These ‘Real American’ Sitcoms Are More Socially Relevant Than Roseanne

Roseanne debuted on ABC in 1988 and was an instant critical and commercial hit. The show was praised for its realistic portrayal of everyday life. In the show’s (original) final season, it lifted the veil on reality and had the family win the lottery.

Now back on ABC in 2018, the show is pretending the 1997 season never happened. The Conners have returned to fighting the everyday struggles of middle America. Unfortunately for Roseanne and company, several sitcoms since 1988 have shown the struggle with more honesty. From becoming a professional adult on Scrubs to raising a family on The Middle, the following shows are more American than Roseanne could ever hope to be.

Baskets Is About A Mother Holding Her Family Together

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Baskets, anchored by Louie Anderson’s heartbreaking performance as Christine Baskets, shows the ties that barely keep families together. Don’t let the premise about a failed French clown moving back home to Bakersfield, California fool you. The showrunners learned early on Christine was the true star.

The third season of the show premiered with Christine forcing the family to run a rodeo together. All she wants is for her family to find peace and happiness, a theme that is all too common in today’s dark world. Indiewire called the season, the next step in the evolution of this damaged yet lovable family.” And that’s the point. When we talk about Roseanne, we say “The Conners,” not “family.”

Malcolm In The Middle Showed How Hopeless Raising Children Can Feel

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Malcolm In The Middle claimed to be a show about growing up as the middle son of three. In reality, the show highlighted the struggles parents go through raising three kids while working full time. Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek play Hal and Louis, the glue barely keeping a roof over the family.

Kaczmarek stood out, earning an Emmy nomination for all six seasons. She was fierce as Louis, defending her sons in public and punishing them for their insanity in private. Dessert News praised the show as a skewed look at the American family that rings surprisingly true.” Premiering in 2000, if you put on an episode in 2018, those words are still true.

One Day At A Time Reboots The Family Sitcom, Infusing It With Relevance

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Like Roseanne, One Day At A Time is a reboot of an older show. The new version, unlike Roseanne, features an entirely new cast of characters. The new One Day At A Time was billed to audiences as nostalgia. Anyone who tuned in noticed right away the show was no longer about a white mother raising her two daughters in Indianapolis.

The new version follows a Cuban mother returning home after serving as a United States Army nurse. Using traditional multi-camera style, the show uses each episode to deal with American problems: PTSD, anxiety, sexuality, religion, depression, and gender identity. Roseanne’s take on gender identity is Darlene’s son going to his first day of middle school wearing a dress. As you’re about to see with Mom, not every show is a reflection of one big family unit.

Mom Shows Adults Dealing With Failure

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Mom is about Christy Plunkett, a recovering alcoholic, starting her life over in Napa and moving in with her mother Bonnie, a recovering drug addict. The show uses comedy to talk about dark issues including teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and homelessness.

For her unrivaled performance as Bonnie, Allison Janney has been nominated for four Emmy Awards. She won twice; in 2014 and 2015. Critics aren’t alone in loving the show. The first four seasons averaged ten million viewers. The new Roseanne has lost 13 million weekly viewers since premiering.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Fails At Law Enforcement But Exceeds At Tackling Tough Issues

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a realistic police sitcom. The FOX comedy doesn’t pretend to be either. It does feature an ethnically diverse cast of characters, many dealing with their sexuality. Sergeant Raymond Holt, played by Andre Braugher, is the precinct’s gay leader. Detective Rosa Diaz is bisexual and comes from a traditionally conservative Hispanic family.

The episode Rosa revealed she was bisexual was based on the actresses real-life experience. Dealing with this issue, the show was praised for telling a story that was “just emotional enough without undermining the humor.” Our next show set the absurdist stage for Brooklyn Nine-Nine but used the workplace as its canvas.

Scrubs Keeps It Real Outside of JD’s Dreams

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Scrubs has been praised by the medical profession for its honest and accurate take on modern medicine. Despite being a surrealist half-hour sitcom, the show never refuses to be happy. Countless episodes end with heartache and professional failure.

