Roseanne: to watch or not to watch?

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A scene from the new Roseanne showing pro-Trump Roseanne with her anti-Trump liberal sister Jackie.

Roseanne was one of my favorite TV sitcoms back in the day (I watched the entire series from 1988 through 1997, when it was cancelled).    It was one of the most genuinely funny shows on television, because the characters were so relatable and realistic.  Roseanne and her husband were both overweight and had health and money problems like normal people.   Their house didn’t look like a page from Architectural Digest or even Decorating on a Budget.   It looked like the sort of home most of the people I knew lived in — messy, cluttered, out of date, with lots of kitschy objects, piles of paper and magazines, and unwashed dishes and other debris lying around.   The Conners were working class — at least until they won the lottery (that’s when the show began to go downhill and become unrealistic).   They struggled with bills.   Roseanne wasn’t always nice to her kids or her husband, Dan — and the kids were far from perfect.  They talked back and could be disrespectful.  But the love between all the Conner family members always came through anyway.   I particularly loved the Darlene character — played by Sara Gilbert — who was every bit as sarcastic as her mother but still had a huge heart.

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Roseanne and Darlene in the original series.  

I did not watch the first episode of the Roseanne reboot when it aired last Tuesday night.    I passed on it out of principle.  Most of my anti-Trump friends have boycotted Roseanne and refuse to watch her new show, even if they were once fans.  I knew that Roseanne Barr, who used to identify as a member of the Green Party and had very left wing views back during her series’ original run, is today a vocal supporter of Trump.  Worse than that, she’s also all-in on one of the worst conspiracy theories many Trump supporters have embraced (a guy who calls himself “Q” and sells himself as some sort of pro-Trump prophet has many faithful believers).  Right now, there’s also a picture of Roseanne circulating (taken in 2009) that shows her posing dressed as Hitler and holding a pan full of “burnt Jew” cookies (Roseanne is herself Jewish).

But I have to admit I’m really curious about the new series.   I’ve seen a few clips.  It intrigues me that Barr has chosen to focus on a family that is divided because of politics.   It’s an interesting premise for a sitcom.   Roseanne’s anti-Trump sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is back, all decked out in a pink pussy hat.  Her daughter Darlene, a lesbian in real life, is also an anti-Trumper on the show.   Harris, the premature daughter Darlene gave birth to at the end of the first series, is now a teenager and looks uncannily like her mother.   I’m curious about their relationship.   I wonder what sort of mom Darlene turned out to be.  I’d like to see the way they play off each other.

So I think I will give the show a chance even if it makes some of my anti-Trump friends mad at me.  Sure, it bugs me that Roseanne is a Trump supporter, and I don’t like some of the things she says and does,  but I feel like I have to be my own judge and at least watch one full episode.  The fact that all the original cast members have returned for the reboot series makes me feel like these people like Roseanne as a person — in spite of their politics mostly being different from hers.   So she can’t be all that bad — right?   If she were that bad, wouldn’t they have refused to return?

If I see that Barr gives the “other side” a fair shake, and it looks to me like the pro-Trump/anti-Trump conflict is played for comedy and/or for insight into the tribalism so prevalent in these history-making and tumultuous times, then that’s a good thing and I may choose to continue watching.   We could all benefit by laughing at ourselves and each other.   Better yet if Roseanne has the self awareness to see the humor of her rabid Trump support and can laugh at herself.

If, on the other hand, I feel like I’m being preached at or the show is really serving as a vehicle to peddle pro-Trump propaganda, then I will turn off the channel and never think about it again.   I want to be my own judge, not just boycott the show because other people are doing it or because it’s politically incorrect for a “woke” person to watch it.  Hell, the old Roseanne was funny!   I have to see for myself whether or not she can still be funny (even if she loves Trump) or if she completely lost her ability to make me laugh after she drank the Trump Koolaid.

If anyone has already seen the episode, please comment on your impressions of it.

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Remembering my favorite seasons of American Idol.

Since Trump got elected, I feel as if a magnet has been taken over the country’s hard drive.  I barely recognize America as my country anymore, and feel almost like I live in an occupied country.   Politics has taken over my mind.   Things I used to care about — like movies, entertainment television, novels, and other “frivolous” pastimes — hardly seem to matter anymore.

But all this obsessing over current events and the political situation all gets a little too much sometimes, and it helps to remember simpler times — like my interest in the singing competition reality show American Idol that lasted from 2006 through about 2009 or 2010 (after that year the show–and my interest in it–went south).    My interest was renewed somewhat in 2014, because one of the contestants, Caleb Johnson, was from my city and went on to win.

