Roseanne 'biography' a sad state of affairs

October 11, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Fox's made-for-TV version of Roseanne's life is just like the supermarket tabloid stories about her: too much. Who wants to know this much -- about her or anyone else?

First, take the last four big tabloid headlines about her -- her claim that she was molested by her father, the spousal abuse with which she charges ex-husband Tom Arnold, her stay at a mental institution when she was a teen-ager, and, having a child out of wedlock. Then write five flimsy scenes around each, and you've pretty much got "Roseanne: An Unauthorized Biography," which will air at 9 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45).

There's a decidely slap--- quality to the whole thing. The scenes about major crises of her life are pasted together without a narrative or any thought of continuity. There is no subtlety, nuance or character development.

How much is true is anybody's guess. A program note at the beginning of the movie says, "Certain characters and events have been fictionalized." A program note at the end says that all members of Roseanne's family deny that her father abused anyone.

As played by Denny Dillon, of "Dream On," Roseanne Barr Pentland Arnold -- now just Roseanne -- loves to scream, cry, chain smoke and eat. In fairness to Dillon, the scenes feel as if they were done with a minimum of rehearsal. There's no timing, )) resonance or wit in the script, which is a real accomplishment for a movie about a breakthrough comedian and writer.

We first meet the teen-ager Roseanne as she walks into traffic with a blanket over her head, is hit by a car, and winds up with a hood ornament stuck in her skull. This is just before she is sent to the mental institution, where she learns to smoke and contemplates suicide.

In this telling, Roseanne was saved from a life of prostitution when she discovered amateur night at the local comedy club.

This occurs, as tabloid readers everywhere know, before her announcement to a support group, "I am an incest survivor."

"Roseanne" is just one uplifting moment after another.

Maybe worst of all is that there is no sense -- not in any scene, at any moment, in any line, or in any part of the two hours -- of what a truly original talent Roseanne was when she came on the scene eating Cheetos onstage and talking about being a domestic goddess.

You can't blame Fox for calling this movie unauthorized. You wouldn't want to take credit for it, either.

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