To keep the show grounded in reality, Bill Lawrence (the creator) had his writers’ interview doctors before every season. Through these interviews, the show crafted it’s hilarious and tragic stories. Lawrence, when asked why his show isn’t about hero doctors, said, “If your buddy was a funny kind of goofball that made jokes out of everything in college, then as a doctor, he’s the same guy.”

Black-ish Is An Identity Crisis Worth Watching

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Black-ish looks like an optimistic and unrealistic look at black culture in America without watching. The second the pilot starts, however, it’s clear this is not another fantasy show about an upper-class black family. The first thing Anthony Anderson’s character talks about is the fear that his family has assimilated to white culture and lost their roots in the process.

As the show progresses it continues to discuss hot-button topics like police brutality and the N-word. We give ABC credit for allowing the show to be about real issues, even if the family has to hide behind a veil of luxury.

The Middle Balances Humor With Honesty

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Throughout its nine-season run, ABC’s The Middle has been lauded by critics for, “a humorous, heartfelt, realistic look at middle-class, middle-America family life.” Entertainment Weekly called the show, “the saga of a family struggling to keep their heads above the choppy economic waters.”

Roseanne, oddly enough, rarely shows the family struggle with money. The Conners are poor but seem to get by without it being the main focus. The Middle, like Malcolm in the Middle before it, takes a closer look at the battle to stay afloat financially. Coming up, the first cartoon on our list shows the realities of the American working class.

Bob’s Burgers Is A Deft Look At Small Business Owners

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Taking an outlandish approach to American life, Bob’s Burgers has become a staple program on FOX Sundays. The show features a cast of characters running small businesses to support their families. The only wealthy person in all of an oceanside town is Mr. Fishoder, the resident landlord.

At the start of the second season, Slant Magazine said, “the series takes a refreshing interest in the struggles, hardships, joys, and minor triumphs of the self-employed.” Turning the absurd poignant, Bob’s Burgers has etched out a loyal fanbase. Currently airing its eighth season, the show will soon pass Roseanne’s original nine-season run.

The Simpsons Were The Original Bob’s Burgers

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Completely chaotic and narratively confused now, The Simpsons began in 1989 as a sincere look at middle-class life in America. The pilot episode featured Homer moonlighting as Santa to pay for Christmas presents for the family. When he sees an opportunity to win big at the dog races he nearly ruins the holiday.

Unlike shows such as Scrubs, The Simpsonhaveas always stayed optimistic. After failing his family, Homer adopts the dog he blew his money on. The family names the dog Santa’s Little Helper. With that hope in its back pocket, The Simspons told real stories for as long as it could. It has sadly now, long worn out its welcome.

Superstore Shows The Working Class At Work

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Similar to The Office, Superstore on NBC takes a look at the lives of people we brush over in our lives; store employees. They are real people too, and Superstore makes sure we know that. Set in St. Louis at big box store Cloud 9, the disgruntled employees of the show each have unique lives and difficulties.

Working at Cloud 9 serves to magnify those difficulties. Using this model, the show can delve into more serious issues. Superstore, admirably, doesn’t pat itself on the back for bringing up important issues. Instead, it weaves them into the characters lives, making it feel natural. Next, Fresh Off The Boat is a first-of-its-kind look at Asian American families.

Fresh Off The Boat Shows Another Side Of America

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Fresh Off The Boat follows the Huang family’s move from Washington D.C. to a suburb of Florida. Based on chef Eddie Huang’s life, the show takes a realistic look at growing up Asian in America. Writing for Huffington Post, Ester Suh said it acknowledges the “lack of inclusivity Asian Americans have had in the nation’s cultural and entertainment dialogue.”

Suh is right. It’s nearly impossible to think of another primetime show about an Asian American family. With America becoming more culturally diverse every day, Fresh Off The Boat is a needed reminder of what this country is all about.

Everybody Hates Chris Didn’t Pretend To Be Wealthy

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Chris Rock grew up poor in Brooklyn. He created Everybody Hates Chris to talk to America about his upbringing. The show was a critical hit and was nominated for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy” at the 2006 Golden Globes.

