roseanne are a loving couple, but their affection works because their fights are just as potent as their flirting. The relationship between Roseanne and Jackie became particularly strong in this season, as Roseanne fought against Jackie's desire to become a cop and meddled in her relationship with her short-lived fiance Gary (Brian Kerwin); Roseanne and Metcalf developed an interplay that could be caring, playful, and bitterly jealous--and sometimes all three at once. The daily urge of parents to both coddle and strangle their kids was thoroughly explored, as was the fusion of need and contempt children feel for their parents. There is one misstep: A dream episode in which Roseanne goes on trial smacks of star ego in a way the show is normally careful to avoid--and makes clear how sharp the other episodes are. The extras are paltry, but this isn't a collection you get for the frills; the show itself lives up to its reputation.

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ANB52442 Roseanne Season 2 DVD (1989) $14.98 $13.49