Farewell to the family that captivated all America

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The Independent Online
With the airing in the United States last night of the last-ever new episode of the nine-year-old comedy sitcom, Roseanne, America's televisionland became a quieter place. Probably, also, it got a bit more plastic and boring.

It is farewell then to the Conner family and its loud-mouthed, not altogether slimline, matriarch, Roseanne. Roseanne, of course, was played by Roseanne Arnold, whose own personal life has been fodder for the front pages of the supermarket tabloids for as long as her show has existed.

There was her marriage to Tom Arnold who was subsequently thrust upon us as a star in his own right and then, surprise, her break-up with Tom Arnold as well as some dark stuff about repressed memories of abuse in her childhood. The television husband was played by the gigantic (and giganticly good) John Goodman.

It was the show itself that riveted so many millions of Americans. The blue-collar Conners were cataclysmically dysfunctional - every possible problem of child-rearing, sex or puberty hit the household some time. The more awful the crisis, the more the Conners seemed to represent everyman America.

In its early years, the frankness of Roseanne had jaws dropping countrywide. President Bush berated Roseanne after she rubbished the national anthem. Homosexuality, masturbation, battered women, abortion all were treated head-on with complete lack of fear or reverence. The acid of Roseanne's tongue was never diluted, not even in dealings with her children.

"It cut through any remaining treacle about family and about parents," wrote Ellen Goodman, a columnist with the Boston Globe. She added: "She was a bit, fat woman, don't forget that. How many images do you ever see of a fat woman? And I think we're sort of in a fat-free zone now."

It is a pity that the last season, the finale included, has been so poorly received. The Conners had been lifted from their working-class milieu by a lottery win and granted a lifestyle that viewers did not warm to.

Roseanne re-runs will doubtless appear for years and Ms Arnold herself is not about to vanish. Currently starring as the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz in New York (a show that has attracted some of the worst and funniest reviews in history), she will begin her own talk show in the autumn. David Usborne

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