The revival premiere opens exactly how one would hope, with a shot of the iconic Conner living room, beat-up plaid couch and multicolored crocheted blanket front and center, as we hear Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) yell: "Dan! Dan! Dan!"
Just like in the previews, we see Dan (John Goodman) startled awake, a sleep apnea mask attached to his face.
"What happened?" he asks his wife.
"I thought you were dead!" Roseanne screechingly explains.
"I'm sleeping!" Dan says, leaning back against the bed’s wooden headboard and pushing the mask to his forehead. "Why does everybody always think I'm dead?"
"You looked happy. I thought maybe you moved on," she jokes.
Hearing footsteps above them, the two quickly move on to discuss their daughter, Darlene, who has apparently just moved back into her childhood home with her two kids. And that is all the explanation we need to know that Dan is, in fact, fully alive -- or so we think.
Though it felt like we were going to be left with that brief joke, which provided almost no explanation but did quickly undo a plot knot, the show surprisingly doesn’t ignore Roseanne’s attempted writing career. When the heads of the Conner household go into the garage to try to figure out where Dan has hidden his guns, Dan finds a copy of Roseanne’s old memoir transcript. (Quick explanation about that gun thing: There are children in the house again, and they’ve been chided by a visit by Roseanne’s sister, Jackie. The two sisters are fighting, and in their first face-to-face meeting since the 2016 election, Jackie insists everyone who voted for Donald Trump wraps themselves up in the flag and clings to their guns.)
“This would’ve sold like hotcakes if only you hadn’t killed off the most interesting character,” Dan says, alluding to the original series finale as he gives his wife a hug while holding onto the transcript. “He was a gentle giant.”
“You know what really would’ve helped, though? More bondage and a wizard school,” Roseanne adds in what feels like a thinly veiled attempt to make sure we know it’s 2018 (yes, we see you, 50 Shades of Gray and Harry Potter).
Behind the Scenes of the 'Roseanne' Revival (Exclusive)
Why all the fuss about Dan’s whereabouts in this world or another realm? The 1997 finale of the original show revealed that the entire series had been a book Roseanne was writing based on her life -- hence the two finding that transcript upon the show's return Tuesday night. That meant that she was able to undo some plot points to her liking, the biggest one being that though we thought Dan had survived a heart attack in season eight, according to the pretty shocking finale, he had died, and Roseanne had just altered her memoir to fit her liking.
Though neither reference completely undoes the finale from 21 years ago, the latter at least gives us a fairly sensible explanation: Dan's death was all a part of Roseanne's book, which we already knew, and that memoir never got published. Now here he is! And, honestly, two quick jokes are all one really needs when there are only 22 minutes to get through a plot.
Plus, we've seen what happens when shows wink away massive plot points. In Will & Grace's revival, they waved away the fact that when the show ended in 2006, it did so with a time jump -- though Will and Grace drift apart, they reunite when their kids go to college 20 years later and eventually marry. When the show got revived in 2017, they brushed that scenario away as having been just a kooky dream of Karen's. Another recent head-scratcher was when Molly announced that she was pregnant on the season three finale of Mike & Molly. Then in the series season four opener, not only was Molly not with child, she was suddenly quitting her job as a teacher to become a writer and climbing out her classroom's window to really drive home the point, and there was no explanation to why she and Mike weren't expanding their family.
At least on Roseanne, we were given as plausible a reason as possible for why Dan is alive, and, frankly, we’re happy to bury what always felt like a stolen-from-Bob Newhart Show ending.
Since we've always known Goodman was attached to the revival and we saw him in the trailer, fans were fully aware that there had to be some explanation as to how Dan was still alive. During ABC’s Television Critics Association press tour in January, Barr insisted that the original ending left his fate ambiguous (most fans will tell you they felt otherwise).
At the TCAs, Goodman revealed that he was happy with how they had handled the plot knot. “I thought it was a clever way to do it, to handle it and get it out of the way,” he said onstage.
Honestly, even if the jokes hadn't hit, we'd still be glad just to have Dan back.