Parents do a lot for their kids, sacrificing and doing without – this is especially true for working class parents. Doing without can mean not indulging in little luxuries, which when you’re working a dead end job and struggling, can be difficult and trying. I know when I was a tiny tot in France, and we were broke as hell, my parents dieted and scrimped and saved to get me a hobby horse for Christmas.
In “We’re in the Money,” finance is a major theme. Written by David McFadzean and directed by Ellen Falcon, the episode deals with what happens what broke people do when they have a little bit of money – do they do something responsible with the cash, or should they spend it on something fun? If life is a series of drab nothings, don’t you deserve a bit of fun? It’s a good question to ask in light of all the cuts that are being proposed to food assistance benefits (no fish! no potatoes! no beef!) Is the point to make poverty as soul-crushing and punishing as possible?
These questions come up when Dan gets a job with a $500 bonus. The Connors have rarely had this kind of cash in their hands before, which sets off a chorus of hoots and hollers. Being responsible, Dan and Roseanne agree to pay off their outstanding bills and then see what they have left over: unfortunately, the leftover would come to a paltry $11. Disappointed, the two agree to stick with paying bills, instead of rewarding themselves for all their hard work. Roseanne wants perfume and Dan wants a brass captain’s bell for the boat he’s building in the garage, and though they tease each other a little bit, they both agree it would be best to just stick with bills.
At Roseanne’s job, her single sister Jackie doesn’t understand the strain of trying to make do while raising a family of five. She’s single, and though she doesn’t make a mint at the plastics factory, she has far more disposable income than Roseanne. So when she lectures Roseanne on how she doesn’t manage money well or when she teases her for being too dutiful, it all wrings – rightly – false. Again, the realism of the show – the naturalism – comes out when the writers creates genuine moments like the exchange between Jackie and Roseanne. McFadzean creates a sympathetic Jackie who is just clueless about Roseanne’s financial situation: she wants Roseanne to have fun and indulge, but doesn’t get the full picture of the strain her sister is under: it’s a classic situation many people have with family or close friends – no matter how intimate you are with someone, you still keep stuff hidden, and so when a friend gives unwarranted advice, without knowing all the facts, the advice is usually pretty crappy.
So Jackie bullies Roseanne a bit (it’s so funny to see how in this very early episode Roseanne is cowed by Jackie), and we find Roseanne at the perfume counter at Fiddick’s eying the perfume (called Submission, a possible take on Calvin Klein’s Obsession?) Despite her reticence, Roseanne buys the perfume. The dialogue between Roseanne and the saleswoman (played by veteran British character actress Christina Pickles) is great because McFadzean spoofs all of the dopey tag lines and cliches that mark women-focused advertising – particularly perfume ads. When told that the perfume will make Dan crazy, Roseanne sarcastically professes, “That’s what I live for, to excite that man.” Roseanne also displays some of her mordant wit when answering the saleswoman’s, “You know the fastest way to a man’s heart?” with a surly, “Yeah through his chest.”
We see inklings of the touch, almost-frightening Roseanne Connor that would alter emerge in the show. At this point, in its second episode, Roseanne is much more tame and mellow. Unlike the pilot, “We’re in the Money” doesn’t give Barr space to play or to display some of her stand-up prowess. Instead, she plays it mostly straight, while John Goodman gets to do some great comedy throughout the episode – most notably when he’s trying to hide the fact that he cheated and bought the brass bell.
Hidden in his garage, he’s interrupted by a snooping Darlene. I love Sara Gilbert’s ability to tell a one-liner and in the earlier seasons, before the writers give Darlene a season-long battle with depression (which was very well-written), she was a bit of a scamp. Gilbert and Goodman have a great and fun back and forth, as she presses him about the bell. Goodman’s a master of physical comedy and I love the condescending way he pats her head as he shows her out of the garage.
When Roseanne and Dan later meet in the kitchen, neither knows the other indulged in the impulse buy. This sort of misunderstanding and duplicity is great for comedy – even if it is threadbare. Dan catches Roseanne in her lie and tries to spin it so that he can be a martyr – he’s willing to buy the bell, to even out the score and so no one will feel guilty: what’s great is as he’s saying this, D.J. waltzes into the scene, ringing the bell like a town crier.
In the satisfying closer, both Dan and Roseanne are sprawled like freshly-laundered clothes on the couch, he rubbing her feet. It’s these quiet scenes that give Barr and Goodman some nice back and forth. I love Roseanne when it’s snarky and mean, but I also like it when it’s loving and sentimental.
Some random thoughts:
- So Becky got some new tight jeans from the $500 – I wonder what treats D.J. and Darlene got.
- Speaking of D.J. – Michael Fishman replaces Sal Barone as D.J. He’s ridiculously adorable at this point.
- Roseanne may not be the feminist Valkyrie at this point, but I do love some of her mothering digs. When she sees Darlene constructed a catapult to launch D.J. into the sky, Roseanne whines, “What did I tell you about killing your brother in the living room?”
- When Roseanne barks at Darlene to clean her room, Darlene answers that it’s clean. Roseanne calls back, “then go clean my room.”
- Dan brings home $500 and crows, “You deserve a kiss…Becky kiss your dad.”