Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Well, middle class was fun."

Thus speaks Rosanne Conner in the seconds after her power’s shut off halfway through Season 5 of the classic sitcom Roseanne. Who else on TV would bring up such a taboo topic as class but good old Roseanne? She had to choose between water or electricity, she tells hubby Dan, and well, you can only live for two days without water.

The Conners find themselves in the darkness of their living room, their TV down for the count (ironically enough), and they’re forced to entertain themselves.
Dan: You know when I was a kid, my grandpa used to tell me about when he was a kid. Before there was TV, they used to sit around and tell stories.
DJ: What kind of stories?
Dan: I don’t know. That was his best one.
Roseanne: (after some thinking) Ok, I got one. Well, once upon a time there was these four princesses, and they lived in this great big house all together, and they never left. Ok, and uh, and they just sat around all the time, talking and talking and yammering and yammering, and they killed every single man who ever came over there, except for one who they kept as a pet. And then one time these two princesses left and these other two came on and they and they really stunk and—
Darlene: Mom, that’s Designing Women. 
Roseanne’s story is probably my favorite, her delivery, as usual, perfectly timed, and Darlene’s punchline is funny on several different levels of meta, my favorite being Roseanne’s almost instinctual attempt to cover for the now silenced TV.

DJ’s story is equally hilarious:
DJ: (serious, thinking hard, interspersed with lots of glazed looks from his family) Ok, um, there was this guy … and he was walking down the street … and he kept walking … then he found something … and then he lost it … and there was this car with a guy in it … then he got something … and there was this dog … and he was barking because the window was open … not so much he could jump out, but, ummm …
Darlene: The end.
I like that he begins to realize that his story is too abstract for anyone to follow, and so tries to save it by adding more specific detail: the exact position of the car window.

Roseanne tells one more story before the scene ends:
Roseanne: (trying to bond with Darlene by asking her to go with the mall with her to “soak up some electricity”) Aw, come on, it’ll be a lot of fun, you know. Uh, Becky and I used to go down there, ok, and this one time (laughing) we were over at Rodbell’s, you know, and, uh, we went in and, uh, stuck all the mannequin’s skirts right up their butt, you know. (grinning devilishly, slapping knee) And then we went over to Hickory Farms and we squeezed all the cheese logs and ran. (cackling) What do ya say?
(knock on door)
Darlene: Please let that be Child Welfare. 
Darlene really gets all the good punchlines in this episode.

The next morning, the power still out, the Conners are at the breakfast table when in comes Aunt Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf, who’s such a great physical comedian.
Jackie: (looking worn out in club clothes from the night before) Hi guys. Oh, you guys are not going to believe the time I had (putting bread in toaster) at that singles dance last night. I haven’t even been home yet (pouring milk in blender)—not that I met anybody or anything, but Nancy and I had a few so … I just decided to crash at her place for awhile, you know, just, uh, for the night (getting something out of freezer) You ought to, uh, turn the freezer up, it’s getting kind of warm in there. Anyway… 
Roseanne: Um, Jackie, let me make you some breakfast, ok, because—
Jackie: (putting something in microwave) Roseanne, I’m right in the middle of a story here, ok? Anyway, the second we walk in the door, it’s like Nancy starts throwing herself at any jerk who’s wearing Old Spice (picking up and dialing phone), which like leaves me completely alone having to fight off this whole parade of losers (pouring powder in blender). One guy actually said, ‘You’re under arrest for stealing my heart,’ it was quite, it was so … pathetic, ahem, I just wanna (still holding phone) … see if any of ‘em called. Hey, uh, there’s a message from you on here, Roseanne. What do you need candles and flashlights for? (hitting blender button, turns and looks at everyone) Oh.
Roseanne: Well, we don’t have any lights but now we know the speed of stupid.
Jackie: How was I supposed to know they cut your power?
Roseanne: Well, we thought maybe the lack of electricity might tip you off.
Dan: (answering ringing phone) Hey, you wanna shut down that blender? I can’t hear.
Roseanne has been making the rounds again this year, promoting a new book and reality show, and it seems like she's starting to get some of the respect she deserves. Read her article in New York Magazine and check out her interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

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