Hello Ragers, and welcome to the debut edition of a new feature here at this fine website. The concept really isn't that complex, so I'll keep the introduction short. The goal of Final Season Failures is to take a once popular show that experienced a massive drop in quality during its final season, and examine the various mistakes that led to its downfall. Our inaugural subject is one of TV history's most infamous examples of a great show going off the rails during its final year.
Case File 001: 'Roseanne' - Season 9
Debuting in October 1988, 'Roseanne' starred the comedienne of the same name, and was initially based on her popular "domestic goddess" stand-up routines. Unlike most other '80s sitcom parents, Roseanne Conner didn't have a great job, didn't have much money, and didn't have the luxury of dealing out sappy life lessons to her kids on a weekly basis. Sharing her struggles was husband Dan (John Goodman), a blue-collar guy who did his best to help Rosie raise their three children, all the while trying to ensure that a roof remained over their heads.
While Roseanne, Dan and their children Becky (Lecy Goranson/Sarah Chalke), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and D.J. (Michael Fishman) may not have led a pampered 'Cosby'-style life, one thing the family did have was real, unconditional love for each other. Sure, the siblings often traded barbs, and their parents were consummate deadpan snarkers, but they were always there for each other at the end of the day. The Conners were a real family, leading real lives that the average person could relate to. This (shock of shocks) went over very well with audiences, and 'Roseanne' spent its first eight seasons at or near the top of the Nielsen charts.
What Went Wrong?
So how did ABC manage to screw that winning formula up? The answer is simple, they didn't. The person most responsible for the mess that is 'Roseanne' Season 9 is Roseanne Barr herself. Roseanne had amassed more and more creative control of the show's storylines with every season, and it was she who made the infamous call to have the famously working class Conners win the state lottery, thus becoming millionaires. Roseanne's reasoning for this was the fact that her onscreen character's life had always been closely patterned after her own experiences, and since she was now rich and famous in reality, she assumed it would make sense to have the Conners experience that lifestyle as well.
Needless to say, she was very, very wrong. The initial lottery win storyline was almost universally panned by both fans and critics at the time, and the even more over-the-top plots that followed it (Jackie marrying a prince, an appearance on 'The Jerry Springer Show,' Roseanne saving Hillary Clinton from a terrorist attack on a train, a TV movie being made about the Conners' life) went over like a lead balloon with the series' core viewership. These weren't the Conners fans knew and loved, they were alternate universe dopplegangers.
The final nail in the coffin was Season 9's treatment of Dan. Despite their many fights over the years, one thing that never seemed remotely possible was either Dan or Roseanne committing adultery. Yet, that's just what Dan did, in an act that betrayed every established boundary of the Conners' marriage. Sure, the real reason for John Goodman's absence from a large part of the season was simply that he wanted to pursue his film career, but that's still no excuse for such a ham handed way of writing him out of the picture. Dan Conner would never cheat on his wife, case closed, end of story.
The Hall of Shame (a.ka. the worst episode of the season)
Remember what I said above, about Roseanne saving Hillary Clinton from a terrorist attack on a train? Sadly, that wasn't me being hyperbolic. The dreadfully titled 'Roseambo' aired on Nov. 19, 1996, and is the clear nadir of what is easily the worst 'Roseanne' season. The fact that it's presented as an episode length dream sequence does nothing to alleviate the hackneyed humor, the groan-inducing one-liners, and the eye-roll worthy celebrity cameos by Steven Seagal, Mike Tyson and Don King. To sum up, if there's one 'Roseanne' episode you absolutely should not bother watching, it's 'Roseambo.'
The Best of the Worst (a.k.a. the best episode of the season)
All that I said above aside, there is one episode from Season 9 that all 'Roseanne' fans still need to see, that being the infamous two-part series finale 'Into That Good Night.' Reeling from the backlash that her creative decisions had received, Roseanne made an admirable attempt to save things by taking the series' swan song in a completely different direction. During the hour, we find out that the bulk of 'Roseanne's eight seasons was simply a novel that the titular character had began writing back in the first year, and that most of our favorite characters were completely different in reality.
