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16 Things You Might Not Know About Roseanne

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ABC

At a time when shows like The Wonder Years, Growing Pains, Murphy Brown, Designing Women, Dallas, and Dynasty still ruled the airwaves, the debut of Roseanne in the fall of 1988 introduced a new kind of family to television audiences and a new kind of matriarch. Praised for its portrayal of blue-collar America, the Emmy Award-winning series also broke new ground in terms of its envelope-pushing (for the time) storylines. And now it's ready to make a comeback.

On May 16, 2017, ABC announced that Roseanne will return for another season in March 2018. In the meantime, here are some things you might not know about the series that made Roseanne Barr a star.

1. THE SUCCESS OF ROSEANNE JUMPSTARTED THE TREND OF GIVING COMEDIANS THEIR OWN SITCOMS.

TV producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner were interested in developing a sitcom about a working mother. When they saw Roseanne Barr’s outspoken “domestic goddess” comedy routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1985, they offered her a show. Barr wasn’t the first performer to transition from stand-up to TV, but her ABC show was an immediate hit. By its second season, it was number one in the Nielsen ratings and remained in the top four for six of its nine seasons.

As a result—and coupled with the success of Seinfeld—networks started offering more development deals to comedians, including Tim Allen (Home Improvement), Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire), Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen), and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), to name a few.

2. THE SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED LIFE AND STUFF.

Roseanne creator, head writer, and executive producer Matt Williams said the benign title established the sitcom as an ensemble piece. But Barr argued that the show should be called Roseanne, since she was the lead character and the show was based on her life. (Williams left the show after season one.)

3. THE SHOW’S EXTERIOR SHOTS ARE OF EVANSVILLE, INDIANA, NOT ILLINOIS.

Why Evansville? It’s where co-executive producer Matt Williams grew up. The house used for the facade of the Conner home went up for sale, plaid couches not included, in early 2013. It was taken off the market less than a month later.

4. JOHN GOODMAN AND LAURIE METCALF WERE CAST WITH ULTERIOR MOTIVES.

Roseanne Barr had never acted before, so the producers hoped that surrounding her with a strong supporting cast would give her a crash course in acting. Barr and Goodman also had great chemistry and squabbled like a married couple from their first reading together. Goodman was the first and only actor to audition for the role of Dan Conner.

5. MACAULAY CULKIN AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF D.J.

Had Culkin been cast, it would’ve been his big break (it would be another two years before Home Alone was released). Instead, Michael Fishman got the role, replacing Sal Barone from the pilot (who, in addition to hitting a growth spurt, didn’t get along with Sara Gilbert, who played his sister Darlene). “I wanted Michael Fishman because he looked like my family and he was a little Russian boy,” Barr told Entertainment Weekly. “He was so not like all the other little Hollywood bastards.” Added Fishman: “The network wanted one person, the production company wanted another person, and she wanted me. In many ways, I’m one of the first battles she won.”

6. ROSEANNE WAS A CRITICAL DARLING, BUT IT WAS NEVER NOMINATED FOR AN EMMY FOR BEST COMEDY SERIES.

Laurie Metcalf won three consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Roseanne’s sister Jackie beginning in 1992 (in 1993, Barr won Outstanding Lead Actress). But the show never managed to nab a Best Comedy Series nomination. And while John Goodman’s portrayal of Dan Conner earned him the Outstanding Lead Actor nomination seven years in a row, he never took home an award.

7. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PRIMETIME SHOWS TO FEATURE OPENLY GAY CHARACTERS.

Despite network protests, Barr insisted on featuring gay characters as friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. (Barr’s own brother and sister are gay.) In season eight, Roseanne’s former boss Leon (Martin Mull) married his partner Scott (Fred Willard)—a scene that wouldn’t be so unusual today, but was very controversial back in 1995. (It actually aired later than its usual time slot because of its “adult humor.”) A year later, Roseanne’s mother came out of the closet. Spoiler alert: In the bizarre “it was all a dream” finale, it was revealed that Roseanne’s sister Jackie was a lesbian. And of course, there was the scandalous kiss between Barr and guest star Mariel Hemingway.

8. ROSEANNE LAUNCHED JOSS WHEDON’S CAREER.

Joss Whedon began his television career as a staff writer on Roseanne. Whedon was only 24 years old when he wrote four episodes of the show’s second season, which Splitsider later dissected, looking for early glimpses of Whedon’s style:

“While John Goodman is a national treasure who can make any material work, Whedon’s take on his character stands out: Dan is goofier and more removed from the action, and notably less agitated than when written by other writers ... In these episodes, Dan Conner transforms into the Whedon proto-male a.k.a. the ‘Xander:’ an affable, quipping observer defined more by the women around him than by any strong internal life.”

A few other big names in television honed their skills on Roseanne, including Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls and Bunheads, and Chuck Lorre, co-creator of Two and Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

9. ALL THREE OF BARR’S EX-HUSBANDS MADE GUEST APPEARANCES ON THE SHOW.

Roseanne was inspired by life with the comedian’s first husband, Bill Pentland, and their three children. Pentland served as an executive consultant for three seasons, wrote two episodes, and played one of Dan’s buddies in an early episode. In 1990, Barr divorced Pentland after 16 years of marriage. Four days later, she wed comedian Tom Arnold, who had a recurring role as Arnie Thomas. Then in 1995 Barr married Ben Thomas, her former bodyguard, and gave him two bit roles as a cop. They remain his only acting credits.

