On This Day: Original ‘Roseanne’ Airs Series Finale in 1997

by Suzanne Halliburton

Fans of the original Roseanne probably still are perplexed at the ending of the beloved show 24 years ago.

On this day in 1997, the series came to an end (check that, it’s first end). Season nine certainly had been a bizarre one. Roseanne, the loud, sarcastic blue-collar wife and mother, won the Illinois state lottery. The family bank account increased by more than $100 million.

So all those blue-collar comedy topics were out the window. Instead, Roseanne was living the lux life of the rich and famous. No wonder Robin Leach had a cameo in season nine and the stars from Absolutely Fabulous paid a visit for an extraordinary Halloween party.

Everything was topsy turvy. Jackie met a real-live prince. The two sisters modeled for Playboy. They reimagined themselves in classic TV comedies. Roseanne did use the lottery winnings for the good of their friends. And, she also was Satan. She bought the plastic company and gave it to the employees. Ownership in the Lunch Box went to their friends. Then Dan had an affair, but he and Roseanne reconciled.

But in the series finale, Roseanne revealed season nine was all a figment of her imagination. She redid her life as a way to cope with the death of Dan. That heart attack he had in season eight was a fatal one.

Here’s the voiceover from the season finale: “My writing’s really what got me through the last year after Dan died. I mean at first I felt so betrayed as if he had left me for another women. When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security. So I began writing about having all the money in the world and I imagined myself going to spas and swanky New York parties just like the people on TV, where nobody has any real problems and everything’s solved within 30 minutes.

“I tried to imagine myself as Mary Richards, Jeannie, That Girl. But I was so angry I was more like a female Steven Segal wanting to fight the whole world.”

It was a gut punch to Roseanne fans. Plus, there was more. They still were rather poor because there was no lottery. Jackie, and not Roseanne’s mother, was a lesbian. Darlene was with Mark. And Becky was with David.

It was one of the most controversial endings in TV history, kind of like Bob Newhart waking up with the wrong wife or how Bobby Ewing really hadn’t been dead in Dallas. The Roseanne ending felt as unsatisfying as Seinfeld or The Sopranos, even with her infamous cackle laugh. The site ScreenCrush.com described the Roseanne finale, writing “it felt like the bleakest “gotcha!” moment in the history of TV.”

Roseanne Barr resurrected the show in 2018. But she was dropped after some controversial tweets. Writers killed her off the sitcom and changed it to The Conners. And, thankfully, Dan is very much alive.