As someone who has found this season’s Roseanne to be, week after week, the funniest, most adventurous, deepest sitcom around, I’m sorry that Backfield in Motion is such a trite little TV movie. Roseanne Arnold stars as the mother of a teenage son (Johnny Galecki) who tries to organize a football game in which mothers will play against her son’s all-male high school team. She thinks it’ll be a way to have fun while proving that women can do anything men can do. But the event takes on a life of its own, as the team’s coach (Michael Pniewski) turns the game into a macho test and the moms use it as a gesture of rebellion against their disapproving husbands.
Tom Arnold costars as the nebbishy vice principal who gets roped into coaching the mothers’ team. His character falls in love with Roseanne’s — she’s a widow — and the Arnolds’ real-life romance makes an easy transition to light comedy; their teasing banter is the best, most spontaneous thing in the movie. Roseanne has frequently declared herself a feminist, but this movie tries to gets its laughs at women’s expense: We’re supposed to be amused at how clumsy they are on the field, at how silly they look in football uniforms — there’s even a running joke about the size of one player’s breasts. Except as a vehicle for the Arnolds to play a romantic couple, Backfield in Motion is a pointless addition to Roseanne’s admirable work. C-