Great TV shows tend to be the product of a specific time in the lives of three groups: the characters on the show, the people making it, and the people watching it. When shows get brought back from the dead years later, one or more of those groups is different, yet too many shows in the recent flood of revivals try to go about business as usual, assuming the old material will work no matter the context, when instead the new episodes at best come across as pale imitations of what these shows used to be.
The handful of revivals that have creatively justified their existence have tended to be the ones that acknowledge those changes. The first revival season of The X-Files plowed forward as if no time had passed, stumbling badly along the way, but the season that just wrapped up last week mostly returned to early form by telling stories explicitly about Mulder and Scully being much older, and the world much scarier than the one where they first went looking for the truth that was out there.
Of all the classics being resurrected, few return with as many changes to the three key groups as Roseanne does. The original run was an all-timer onscreen, but tumultuous off it: a blunt, thoughtful, and bittersweet story of a blue collar family barely scraping by, inspired by the life of a star who fought constantly with the people in charge of the show until she took charge herself, for good and for ill (that final season where Roseanne won the lottery in particular). It’s been almost 21 years to the day since the original series finale, and in that time Roseanne Barr has very publicly gone through a lot of changes, the country is more bitterly divided than ever on many of the issues the original series raised, and all the members of the Conner family are two decades older. Wonderful as so much of ’80s and ’90s Roseanne was, few revivals have had higher potential for feeling wildly out of step in the current environment.