Anybody flicking through a TV schedule these days would be forgiven for thinking they've been teleported back to the '90s.

We've seen the recent revival of Full House, Twin Peaks, Will & Grace and The X-Files, while American networks are currently planning reboots of Party of Five, Charmed and Murphy Brown. There's even a sinister spin on Sabrina the Teenage Witch in the works.

And now that decade's favourite working-class family, the Conners, are back on our TV screens in a revival of Roseanne that's caused quite the stir Stateside.

The creation of comedian Roseanne Barr, Roseanne was once upon a time lauded for its realistic portrayal of a working-class family. It was smart and funny - until it jumped the shark with a final season that saw the Conners winning the lottery before we found out it was just a dream to help Roseanne cope with the death of her beloved husband, Dan (John Goodman).


Thankfully, this reboot conveniently forgets any of that final season ever happened, and brings us all of the original cast, including a very much alive Dan.

More than 20 years after the original series ended, we find the family still living from pay cheque to pay cheque – and dealing with personal fallout from the election of President Donald Trump. In a storyline that's whipped up a frenzy in the US, Roseanne Conner is a Trump supporter (much like the actress who plays her) and feuding with her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), a staunch Democrat.

That very political premise saw Roseanne draw 21.9 million viewers in the US last week. To paraphrase Trump himself, those ratings are huuuuge. And enough to see another season ordered already.

The original cast of Roseanne have returned for the reboot.
The original cast of Roseanne have returned for the reboot.

But is this new Roseanne any good?

I'll admit I was curious to find out what the writers had done with the cast and found some nostalgic comfort in seeing the gang together again, sitting on that same old couch and delivering caustic one-liners around that same dinner table.

Roseanne and Dan are still struggling to make ends meet and trading medications because their health care no longer covers what they need. Darlene has moved back home with two children, a moody teenage daughter (sound familiar?) and a gender-fluid son, in tow. Becky is widowed and waiting tables, while little brother DJ is back from a tour of duty in Syria and looking after his daughter.

But it's Roseanne's quarrel with Jackie that sits at the heart of the first episode, as the sisters argue over how they voted in the US election.

President Trump may be so excited about Roseanne's ratings that he phoned Barr to congratulate her (and himself probably), but it's the parts of the show that have nothing to do with him that stand out as its strong points.


There are the inside jokes the writers have woven in for anyone who remembers the original series. They deal with Dan's death last time around by having Roseanne exclaim "I thought you were dead!" when she struggles to wake him from his slumber in the opening scene.

They also cleverly find room for both actresses who once played the character of Roseanne's oldest daughter, Becky, with Lecy Goranson reprising the role, while Sarah Chalke plays a woman Becky hopes to act as surrogate mother for.

The story set-ups might be clunky, but the obvious warmth between the actors, with all that shared history, is easy to see. And when the jokes themselves aren't all that funny (which is often), it's the stars' delivery that still raises a wee chuckle.

But the bickering over political ideologies falls well short of the show's once sharp writing. Consisting mostly of tired clichés (snowflakes and nasty women), a resolution of sorts between Roseanne and Jackie in the first episode also comes off as far too sweet and simplistic, even for a family sitcom.

Barr told the New York Times last week: "I just wanted to have that dialogue about families torn apart by the election and their political differences of opinion and how we handle it."

It's a lofty goal, but much like the show's jokes this time around, it just doesn't quite hit the mark.

• Roseanne screens Thursdays, 7.30pm, on Three