Now that I have a family of my own, the notion of community, tradition, faith, and the holidays mean so much more to me. “Roseanne” was never a show my family watched when I was growing up, and I didn’t get into watching the reruns until I was in college, but the series does an excellent job representing all of those things. The time period “Roseanne” was set in and the everyday family it portrays really struck a chord with me as it reminded me of my formative years. It’s been a real treat for me to go back and watch and review each season for this “Holidays on Roseanne” series.
The show and the fictional Conner family took the holiday season seriously. As we found out reviewing the Halloween episodes (CLICK HERE) or Thanksgiving (CLICK HERE), not every season had a dedicated episode to the given holiday. The same goes for Christmas, and to be honest, I was surprised at the lack of Christmas episodes during its nine-year run. Even more surprising, it took “Roseanne” four seasons into the series to have their first Christmas-themed episode. Of the nine seasons in the show’s initial run, only 4 episodes involve Christmas.
Thank you for indulging me these past few months as I review one of my favorite television series from the past. It has been a lot of fun and has brought back many great memories of hanging around my college dorm watching reruns late at night.
So without further ado, let’s look at how Roseanne, Dan, and the family spent their Christmas holidays with family, food, decorations, and (of course) arguments with “Christmas on Roseanne!”
“Santa Claus” (S4 E12) Originally Aired December 24, 1991
The opening of this episode establishes that Christmas is coming and that Dan and Roseanne are upset that Darlene has become more reclusive. When Darlene comes home late, Dan and Roseanne are excited to find out their daughter has a new friend, Karen. Roseanne’s boss Leon wants Dan to play Santa Claus at the mall, but he refuses. When her Christmas bonus turns out to be just a coffee mug and not extra money, Roseanne volunteers for the Santa job while Jackie agrees to play Mrs. Claus.
The scene with Roseanne in the Santa suit interacting with children is hysterical. Roseanne makes use of her comedic skills as she insults the helicopter parents, chats up the children, and makes holiday plans with family members that drop by.
While working as Santa, she meets Darlene’s new friend and is shocked to discover that Karen is a grown woman who owns a book store that Darlene hangs out in. When Roseanne’s shift as Santa ends, she heads to Karen’s store to learn more about this new “friend.” She discovers Karen is a lovely person and a good influence on Darlene but is very surprised that there’s a whole side to her daughter she never knew about.
Darlene has been writing her own short stories and has gotten very into science fiction while hanging out with Karen. Roseanne is shocked to find out her loner, moody daughter had wanted to go to a Star Trek convention with Karen and her husband. Just then, Darlene shows up and is mortified her mother appears to be spying on her. Roseanne tells her she feels left out of her daughter’s life when she shares her writing with Karen and not her own mother. Darlene argues that Roseanne would have just laughed at her, like the one time she left a poem on the refrigerator years ago. Roseanne is heartbroken, saying she never laughed at the poem and that it had meant a lot to her, and that’s why she hung it on the refrigerator in the first place.
That night, Darlene returns home late again. Before heading to bed, she makes a meaningful but quiet gesture as she hangs one of her short stories on the fridge for Roseanne to read. In context, it’s a sweet and happy ending. To close out the episode, Roseanne realizes she did get a wonderful Christmas bonus after all.
“It‘s No Place Like Home For The Holidays” (S5 E12) Originally Aired December 15, 1992
As the somewhat ironically titled episode references, the Conner family finds themselves trapped in different locations during a snowstorm on Christmas eve.
The episode starts as Darlene shows up at the Lunchbox to beg Roseanne to spend Christmas Eve with David and his family. Roseanne eventually relents, and Darlene runs off. Moments later, Roseanne’s mother Beverley and Grandmother Nany Mary arrive. Jackie comes back in later to say that they are stuck at the diner because of the snow.
Dan and DJ are cooking the Christmas Eve dinner at home when they find out that Becky and Mark are stuck in a motel in Wisconsin after the snow blocked the highway. Nancy and her girlfriend Marla (the great Morgan Fairchild) come by for dinner. Seeing the two of them be affectionate makes Dan very uncomfortable, and he constantly has to find ways to hide from them.
Meanwhile, Darlene and David are making out under the Christmas tree at his house, but David gets upset she’s still not ready to “go all the way.” They argue, and Darlene tries to leave, but the snow forces her back inside. His mother comes home drunk, and it’s clear that she’s just been at the bar, not at work like she said. When David questions her, his mother yells and then slaps him in the face. Before stumbling off to bed, she calls Darlene “Conner trash” and a slut. Darlene is shocked at seeing her boyfriend abused by his mother and consoles him in a very sweet moment.
The episode ends the following day as they all sit around the kitchen table opening presents. Darlene comes home from David’s and gives Roseanne a kiss on the cheek. Seeing David’s mother has made her grateful for the parents she has. This, of course, leaves Roseanne shocked, confused, and speechless.
