Welcome to this week’s VERSUS!
Being a true child of the 1980’s and 1990’s, I was aware of both Married…With Children and Roseanne, but never really watched them until they were in syndication. My mother wouldn’t let me watch Married…With Children as a kid because she thought it was too vulgar, and no-one in my family cared for Roseanne because it was the show with “that raunchy fat bitch who ruined the National Anthem” at some baseball game. I greatly enjoyed watching Roseanne as reruns in the early 2000’s, and finally got around to watching Married…With Children in syndication about 3 years ago. I still watch them both whenever I catch them on TV.
Anyway, these are both classic television programs that really showed you what life was like in low-income white neighborhoods. Where Married…With Children took more of a slapstick style in their storytelling, Roseanne was full of sarcasm and dealt with a lot of issues that were more grounded in reality. They’re both great shows with similar subject matters, but went about telling those matters in different ways.
So who will win? Who will get canceled? The battle of lower/middle-class sitcoms shall now commence!
Married…With Children and Roseanne came out at pretty much the same time and lasted about the same time as well. Married…With Children ran from 1987 to 1997, while Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997. Married…With Children was the first sitcom television show put out by Fox, while Roseanne was on ABC.
Married…With Children had a lot going for it. Not only was the wife (played by Katey Sagal) a hot n’ horny piece of ass, but the daughter (played by Christina Applegate) was even hotter and sluttier. The main character, Al Bundy (played by the great Ed O’Neil), still stands as one of the greatest characters on television ever produced. His negativity and constant sense of discomfort were always great for laughs, along with the constant bickering and one-upsmanship the siblings would get into. The long-running joke on the show was that Al had the worst job in the world: a women’s shoe salesman.
Every boy in the world thinks they deserve one of these.
I watched the E! True Hollywood Story on Married…With Children once, and one of the producers said that Ed O’Neil’s trick to playing Al Bundy was that he would always pretend that Al’s life “smelled bad.” You can definitely tell that’s the case!
Roseanne on the other hand had an entire cast of characters that were funny, but also had real problems that just about anyone could relate to. Money troubles, unemployment, teenage sex, gay/lesbian issues, domestic violence, neighborhood rivalries, substance abuse…it was all fodder for Roseanne to mock and make a point about. With John Goodman on board as the TV husband, Roseanne reached out to the lower class in a way that no other show had done before.
There weren’t many shows you could watch on TV that dealt with things such as birth control or domestic abuse with class. Where Married…With Children would perhaps make a joke about “how many birth control pills did Kelly take today” or show Peggy beating up on Al for not having sex with her…Roseanne would show you the difficult mother/daughter conversation about birth control and throw in some jokes here and there, and show John Goodman beating the shit out of a wife-beater with a cheering audience.
In the end, who wins the battle?
Both are extremely funny shows, they just utilize humor in a different way. Both shows have a strong sense of realism, yet they portray reality in completely different ways. They both lasted just about the same time, and both shows sputtered out at the end (Married…With Children was canceled without a final episode, and the final season of Roseanne was retarded.) Both shows make fun of white trash culture, yet keep things real enough to make you relate to them, regardless of your status.
At the end of the day, I care more about characters who grow and change as time goes on. That happens with everyone on Roseanne, and character-arcs were often the driving plot of each season. On the other hand, Married…With Children was always funny but everyone pretty much stayed exactly the same in every episode. They were like a live-action Simpsons, when you think about it.
So for personal taste alone, I’m going with the more mature Roseanne as the victor.
Roseanne shares a huge connection to one of my favorite sitcoms on TV right now, The Big Bang Theory. Show-runner Chuck Lorre was a writer on Roseanne before moving on to his own things. The guy who played Darlene’s boyfriend David (Johnny Galecki) is one of the main characters on The Big Bang Theory (Leonard). Darlene herself (Sara Gilbert) appeared in the first couple seasons of The Big Bang Theory as Leslie Winkle. Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) also appears on The Big Bang Theory every now and again as Sheldon’s mother.
I’m still waiting for Roseanne herself to make an appearance!
Sing it, fat lady!