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Rosie to Roseanne?

A first-season cast picture from Roseanne and today's version.

Note to readers: If asked, she'll serve. Roseanne Barr recently said she'd love to replace Rosie O'Donnell as The View's resident loudmouth. Her career could use a lift after the quick cancellations in recent years of a late night talk show and a prime-time reality series.

She once knew the glory of
Roseanne, though. It premiered on ABC in fall 1988 and spent seven consecutive seasons in prime-time's top 10. This article, from August 8, 1988, recounts Barr's official introduction to television critics at that summer's network TV "press tour."

LOS ANGELES -- A handful of TV critics are Barr-hopping, hoping to flesh out a better story on an admittedly flabby, coarse comedian whose Roseanne sitcom is a good bet to be the highest-rated new series of the season.

In one interview session at a local hotel, Roseanne Barr briefly lapses into poignancy in recalling how her father, a Sears parts salesman, told a People magazine writer that he'd always wanted to be a standup comic.

"It was the first time I'd heard that," she says. "Everything in my life suddenly made sense. My dad really turned me into this person."

Later, facing a different batch of critics, she blurts out a typical broadside: "You ever notice that all (expletives) have the same job -- boss? It just seems to be the way it works out."

Barr, the self-proclaimed "domestic goddess" and previous holder of "every minimum wage job in the world," is playing a combination mom/plastics factory worker in a new ABC comedy comfortably scheduled between Who's the Boss? and Moonlighting on Tuesday nights.

The series was developed by Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, former ABC programming executives who created The Cosby Show for NBC. The Carsey-Werner Company's independent agreement with the Writers Guild of America, signed long before the strike ended, enables Roseanne to begin production this week with a backlog of scripts.

Barr weaned her standup comedy in Denver punk and biker bars before coming to Los Angeles in 1984 and scoring on The Tonight Show. The exposure led to an 18-week job as an opening act for singer Julio Iglesias. Last year she starred in an HBO special titled On Location: The Roseanne Barr Show.

Barr says her ABC series is "real autobiographical," as is Cosby. As in real life, she'll have three children and a husband to bounce around verbally but not brutally. Her TV husband, Dan, played by John Goodman, is not nearly the slob she's been savaging in her nightclub act.

"I never thought that I was bashing my husband in my act either," Barr says. "I just thought it was my point of view on my marriage. but I mean, yeah, the guy's three-dimensional now. He's a real guy."

Barr has been married for 16 years to Bill Barr, whom she describes as "the funniest person I ever knew in my whole life. He doesn't have any respect for anything. And he's very much an anarchist."

Roseanne and Bill met in "the mountains of Colorado" and "were real hippie people" living communally, she says. together they mapped out her comedy routines and made babies in a 600-square foot home-not-so-sweet home. Their new Los Angeles residence, purchased a year ago, is kept in working order by a newly hired maid.

"I don't like the idea that it's real romantic to be poor and work yourself to death for little or next to nothing," Barr says. "My father always used to say, 'It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.' "

Roseanne and her siblings -- she has two sisters and a brother -- were raised in Salt Lake City, where "we used to get beat up a lot," she recalls. "You know, all that real-life stuff. I call all those people the Nazi Amish."

She says this almost jokingly but leaves no doubt that anti-Semitism scarred her childhood and left her both tough-minded and insecure.

Her husband, of whom she speaks glowingly, was something of a savior. He'll have a recurring role on Roseanne as her TV husband's best friend.

Barr says she intends to play "this nice lady that's funny and has an edge. that's how I see myself.

"I love Carol Burnett because she's just so real and she seems like your neighbor and somebody you'd like to know. I liked Lucy, but I hated her show because she has to beg her husband for five bucks and he hates and all that (expletive)."

When The Honeymooners is mentioned, Barr exclaims, "Ooh, that's my favorite show in the world!"

As a kid, she did Jackie Gleason impressions after watching Ralph and Alice Kramden (Gleason and Audrey Meadows) fight and make up each week.

"It didn't seem mean with Alice and Ralph," she says, "because you know they love each other and they're just picking at each other."

The childless Alice, she says, would be a "damn good mom."

Mothering her three real-life children -- ages 12, 12 and 11 -- is easier, she says, now that they have their own interests and don't care to be around her that much. The family occasionally gathers in the mid-afternoons, however, to watch Donahue, Geraldo!, The Oprah Winfrey Show, etc.

"I don't understand those shows at all, but I have to watch them. I have to," she says. "what else am I gonna do at three in the afternoon? Exercise? I'm just a real private kind of family kind of a gal. I'd just rather stay at home and have a beer and stare at TV."

The children, she says, are sick of hearing her talk about her new show. But Barr says she never tires of watching herself in action.

"I swear to God, I am my hugest fan," she says in her coarsely charming way. "I think I'm really funny."