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Roseanne Arnold: One of 1991's great entertainers

Her series, ”Roseanne,” was TV’s highest-rated, most knowing comedy

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Roseanne on clothing for the overweight woman: It’s crap! Mustard-colored crap!

Roseanne on her ex: I finally had the guts to dump that s.o.b. (and) I have to pay him half the money I make for the rest of my goddamn life!

Roseanne on her show: I got rid of everybody I hated.

Roseanne on the engagement ring Tom Arnold gave her: The yellow diamond in the middle is for (the first time) we had sex!

Roseanne on a journalist who gave her a bad review: I called her a dried-up old C-word!

Roseanne on her live act: I thought it was funny. And I like to sing.

Roseanne on the scale: 180

Roseanne in the ratings: No. 1

Welcome to another year in the quiet, demure, genteel universe of Roseanne Arnold. Here’s her minute-waltz 1991 résumé: Made up with Arsenio. Starred in hit HBO special and high-rated ABC movie. Accused parents of sexual abuse. Bought a farm in Iowa. Settled her lawsuit against the National Enquirer. Did Oprah. Displayed newly displayable legs. Changed her name. Got tattooed for Tom. And confounded skeptics by leading her ever-more-terrific ABC series — you know, the one she was supposed to be running into the ground because she’s so ”difficult” — to the top of the Nielsen ratings. All in all, it was a very good year. But not a predictable one. In the fall of 1990, reeling from the backlash to her national-anthem rendition, she saw her show’s ratings fall, as the braying of those who just don’t get Roseanne reached a roar. So she did the only thing she could do: She went back to work, and started turning Roseanne into TV’s shrewdest, most surprising domestic comedy. And people noticed-lately, about 36 million of them, every Tuesday night.

But if everybody loves Roseanne Conner, Roseanne Arnold is still a tougher sell. Like Madonna — her closest kin on the celebrity spectrum — she is a professional provocateur, earthy, bawdy, demanding, and smart. That doesn’t sit well with those who would rather strap her into an ”I Hate Housework” apron and confine her to benign domestic one-liners. She’s way beyond that. Nor does her behavior do much for those who find her topics unsavory and her media style uncouth. When, this summer, Roseanne announced that she was an incest survivor, many took her very seriously. But the pursed disapproval from those who write her off as the media’s Problem Child was staggering. There she goes again, slagging somebody, went the line. Does she have to be so public? Does she have to be so loud?

Well, of course she does. Amid carefully packaged celebrities, Roseanne is an endangered species: She says what she wants, when she wants, how she wants. And as she sailed through this year’s storms, one thing became clear: Roseanne doesn’t need to win over any more detractors. She’s doing just fine without them.

Roseanne on herself: This is the best I’ve ever been. I’m at my peak.

Don’t bet on that. The best of Roseanne may still be ahead.

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