"I've beheaded the washing machine!"
From the man-centric world of Home Improvement, we flip to the other side of the same coin - a world where the ladies are in charge, the matriarchy is standard-issue, and the furniture is... eclectic. I'm talking prime time with the Queen of Halloween:
That voice aside, who among us does not hold a special place in our hearts for this ball-busting, blue-collar show about life in the humid Midwest? The pedigree of the writing staff alone is enough to leave one awestruck: Carrie Fisher! Amy Sherman! Norm MacDonald! Joss-fucking-Whedon! It's a smorgasbord of cutting-dialog experts, all sitting on their slab of oak (I guess?) with their gourmet cheeses and cold cuts surrounding them, whipping up scene after glorious scene of perpetually combative people going at it as they, like the rest of us, try to make it through their day, all in the face of the world's idiocy.
Whatever, I'm not here to sell you Roseanne, that shit sells itself, and part of the reason it does is because it gave us 8 seasons of Halloween episodes. I just paused in my typing for a moment because I had to raise my hands in surrender - okay, Roseanne, you win! You're the all-time Halloween-ep champion! You make Night Court's 5 episodes look even more like the garbage they actually are.
And, not unlike our visit with the Taylors, we're kicking it oldest-school, and shall start... at the beginning.
Space: Lanford, IL
Time: October 31st, 1989
Episode: "BOO!" Season 2, Episode 7
We must open with what I imagine to be a regular occurrence in this house: the entire family engaged in battle over food - in this case, caramel apples.
At this point, representatives from the Plot Union inform me that I need to point out some beats for you, my beloved reader. They are mostly concerned with the one in which Dan drops a line about a contracting client he's concerned with impressing for some reason or another - blue-collar and all that, you get what I'm saying. Also, they've asked me to point out that this normal Conner-morning-coming-down is quickly infused with a timeless story-arc standby: prank war.
From the look of Jackie's reaction, Dan is obviously gaining ground in said-prank war, but this will be a back-and-forth runner throughout the episode.
Speaking of Jackie, let's just take a moment in this calm before the storm to revel in a beautifully laid-out laundry room spectacle:
This and the images that follow are almost Norman Rockwellian (I trust whoever directed this episode gained notoriety as 'the Norman Rockwell of water heaters') in the way they reflect the America of the day. You know, like this:
Classic Darlene - that's the kind of kid you want to have, at least until David moves in. Leave it to Becky to be in a pissy mood - she's going through her terrible teens and the mood-swinging is the most frightening thing about the entire episode.
The aforementioned Plot Union dictates that I explain her behavior; she's not that into Halloween to begin with (again, because she's in her terrible teens, you see), and also, she's not invited to the party she thought she was going to. Roseanne is a good mom, and helps her to better understand why this is all so important.
Turns out, it's mostly because of the candy.
More shots fired in the prank war, as Roseanne pretends to fool Dan into thinking she's choking. Nice try, Roseanne, but Dan knows the score, and walks away from the collapsing body of his beloved wife without a care in the world.
So amazingly bleak! But, I ask you: how often do you really get gallows-humor in prime time?
Meanwhile, everyone is dressed up and ready for the big event - even pouty Becky has turned her attitude around, thank goodness.
And here we see how Roseanne was superior to other family shows - there's no lingering, no synth-cue, no trying to sell it. It's just dealt with and discarded, because life rolls on and it's fucking Halloween.
We proceed to the trick-or-treating/house of horrors, where we find our old friend, Biker-Vest Skeleton!
You just knew he was gonna show up here. By my count, that is 6 out of 27 programs featuring a cameo by Biker-Vest Skeleton, which means you have an approximate 22% chance of running into him while watching Halloween-themed television in October. Small sample size, I know, but save it for your Ultimate Zone Rating calculations, poindexter.
DJ, by the way, is dressed as a ninja:
Yes, it may be 1989, but already we see the early-90s ninja lifestyle being committed to by a generation of young people.
Now, simply enjoy the bloody pageantry of it all, as we move through the Conner's tunnel of terror. Here's Dan with his take on the blade-to-the-head:
Jackie looking incredible and sacrificing her evening to screaming and being held hostage by a table:
That's an odd combination, corn-on-the-cob and grapes, right? It looks nice for the presentation, and the symmetry is immaculate, but I would have questioned the flavor-profile of that dish.
Back in America's laundry room - there he is again! I'd know that silhouette anywhere!
And here we see a trick-or-treater dressed as a middle-aged shell of a man, who- Oh, I'm sorry, it's actually just the guy Dan was talking about at the beginning - the one he's doing the big job for.
"Is this a bad time?" he asks the man with the fake ax in his head at 7:30 on Halloween night - who is doing business like this!? Look at a calendar, jackass! Hell, look around you, you're surrounded by trick-or-treaters as you walk down the bustling street and up the steps of the heavily-decorated Conner house! Wake up!
Ah, we'll forgive him though, for he is totally down with helping Roseanne scare Dan, thusly bringing an end to this prank war that has shed so much fake blood. Willingly place your fate into Roseanne's hands and you can be seen as nothing but noble.
I'm not going to lie to you, I was concerned about the tie - when he cries out, "That's a $50 tie!" I thought I sensed some real anguish there. I know I have my favorite ties, just as I know a strip of decorative fabric that's supposed to help us be taken seriously can cost an absurd amount of cash - maybe this was his favorite tie! Now what!?
It turns out any concerns we may have regarding this bit-part's dresswear are unfounded, and Dan falls for the whole thing, to everyone's delight. Because people love working for clients who conspire with their wives for the purpose of public humiliation, right?
Not to be outdone in the prank war, Dan's reprisals are a bitch to behold:
Roseanne, being an old hand at this by now, relents in the face of this live chainsaw... or does she??? In the final scene, Dan finds her reluctantly telling her parents they can come visit for three weeks. Dan reacts as we all would:
Psyyyyyyych! That's right, Dan - don't forget that in the small pocket of television known as Lanford, Illinois, the matriarchy rules. Forget ye not who be the Queen, peasant - bwa-ha-ha! Also, her name is the title, so her victory should kind of go without saying.