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Still good viewing, but definitely the beginning of the end
on February 23, 2007
Season 7 still has enough good episodes and even some great ones for it to be worthwhile viewing, but it is definitely the beginning of the end. The season opener isn't a standout as is normally the case, but it is good enough. Dan is tired of not having any privacy, and tells Roseanne that Mark and Becky have to go, having been in the house since the previous Thanksgiving. At the end of the episode she tells Dan that she has told Mark and Becky that they have until May to find new living quarters, and by the way, she's pregnant. Thus begins one of the longest pregnancies in the history of television - thirteen months plus the time Roseanne has been pregnant before she announces the news. The next bit of life changing information comes when Jackie discovers Darlene at a motel in the middle of the day. It seemed a bit strange that Jackie was "telling on" a girl that the Conners had basically emancipated the year before when the whole incident of Darlene and David actually living together came to light. However, it turns out that the boy with Darlene is not David, it's a new boyfriend - Jimmy. David says he is OK with it, but Roseanne is not and tells Darlene to make a choice. She does - and dumps a heartbroken David. David employs first one strategy and then another to win Darlene back, but they just backfire and further alienate her from him. Towards the end of the season, David does move on with his life and starts dating a girl that is not Darlene. This rouses some unexpected feelings on the part of Darlene, and she reconsiders her earlier decision on their romance. The whole issue of the broken romance between David and Darlene is one of the best parts of the season.
The Halloween episode this year turns out to be excellent. This episode involves a two-pronged joke aimed at Roseanne by the rest of her extended family. The first part involves suspicions being raised about Fred's sexual orientation when he seems to know all of the guests at Leon's Halloween party just a little too well. The second prong of the joke concerns a wig that appears to be identical to Roseanne's mother's hair, which makes her wonder if her mother might be bald and if it might be hereditary. "Rear Window" seemed like an episode from one of Roseanne's earlier years in its mood and humor. This episode has two elderly neighbors who constantly run around unclothed in full view of Dan and Roseanne's bedroom. They are repulsed, yet they cannot look away. They finally decide to talk things over with their neighbors, but an argument ensues, and the only way Roseanne can make her point is to do a little demonstration of her own.
So far so good, and if the entire season had gone this way, it might even merit five stars. However, there are some troubling trends that started to emerge the previous season that continue to grow. Probably most prominent of these is the issue of showing men as being completely disposable except for the purpose of procreation. The worst example of this is the Thanksgiving episode in which Roseanne gets a message from her doctor that there may be something wrong with her pregnancy. Every time Dan tries to do or say anything, Roseanne screeches at him as to how this will be handled is totally her decision. Instead of treating Dan like a caring involved father who wants to help shoulder the load, she acts like he is some Red State senator who is lecturing her. Her verbal abuse on this issue even extends to D.J. Then there is the issue of Jackie and Fred. At mid-season Jackie begins to tire of Fred, going out for nights of dancing with another man. When this comes to light Fred understandably leaves. However, Jackie likes her new-found independence and seems genuinely disappointed when Fred wants to return home and give things another try. From that point on, she refers to him more like a nest of termites she can't afford to exterminate than the husband she married less than a year before. In the end, while the two are eating what is supposed to be a romantic dinner, Jackie tells him it is over. He rolls over and takes this decision with no further discussion, and subsequent seasons see no further mention of Fred - he's not even mentioned again as being part of his son's life. Thus Fred has fulfilled his purpose - having swam upstream to spawn, and having accomplished that mission, he evaporates like a daydream who was never even given the courtesy of a last name.
Jackie's personality is an issue this season too. She slowly evolves from a delightful bundle of neuroses into a cross between Barnie Fife and, when Bev is around, Norman Bates. You truly get the feeling she wants the woman to die. There is one episode this season in which Bev and Jackie act like a normal mother and daughter sorting out years of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, but it is just an island of humanity on both their parts in a sea of them both treating each other monstrously. Also, Becky and Mark are behaving more like cartoon characters at this point than the fiery couple with the volatile romance that they were in seasons three and four. Mark is behaving like comic relief to the point that you have to wonder what Becky even sees in this maroon, while Becky treats Mark like she really doesn't expect any more from life or him than this, which is odd when in high school she was such the super-achiever with big dreams.
There are still enough good episodes in this season for me to recommend it, but if you are a long-time viewer of Roseanne you'll find yourself scratching your head at many points during the season wondering - What was THAT?