When "The Roseanne Show" began in September '98, it was pretty unusual. Roseanne took the best elements of daytime and nighttime talk shows and combined them: kooky skits, celebrity interviews, musical performances and topical conversation. Roseanne didn't go for the stale, redundant questions celebrities get asked on other talk shows, and she frequently played games (like "Roseanne or...?," in which she'd reveal a weird story and audience members had to guess if this story was about Roseanne or her guest) so the interviews were always unique. Occasionally Roseanne would don a costume for a skit (such as the time she dressed up and gave a monologue as Hillary Clinton), but most of the time the skits involved an actor who was interviewed in character -- for example, Nora Dunn played Crystal Lynn Pickett, who was in love with an imprisoned serial killer, and Ellen Cleghorne appeared in a variety of skits as a woman with reverse-Michael-Jackson-disease, the proprietor of a brothel for women, etc. Also covered were hard-hitting subjects, such as sex, drug abuse, teenage runaways, etc, and the talk about Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson was neverending. Unfortunately, Roseanne found herself surrounded with stiff competition, so the ratings weren't great. Predictably, to improve ratings they began tinkering with the show's setup.
In January '99, the show shifted gears, the skits were somewhat phased out, the well of A-list celebrities began to dry up and the Oprah-wannabe topic shows started becoming more commonplace. Then there were off-the-wall elements, such as her "Date My Daughters" contest, in which male, Jewish viewers were encouraged to send in videotapes telling why they worthy to date one of Roseanne's daughters. This oddball contest was foreshadowing of what was to come...
By season 2, Roseanne, who'd had gastric bypass surgery, became disconcertingly thin, she dyed her hair blonde and began sporting glasses on a regular basis. I've noticed that when fat women become really thin or women make a drastic change in their appearance (such as going from brunette to blonde), they have a tendency to become a bit mentally unstable, and Roseanne was certainly no exception. Season 2 brought Michael Fishman (her TV son) to basically play Ed McMahon to her Johnny Carson. The good celebrity interviews became more infrequent and the subjects began slipping into Ricki Lake/Jerry Springer territory. Honestly, I gave up on the show early in season 2, but when I tuned back in around the time the show was canceled, it seemed Roseanne had gone even further off the deep end, and had an episode that was like a game show. I don't remember what the game was, but I DO remember thinking it was weird that I was wasting time watching it.
Whether the changes in the show pertained to the ratings or Roseanne's creative control, I'm not sure, but it's a shame that it didn't go on as originally conceived. In late-night, the show initially had the potential to become a long running hit, but because it was daytime (and EVERY celebrity was offered a daytime talk show in those days), it never got a chance to truly shine.
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