It wasn't Roseanne's mom Beverly that came out as a lesbian, it was her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). It was Becky that married David, and Darlene that married Mark, instead of the other way around. And in the biggest shocker of all, it was revealed that Dan didn't survive the heart attack he suffered at Darlene's wedding during Season 8. Roseanne had wrote Dan out of her story due to his real-life death, but invented the infidelity angle as a way of avoiding killing him off in print.
Unfortunately, while the episode is incredibly well executed (there is one moment near the end, where Roseanne hears Dan's disembodied voice calling her name from inside a black void, that never fails to make me get a lump in my throat) for what it is, it also told the series' fans that they essentially wasted their time for the last eight years. While it was done in an inventive fashion, this was basically equivalent to the 'St. Elsewhere' ending, where it turned out that the entire show had taken place in the fantasies of an autistic child. In short, 'Roseanne's ending feels like a huge cheat. Still, it's definitely worth watching at least once. The full episode is embedded for your viewing pleasure below.
This concludes the first edition of Final Season Failures. I hope you found it to be a interesting read. Be sure to tune in next time, when I'll tally the many follies found in 'Scrubs' ninth season.
I enjoyed the article, and look forward to the next installment!
Message Posted On Feb 3rd, 2014, 12:15 am
A companion series to this could be shows that had an ending but kept going.
Sure Supernatural is still on the air, but Season 5 had the best possible ending of a show in years. It is hard to imagine how they can do another series finale without it becoming a poor imitation or ultimate let down.
Level 1 (21%) Points: 1.6 Since: 01/Nov/12
Message Posted On Feb 1st, 2014, 8:17 pm
Speaking of Sarah Chalke, how about Season 9 (again) of Scrubs! What bad idea!
Message Posted On Feb 1st, 2014, 11:19 am
"Or LOST which was the dream of a dog." Amen! That finale was a massive disappointment for me. It was nice seeing the old faces back that I loved throughout the years but that finale completely ruined the entire series for me.
Another series finale that ruined the series for me was "Frasier". I was a huge "Cheers!" fan and I love Frasier Crane there. I loyally followed him through 11 seasons of his own show which I absolutely loved. Up until the last six episodes.
For 11 years, I watched as Frasier grew as a human being going beyond all the things that had held him back in the past. The disaster of a relationship with Diane, the amusing, yet odd, relationship with Lillith and so many mistakes he had made since his "Cheers!" days and early days of "Frasier".
Then, in those last six episodes what did they do? They put Frasier back with a woman who was Diane all over. I felt I had wasted 11 years watching one of my very favorite characters grow and evolve only to see him go right back to the beginning.
I can still watch some "Frasier" episodes here and there but, for the most part, I don't because I felt so cheated by the finale.
I'm looking forward to future installments of "Final Season Failures" to see what other shows I loved, or hated, make it into the ranks. :)
Message Posted On Jan 31st, 2014, 6:45 pm
I know it was a while back, but I thought Season 9 was mostly a dream. Roseanne couldn't get over Dan's death so invented a series of increasingly bizarre stories to cope. Dan's 'infidelity' was turned out to be because Dan had died and wasn't there any more (Psychobabble 101). I thought the series was silly and extreme, but when the final episodes revealed Dan's death, I actually appreciated the series as a whole.
Am I remembering it wrong?
Message Posted On Jan 31st, 2014, 11:28 am
"While it was done in an inventive fashion, this was basically equivalent to the 'St. Elsewhere' ending, where it turned out that the entire show had taken place in the fantasies of an autistic child." Or LOST which was the dream of a dog.
Level 1 (34%) Since: 02/Apr/13
Message Posted On Jan 31st, 2014, 9:26 am
Good article of a season that lives in my memory for all the wrong reasons i look forward to reading more as time passes.