The American Film Institute hailed it as one of the ten best shows of 2007, writing, “a very real look at growing up in America – a challenge that demands a discussion of race and class often absent from television today.” Unfortunately, the show never found its footing with audiences, ending its four-year run with less than two million viewers per week.

How I Met Your Mother Undoes The Romantic Comedy

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How I Might Your Mother never pretended to be hopelessly romantic. Despite a controversial happy ending, the show spent eight years on CBS getting depressed with its characters.

Ted, the lead, spent the run of the show failing in every relationship he ever tried. Playboy Barney Stinson used his personality to hide his emptiness at never having known his father. Robyn didn’t know she wanted to have kids until she learned she was infertile. The list goes on, but we’ll spare your feelings. Prepare yourself for our next show, it’s one of the most controversial ever made!

South Park Is A Mirror Of America

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We understand if you disagree with this opinion, but South Park has spent the better part of 20 years reflecting the problems with America back onto itself. It’s no secret that each episode is made six days before they air. This conceit has brilliantly allowed South Park to comment instantly on the news cycle.

Take, for instance, the Washington Redskins name controversy. South Park had an episode created immediately. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had to wait a year to introduce a season-long storyline about the same issue. In 2006, the show received a Peabody Award for, “undeniably fearless lampooning of all that is self-important and hypocritical in American life.”

Married… With Children Is About American Desperation

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Married… With Children premiered one year before Roseanne and ran two years longer. The show followed the Bundys, a family living in poverty who often stole what they needed to survive. Behind the crass jokes and sexist gags, the show portrayed an all too real segment of America not shown since.

Where Roseanne fails to tell a story about a family with no money, Married… With Children focuses on this aspect of the Bundy’s. During one season a storyline focused on whether Bud, a straight-A student, would be able to go to college because the family couldn’t afford to send him.

The Carmichael Show Takes The One Day At A Time Approach

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The Carmichael Show, like One Day At A Time, is sitcom shot very traditionally with a live studio audience. Hiding behind the tradition, Jerod Carmichael used his show to talk about modern issues including LGBTQ rights, gun control, and Black Lives Matter.

A Paste Magazine contributor described the show as, “more daring and realistic than the flashier Black-ish.” After season three ended, Jerod Carmichael announced he would be leaving the show. NBC considered continuing the program without its star but instead used his exit to cancel the low rated TV series.

Will And Grace Normalized Gay Lifestyle

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Will And Grace was paired with Friends for nearly a decade on NBC’s Must See TV Thursdays. Both shows told simple stories about people struggling in their careers. Friends settled for being politically correct. Will And Grace, however, featured two openly gay characters; Will and Jack.

For eight years the show told Will and Jack’s stories as precisely that. The characters were allowed to live their lives as ordinary human beings. By the end of its first run (the show has since been revived on NBC), Will And Grace earned 83 Emmy nominations. It took home 16 trophies. Taking a 180-degree turn next, King of the Hill is one of the few shows about the conservative side of America.

King Of The Hill Was Conservatively Groundbreaking

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King of the Hill told a story about the conservative Hill family living in Texas. Hank Hill spent 13 years as a propane salesman with a deep seeded hate for propane. His refusal to change with the times made him endearing and relatable, even if his views weren’t always popular.

Despite being a cartoon, praise for King of the Hill focused on its humanity. The Star-Ledger hailed it as, “sweeter and more human than the great majority of live-action sitcoms that overlapped its run.” Time said the finale was, “one of the most moving things I’ve seen on TV this year.”

Community Showed Outcasts Matter

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Community ran for four years on NBC and one year on Yahoo, never finding a large audience. Those who did latch on refused to let go. The show was outlandish, telling stories about paintball battles and cafeteria chicken nugget crime rings. The characters at the center of these episodes were deeply flawed outcasts. By finding each other, they found acceptance and wait for it.. community!

Giving a voice to the voiceless, show creator Dan Harmon (now running Rick and Morty) gave America a look into the shadows. Even if Community represented a small part of the country, it was a real representation that needed to be.