10. THE FICTIONAL LANFORD LUNCH BOX INSPIRED A REAL-LIFE RESTAURANT.

Three years after they married, Barr and Arnold opened Roseanne and Tom’s Big Food Diner in Eldon, Iowa, near Arnold’s hometown. It served the same loosemeat sandwiches as the Lanford Lunch Box, the restaurant Roseanne opened with her sister, mom, and friend Nancy (played by Sandra Bernhard) in season five. The diner closed in 1995, a year after Barr and Arnold divorced.

11. ROSEANNE’S THEME SONG CHANGED DRAMATICALLY IN ITS LAST SEASON.

After using an instrumental version for eight seasons, Roseanne got a new theme—courtesy of Blues Traveler's John Popper—for its ninth (and final) season. The change foreshadowed an even more bizarre finale that would leave many viewers puzzled.

12. ABC REQUIRED THE CONNERS TO VISIT DISNEY WORLD.

It seemed incongruous for the Conners to visit The Happiest Place on Earth, but in season eight they did just that ... twice. That’s because the ABC-Walt Disney Company merger in 1995 required family shows to feature Disney World or Disneyland. Boys Meets World, Step by Step, Full House, and Family Matters all had at least one Disney Park episode.

13. IN 1990, BARR GOT A SPIN-OFF DEAL FOR A SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON.

Little Rosey was an animated series presumably about Roseanne—the real person, not the character—as a child. Barr didn’t voice her character in the first season, which may have been one reason the show didn’t take off. She agreed to voice Rosey in the second season, but the show was suddenly cancelled and replaced by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Barr claimed that ABC gave her cartoon the axe because they were offended by her rendition of the National Anthem at a San Diego Padres game.

14. BARR HAS PREDICTED WHERE THE CONNERS WOULD BE TODAY ... AND IT ISN'T A HAPPY ENDING.

In 2008, Barr told Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve always said now that if they were on TV, D.J. would have been killed in Iraq and [the Conners] would have lost their house.” Barr divulged more potential plotlines in her blog a year later, including Becky’s job at Walmart, David and Darlene divorcing, and Roseanne and Jackie opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford. I guess we'll see how accurate those predictions were when the series returns in 2018.

15. ROSEANNE HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO COME BACK TO PRIMETIME TV.

When Roseanne ended in 1997, ABC considered a sequel about the main character’s life as a widow. It never materialized, but Barr has since had a talk show, a reality series, and a few sitcoms in the works. In 2011, she filmed a pilot called Downwardly Mobile about life in a trailer park, but it wasn’t picked up by NBC. In 2013, Barr was in talks with NBC again for a 10/90 sitcom deal—an agreement in which the network orders a straight-to-series run of 10 episodes and then orders 90 more if the show’s successful. The deal never came through. It looks like it took returning to her roots to finally make that comeback happen; in May 2017, ABC announced that Roseanne would return to primetime in 2018.

16. THOUGH THE ORIGINAL SERIES ENDED WITH DAN DYING, HE'LL BE ALIVE IN THE REVIVAL.

We're not exactly sure how this plotline will play out, but when Roseanne makes its return to television, Dan Conner will be alive and (presumably) well. ABC president Channing Dungey recently confirmed that the new season will conveniently ignore some of the major events that occurred in the series' finale.

“I can confirm that Dan is still alive,” Dungey said at TCA, though she didn't elaborate on how that will play out. Nor did she say whether any more of the last season's revelations would be ignored for the reboot. However, she did confirm that the network is currently in talks with The Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki about reprising hs role of David on the series.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
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gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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Scarface is Returning to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures

Pop culture history was forever altered on December 9, 1983, when Scarface arrived in movie theaters across America. A loose remake of Howard Hawks's classic 1932 gangster film, Brian De Palma's F-bomb-laden story of a Cuban immigrant who becomes the king of Miami's drug scene by murdering anyone in his path is still being endlessly dissected, and quoted, today. To celebrate the film's place in cinema history, the Tribeca Film Festival is teaming up with Screenvision Media and Universal Pictures to bring the film back into theaters next month.

Just last month, Scarface screened at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival as part of a 35th anniversary celebration. The film's main cast and crew—including De Palma and stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer—were on hand to discuss the making of the film and why it has endured as a contemporary classic. (Yes, that's the same conversation that left the panel momentarily speechless when moderator Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer how much she weighed during filming.) That post-screening Q&A will be part of the upcoming screenings.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years. We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary," Darryl Schaffer, executive vice president of operations and exhibitor relations at Screenvision Media, said in a press statement. "The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Scarface will screen at select theaters nationwide on June 10, June 11, and June 13, 2018. Visit Scarface35.com to find out if Tony Montana and his little friend will be coming back to a cinema near you.

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