Roseanne‘s fifth episode, “Radio Days” is the first non-essential episode of the series. Written by Laurie Gelman and directed by Ellen Falcon, it’s not a bad episode, and some of the details revealed – Dan was a songwriter – are nice, but overall, this episode is the first that feels like a holdover. “Radio Days” is still a very good episode, because so far, the tone of the program is still incredibly high and consistent, even if this is only the first season. In the episode we see Dan try his hand at songwriting. When learning about a songwriting contest, Dan and Roseanne work on writing a song together – while they don’t’ win, they impart an important lesson for their kids: it doesn’t matter if you win, it matters that you try. Fear not, Roseanne fans, the message isn’t shared like a homily with stirring music like Full House, but given with the kind of unsentimental honesty the show excels at.
Though the episode doesn’t really do much in terms of developing larger plot points, there are still some great moments of character development. A few episodes back on “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” we learned that Roseanne wanted to be a writer. In this episode we learn that Dan also harbored artistic dreams, his being a songwriter. There are some great moments in the episode – especially in an early scene in the garage when Dan and Roseanne look over some of his old songs that we get to see and hear Dan’s attempts at being a tune smith. While his disco ditty seemed silly, his stab at psychedelic pop is great (“blueberry fantasy, tangerine dream, love is a rainbow of incense and cream,” sung in a faux reverb), and when it turns out that Dan used one of Roseanne’s old poems for his song entry, I thought nice touch. The scene is fun because John Goodman is a good singer (thankfully Roseanne Barr doesn’t join in), and it’s a lovely moment to see the Connors pull a Gerry Goffin/Carole King moment.
But as good as Roseanne’s poem is and as solid as Dan’s guitar strumming is, the song isn’t great and the Connors lose the contest. I’m glad that Laurie Gelman wrote the episode that way: the song didn’t deserve to win, and I’m glad that the Connors are okay with that. It’s a realistic, yet poignant touch, that a lot of viewers will relate: there were many times in my past when I tried out for something and failed. I was disappointed, but cool about the loss. In the grand scheme of things, Roseanne and Dan have more important issues to tackle than losing a songwriting contest, and they respond to the disappointment with their trademark humor.
Some random notes:
- This episode was hard to recap because it was such a light entry.
- “Alright,” Roseanne said, “you’re the boss.” I loved Dan’s stunned reaction.
- I love seeing the Connor family sitting around a radio like in the olden days.
- There were four entries for the contest, with three prizes. Third place is a tractor pull (I had to Google to know what that was), second place was the Lanford Inn, and the first place prize was $100. And yet, Dan and Roseanne lost all three – I love that Dan laughed at how sad and pathetic it looks to lose a contest that boasts a tractor pull as a prize.
- “Well, we didn’t really lose. The only people that really ever lose are people that never try. At least we try,” Roseanne giving her kids a great lesson on trying hard – take note every family sitcom on the planet – this is how you write a “learning episode.”
- During the credits, the kids are digging through all of their parents’ crap, and there are peeks into Roseanne’s more radical past, including her anti-war protests. I like that the show will make Roseanne more political, but at this point, it’s just mild jokes about hippies and the 1960s.
- More great scenes at Wellman Plastics with a young, floppy-haired George Clooney as Booker, the boss at Wellman. Clooney and Laurie Metcalf have a great flirtatious chemistry.
- I love the scenes with Roseanne and her friends, especially Crystal, who has a bigger presence in the second season.