Roseanne was a groundbreaking sitcom in many ways—depicting even the harshest realities of working-class life with humor and delving further into the absurd than other shows would dare.
We couldn’t possibly pick our favorite episodes from all nine hilarious seasons, so we asked the show’s creator, Roseanne, to do it!
Below, check out her top picks and get the lowdown on each episode. (Did you know Tobey Maguire appeared on Roseanne?)
Celebrate Roseanne’s birthday with back-to-back episodes of Roseanne today starting at 12:30pm.
“April Fool’s Day”
In this Season 2 episode, Dan and Roseanne wait until the last possible minute to prepare their taxes—and they’re unable to grasp the “simple” instructions provided. A trip to the IRS only adds to the frustration of all involved parties.
* This episode closes with a scripted message during which John Goodman breaks the fourth wall and assures the audience that he has more respect for the IRS than his character does.
* During its second season, Roseanne was the most-watched show in the United States.
* Dan’s complaints about taxes being difficult to understand remain legitimate: current tax code is roughly 4 million words and has been changed over 4,500 times in the past decade.
In Season 8, Scott (Fred Willard) and Leon (Martin Mull) entrust plans for their wedding to Roseanne, who turns the event into a garish spectacle that invokes every gay stereotype under the sun. When Leon gets cold feet, however, Roseanne redeems herself by talking him down and convincing him to go through with it.
* Lassie’s June Lockhart guest stars as Leon’s mother.
* Neither Darlene nor Becky appear in this week’s episode, though David and Mark do. In fact, for the last four seasons of the show, the Connor girls feature less frequently than their boyfriends.
* After Roseanne tells Dan that there’s nothing wrong with two people of the same sex kissing, Mariel Hemingway enters to offer a brief hello. Hemingway and Roseanne caused something of a media stir for their own same-sex kiss in an earlier episode of the show.
“Scenes from a Barbecue”
Nana Mary (Shelley Winters) makes her first appearance in this Season 3 episode. When Roseanne and Jackie have a difficult time on the phone with Bev, Nana dives in to turn the tables.
* Shelley Winters was only seven years older than Estelle Parsons, though they played mother and daughter.
* Nana Mary’s comments to Beverly that her husband might be having an affair are revealed to be accurate later in the series.
* Bonnie Bramlett, playing Roseanne’s coworker Bonnie, was given the chance to show off her pipes during the backyard sing-along.
“Wait Till Your Father Gets Home”
After their father’s death, Jackie breaks down and Roseanne works through some challenging family history. Meanwhile, Beverly takes on the added burden of meeting her husband’s mistress at the funeral.
* Grandpa Al (played by Al Harris) was much kinder in earlier seasons, but was written as stricter and more abusive after Roseanne rediscovered repressed memories of abuse in her own childhood.
* Roseanne reading aloud the emotional wounds inflicted by her father was inspired by a similar letter Tom Arnold read at his father’s funeral.
* Kay Arnold, who plays Grandpa Al’s mistress, is Tom Arnold’s aunt.
“Say It Ain’t So”
While dealing with problems in her own relationship, Jackie discovers that Dan had a brief romantic encounter with his mother’s nurse while he was away. She forces him to come clean to Roseanne, which puts their marriage in jeopardy.
* Dan moves out in the next week, and is absent from the show for three episodes of Season 9.
* This plot device was partially practical in nature, as John Goodman’s growing film career wouldn’t have allowed him to appear full-time on the show’s ninth season.
* Goodman appeared or provided voiceover work in seven movies released over the following year, including The Big Lebowski.
“Life and Stuff”
In the pilot episode, we’re introduced to the Conner family in typical dysfunctional fashion: Roseanne is summoned to meet with Darlene’s teachers when her daughter won’t stop barking in class.
* Sal Barone played DJ in this episode, but was replaced with Michael Fishman for the remainder of the series. Producers were concerned with how much Barone had grown between the pilot and the production of the series. Barone’s mother was concerned that he was engaged in real-life conflict with his on-screen sister, Sara Gilbert.
* The episode’s title, “Life and Stuff,” was the original title of the series. It was changed because Roseanne disliked it.
* In early episodes, Laurie Metcalf wears a curly wig; the producers felt that this would help her look more like Roseanne’s biological sister.
In this Season 2 episode, Roseanne nods off while waiting her turn in the bathroom for a relaxing soak. The ensuing fantasy sequence depicts her gleefully murdering her family to get a little peace and quiet, and then singing and dancing her way through a musical trial.
* In this episode, Becky becomes the first person to wear “the chicken shirt,” a notoriously ugly garment that is worn at least once by every member of the Connor family (and Jackie) at some point during the series.
* Roseanne was mocked for her singing voice; after this season, she would deliver her infamous rendition of the National Anthem to a displeased nation.
* Watch the mirror behind the judge: It frequently reveals one of the production cameras. Whoops!
Roseanne is upset that her mother is moving into a retirement community, but finds her attention pulled in a different direction when her friend Nancy (Sandra Bernhard) comes out of the closet.
* Producer Matt Williams disliked the idea of revealing that Nancy’s character was a lesbian and clashed with Roseanne about it.
*Between the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, Roseanne had cosmetic surgery, including a facelift, nose job, and cheek and chin implants.
*Sara Gilbert’s line “I know all about lesbians” is ironic now that Gilbert is openly gay herself.
Darlene has a crush on a boy and doesn’t know how to get his attention. Becky encourages her sister to invite him over and provides ongoing coaching on how to flirt, but the process backfires and he asks Becky out instead. The day isn’t any more romantic for the elder Conners, since Dan forgot to buy Roseanne a gift.
* Roseanne said her favorite part of this episode is the brief moment when Sara Gilbert makes a head motion to urge her out of the room and she responds like June Lockhart talking to Lassie.
* Leon makes his first appearance in this episode.
* Tobey Maguire appears briefly in this episode as Jeff, a friend of Darlene’s crush.
“A Stash from the Past”
In this Season 6 classic, Roseanne finds a bag of pot in the house. While she and Dan initially assume it belongs to one of their kids, they soon realize that the payload is left over from their own youth. They have one last toke before reclaiming the burden of adult responsibilities.
* In 1993, TV Guide ranked this episode as #21 in its “100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time” list.
* Jackie does not reveal that she is pregnant until the next week’s episode, but Laurie Metcalf’s real-life pregnancy is already visible here.
* Though Roseanne often claims that she was thin before her children were born, the old clothes that she pulls out during this episode are not too small on her.
“The Fifties Show”
In a parody of the sitcoms of yesteryear, the show did a black-and-white episode in which they take on new roles: Roseanne is a chipper housewife, Dan is the stalwart father, Jackie is their zany neighbor, and the kids are angels.
* This is the only episode in which Mark and David appear in the opening credits sequence.
* This set standing in for the retro Conner home was also used as the Healy household and Crystal and Ed’s house.
* Roseanne called this her “favorite episode of any television show, ever,” citing it as an example of her sitcom’s impact.
Though Darlene’s surprise visit home in Season 6 is supposed to be happy, she and David end up constantly fighting. The situation goes from uncomfortable to embarrassing when the family figures out why DJ has been spending so much alone time in the bathroom lately.
* Michael Fishman’s on-screen discussion about masturbation with John Goodman relieved his actual parents from having to have a similar talk with him.
* Fishman, then 12, attended public school when this episode aired and was teased mercilessly by his classmates.
* Though taboo in the U.S., masturbation is taught in some European countries as a means of lowering pregnancy and STD rates.