“This is why some animals eat their young.”

Based on Roseanne Barr’s standup routine, this popular sitcom focused on the everyday lives of the self-proclaimed “domestic goddess” and her brood, a blue-collar family living in Illinois. The sarcastic and perpetually cranky Roseanne was a far cry from the idyllic sticom moms of the 50s and 60s and had to deal with the realistic problems and absurdities of lower middle class life.

Besides Roseanne, we met her husband, Dan Conner, jovial and easygoing, teenage daughter Becky, 12-year old tomboy Darlene and youngest son D.J. Roseanne’s younger sister Jackie was an integral part of the family, along with gal pal Crystal, who was neurotic and insecure, but kind-hearted and timid.

Everyone was a little or a lot dysfunctional: Roseanne and Jackie came from an abusive home that contributed to Roseanne’s cynicism and Jackie’s promiscuity; Dan’s parents were divorced and he had an abysmal relationship with his gregarious father; Becky was pretty, intelligent and popular but often conflicted with Roseanne and eventually eloped with her older boyfriend; Darlene was a talented writer who saw her skills going to waste in the dead-end town; Jackie constantly sought Roseanne’s approval but also resented her for it.

Dan and Roseanne struggled to make ends meet, working two or more jobs at a time. Financial hardship was a common theme in the series, along with other social issues like alcoholism, physical abuse, teen pregnancy, racism and infidelity. This was not the Cleaver household and that’s for sure. The series reveled in its gritty portrayal of working-class life, where even the studio set of the Conners’ living room was always messy and unkempt. In the episode where Dan got arrested for assault, Roseanne wryly observed, “We are officially poor white trash.”

Many characters came and went in the little town of Lanford, IL, weaving through the Conner household. Roseanne and Jackie’s mother, a repressed bitter woman with a fondness for cheap Chardonnay, eventually became a regular character. There was also Leon, Roseanne’s gay boss and later business partner and brothers Mark and David, who married Becky and Darlene respectively.

Roseanne debuted in 1988 and stayed at the top of Nielsen ratings for most of its respectable nine-season run. It won multiple awards, including Emmys, Golden Globes and a Peabody, and set the stage for a rash of standup comedians signing up for their own sitcoms – a trend which continues to this day. It also brought sitcoms into the modern age, offering a refreshingly honest portrayal of family life unlike anything ever seen before on television.

If you were a loyal viewer of Roseanne each week, we’d love to hear your memories of this classic sitcom in our comments section below.

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