“White Trash Christmas” (S6 E12) Originally Aired December 14, 1993
Dan and Roseanne are busy getting the Christmas decorations together when Becky comes downstairs for breakfast. They are excited for her to find her Christmas present hidden in the box of cereal she eats every morning. Of all days, she doesn’t feel like eating this morning, so Roseanne forces the cereal upon her. Out of the box falls a check – enough money to pay for a semester at community college. Becky is excited and runs off, as the Conners are proud to have another daughter headed to college.
Beverly arrives to take DJ to Chicago for the weekend. They make plans to stop in and see Darlene before seeing a performance of The Nutcracker. Dan notices a letter taped to their front door from the neighborhood association when they leave. The letter requests only simple and elegant Christmas decorations, unlike the Conner family’s tacky broken decorations last year. Dan and Roseanne accept this challenge and decide to create the gaudiest Christmas display imaginable.
Bev and DJ surprise Darlene at her apartment. While Bev inspects the apartment in disgust, DJ uses the bathroom where he discovers Darlene’s boyfriend David hiding in the bathtub. DJ blackmails Darlene into giving him all of her savings ($112) to keep quiet about David.
Back at the Conner house, Dan and Roseanne are putting up their awesomely tacky Christmas display. Dan has eight wise men, two babes in a manger, and a life-sized cardboard cutout of Liberace. Roseanne has him beat, though, as she has purchased the giant neon sign from an out-of-business Mexican restaurant that proclaims Feliz Navidad in its neon green and pink glory!
Mark and Becky come home while Dan and Roseanne are outside admiring their schlock-fest. They reveal that they spent the gift intended for Becky’s college on Mark, paying for a course on managing a garage. Roseanne and Dan are very upset, having wanted their daughter to go to college, but Becky insists it’s best for their future. An argument ensues, and Becky insists from now on she’s going to pay for everything herself. Tensions in the house only get worse when Becky takes a job at “Bunz,” a Hooters knockoff, to help pay her own bills.
Dan and Mark talk while on the roof, adding to the Christmas decorations. The two men decide that letting their wives do what they want is best for everyone. Jackie and Roseanne talk in the kitchen, and when Becky enters, Roseanne decides to let her adult daughter do what she thinks is best. She returns the check to Becky and tells her that she disagrees with her, but she supports her just the same.
This episode was probably the funniest of the Christmas episodes. Roseanne and John Goodman (Dan) were really terrific, making each punchline about the decorations land with the sort of genuine laughs most modern sitcoms would only dream about.
“Home For The Holidays” (S9 E12) Originally Aired December 17, 1996
As part of the bizarre final season, this episode doesn’t make the bad storylines any better. After winning millions from a lottery ticket, Dan has been away from home, taking care of his sick mother in California. In reality, John Goodman was out filming for his role as Walter in “The Big Lebowski,” and missed most of the final season. His character, Dan, returns after two months away from home, and everything seems to be just… different about him.
Roseanne is eager to get everyone out the door to the airport because she wants to meet Dan at the gate when his plane lands. As they head out the door, the family begins to panic over Dan’s arrival time. Did his plane leave at 9 AM California time or Lanford time? Was it going to arrive at noon California time, or was it 10 AM Lanford time? Or 2 PM Lanford time? After they get as many weak jokes out of time zone changes as possible, they decide to rush to the airport anyway. When the door opens, a slightly annoyed-looking Dan is standing on the other side.
Later, when Dan unpacks, Roseanne keeps telling him how grateful she is that he’s finally home, but Dan can’t make eye contact and looks pretty distracted. He blames his mood on jet lag before running into the bathroom to shave.
The next morning, there is a funny scene where Jackie and Roseanne bake rum ball cookies. Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) was able to get Roseanne to break character and laugh. It was pretty funny and I’m glad they left Roseanne’s real laughter in. Dan comes home with the Christmas tree and acts much more like himself. Jackie seems to think he’s overacting and questions Roseanne.
The family goes through their holiday traditions, now very upscale due to their newfound wealth. On Christmas morning, the family rips into their very expensive gifts before Roseanne presents Dan with the mortgage to their house. With their lottery winnings, she paid it off and wants Dan to burn the loan paperwork in celebration. Dan gets very emotional as it goes up in flames, and he can’t even speak. Strangely, the emotion on his face looks more like guilt as he and Roseanne hug for a long time.
As the episode grows to a close, Dan is in the living room on the phone while Jackie eavesdrops from the kitchen. He tells the other person he really misses them and can’t wait to get back out to California to be with them, but he’s “stuck here for quite a while.” Jackie assumes he’s speaking to his sick mother, but Dan thanks the person for being so good with his mother. She hides as Dan slinks off to the bedroom after whispering some goodbye. Panic sets in as she realizes that Dan was having an affair during his trip to California.
Some merry Christmas, huh?
With that, we conclude our look back at the holidays on Roseanne! Thank you again for allowing me to watch and review these episodes while I relive some memories of watching them during my college years. Next year, I hope we can do the same thing again with another classic sitcom! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!