I wasn’t that interested in American Idol during its early years (it began airing in 2002 as a summer replacement show), though perhaps I should have been, since two of its most famous winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, went on to become major stars who are still making hit records today.   No contestant since has matched their level of success, though several have done well for themselves and have careers in the music industry.

I assumed American Idol was too cheesy to capture my interest (and I won’t deny it could get pretty cheesy), but because my kids were in their early teens and used to watch it, by default I began to watch it too.   The first year I did was in 2006.   It was season 5, the year Chris Daughtry made the Top 4 (and everyone was sure would win).    I watched reluctantly at first, but soon Daughtry, a hard rocker with a post-grunge style very much in vogue at the time,  became my favorite contestant so naturally I had to tune in every week.   I was devastated when he got a shock boot in 4th place.    I didn’t expect that at all. No one did.

In my opinion,  Daughtry’s cover of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage” was one of the best performances ever on this show.

Chris Daughtry’s shocking elimination in 4th place.

Daughtry’s shocking elimination was mitigated somewhat by the fact he became quite successful, with a string of mainstream pop-rock hits over the next few years.

Daughtry’s hit “Home” was used as the elimination song in season 7 every time someone went home (the song played over a film of the contestants’ “journey” on the show.)

The next year I didn’t really have a favorite contestant and didn’t get into it quite as much. A 16 year old named Jordin Sparks won that year.   I would have preferred third placer Melinda Doolittle, a former gospel singer, but that wasn’t to be.   Doolittle’s style probably was a little too old fashioned but she outsang everyone else that season.

2008 (season 7) had its first bona fide rocker win — David Cook, whose style was similar to Chris Daughtry’s.  No one thought Cook would win, but he knew how to play the game, and seemed to top himself every week.  He never had any bad performances. He could cover just about any genre, and make it his own by rearranging the song or by using someone else’s rearrangement that suited him.   2008 was the first year the contestants were allowed to use musical instruments, and David Cook was the first of a long line of white guitar playing male rockers who would keep winning for the next several years (some say this led to the show’s demise).   I was over the moon when he won, because I’d been rooting for him since the auditions and at that time, no one took him very seriously or thought he had any chance at all.

 

Cook’s own rearrangement of the Mariah Carey song “Always Be My Baby”

A performance of his own song, “Anodyne,” which was not on the show, but he performed at many of his concerts on tour.   I’m including it because I love the song, even though the quality here isn’t that good.

The next year, 2009, was the year Adam Lambert, a gay glam rocker, almost won.   Like David Cook, he never had a bad performance, and was creative and innovative, with impressive, unforgettable performances, usually with elaborate stage sets and lighting.   He had a voice that could hit unbelievably high registers, much like Chris Bellamy from The Muse (who was one of his mentors).  Season 8 was a very talented year (some say the most talented year) — all of the Top 4 were great, so it was hard to pick a favorite.   An inexperienced but talented singer named Danny Gokey had a soulful, raw gospel-tinged voice, and most people thought either he or Lambert would win, but neither did.  Gokey finished third.  On finale night, a quiet, unassuming folk-rocker named Kris Allen, who had been building momentum during the last episodes of the season, took the title.   Adam Lambert fans were devastated and shocked.   I wasn’t all that happy with the outcome, as I would have preferred either Lambert or Gokey, but I could see why Allen would take the title. He was very likable and talented in his low-keyed way.

My favorite Adam Lambert performance — a slowed down arrangement of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.

I think season 8 was the last really good season of American Idol.   I watched halfheartedly for the next couple of years, and finally stopped watching at all — and so had my kids, who were entering their 20s and had other interests.

In 2014 though, my daughter mentioned that a boy she had known through her friend in high school (they did not attend the same high school) had made it through the auditions.  His name was Caleb Johnson.   He was a hard rocker with a style reminiscent of the classic rock of the 1970s.     Of course I tuned in to check him out, and saw that he was very good and had a style I enjoyed.   His range was huge.   I didn’t expect he’d go that far though, but every week he kept making it through the rounds, until he made the  Top 3 and a big “homecoming” (a tradition where the Top 3 contestants emerge from the “Idol bubble” and return to their hometowns to be greeted with parades and fanfare) was held here, which I attended.  That was a lot of fun.    I still didn’t think he’d win, but he did.    Unfortunately his album didn’t do very well, but as far as I know, he still makes a living making music and performing at various charity events.

Caleb Johnson’s cover of Aerosmith’s Dream On.

American Idol’s final season was last year, but I didn’t watch any part of it except the finale, because of the tributes to the original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and many of the former contestants.   I don’t even remember who won.    The show has a good legacy, and was cancelled at the right time, after a 15 year run.  It’s peak years seem like the distant past, even though it really wasn’t all that long ago.