Roseanne: An Unauthorized Biography (1994)

The first of two TV movies about Roseanne (Roseanne and Tom: Behind the Scenes aired twenty days later), this biopic bookends its story with her divorce from Bill Pentland and her later divorce from Tom Arnold. Loud, trashy and out of control, it shares many traits with its title character but lacks the one important ingredient that made her a star - talent.

While husband number one is raging outside her house, Roseanne buries her head under a blanket. Cue flashback to 16 year old Roseanne, with her head still covered, wandering around in heavy traffic. The inevitable accident not only leaves Roseanne with suspected brain damage but also a really bad fringe. She‘s institutionalised, falls pregnant, joins a hippie commune, gets married and becomes a cocktail waitress. Her popularity with the customers, either due to her wisecracks or the tricks she is turning in the bar’s parking lot, encourages her to take to the stage where her ‘domestic goddess’ routine becomes a hit. While touring her stand-up around the country, Roseanne meets her new opening act, Tom Arnold.

To combat the unstable nature of Roseanne’s early years, captions identify the time and place of each scene, ad nauseam.  Also adding to the nausea is an unstable camera used to film the biopic’s opening and closing scenes. The diminutive Denny Dillon does a passable impersonation but never really convinces as the TV star, resorting to widening her eyes to express all manner of emotions. When coupled with lighting that casts a shadow over the lower half of her face, Dillon looks like she’s recreating Roseanne’s role in She-Devil.

Yet the real He-Devil is apparently husband number two. While this film may be an unauthorised biography of Roseanne, it's Tom Arnold that gets the full tabloid treatment. David Graf's one-dimensional performance does nothing to indicate this is undeserved.

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Denny Dillon, Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Arnold, David Graf, Tom Arnold
Denny Dillon
Denny Dillon

as Roseanne

David Graf
David Graf

as Tom Arnold

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Though the portrayal of the TV star’s accusations of incest were accurate at the time of filming, Roseanne has since retracted those remarks, instead stating that her parents psychologically abused her.

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Biopic makes a passing reference to Roseanne’s movie debut in She-Devil.

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