One of the secret joys of reality TV is just how unreal it all is.
Real life can be so boring. Otherwise I'd spend less time staring at the small screen and more staring out my window.
Whether it's Man vs. Wild's Bear Grylls lighting a fire in front of a wind machine, choreographed cat fights on Real Housewives or the air brushed, trainer-toned, plastic surgery augmented stars of, well, most shows; reality TV offers less real life and something more akin to enhanced reality.
That's what makes Roseanne's Nuts such a treat. The new Lifetime series follows Roseanne Barr to Hawaii, where the 58-year-old comedian and sitcom star has purchased a working Macadamia nut farm.
This is classic Barr, harking back to her roots as the bitchy, trash-talking working class diva that changed the face of comedy with her sitcom Roseanne and the stand-up routines that preceded it.
Los Angeles Times noted that, in this series, Roseanne is willing to laugh at her "actual self." They added, "it's difficult to imagine another star of her age and measurements who would allow herself to be filmed, from behind, while running."
Although Barr has never been as skinny as some of the size zero babes on reality TV, in the 1990s she underwent gastric bypass surgery and had multiple cosmetic surgeries, so in some ways, even her aging body doesn't really reflect the true impact of gravity on big American bodies.
Still, as a fat girl who recently relocated from fat-positive, foodie-favorite Portland, Oregon to image conscious LA, I'm always happy to see big female bodies fill the small screen. (I'm talking about you, Melissa McCathy.) Especially on reality shows that aren't focused on weight-loss. Because, while you'll find fat boys on shows like Pawn Stars and Auction Hunters, you won't see any of us big boned gals.
As a post-modern feminist, I appreciate not only the return of the brassy, bossy, bitchy Barr, but also her boyfriend of eight-years, John, who gains my respect by saying things like, "I told her when we met that I'm secure enough in my masculinity to be the girl in this relationship. As often as she needs it."
During the first episode, I admit I had my cell phone out, ready to complain to PETA about animal cruelty when--garnering hilarious comparisons to Sara Palin--Barr marches into her orchard with shotgun in hand, ready to defend her nut harvest against voracious wild hogs.
When her shots fail to hit the fast little piglets, Barr turns to setting traps.
But once she catches one, she can't bring herself to actually kill the little black pig, which she says looks like a dog.
Then Barr's sons get involved: one calls Barr a "poser" for moving to a farm and not expecting she'd have to kill something, while the other suggests it's offensive to native Hawaiians to live on the island and not participate in pig roasts.
Barr retorts that she won't tolerate "any of that violence here," and ends up (literally) racing to the pig's rescue.
When she releases the piglet, Barr directs it to "return to your tribe and tell them I let you go," hoping that doing so might keep the pests from coming back. (Although pigs are smart, I don't think they understand English, so I imagine more pig-Barr conflicts will arise on future episodes.)
After Roseanne's Nuts premiered, Lifetime issued a statement, claiming the show was a ratings success. NYMag.com disagreed, maintaining that the Nielsen numbers didn't stand up to closer scrutiny:
Roseanne's much-hyped comeback didn't cause viewers to go nuts. The premiere half-hour drew 1.6 million viewers, while a second episode averaged a little less than 1.5 million. That figure put the show out of cable's top 25 most-watched shows for the evening and, perhaps more embarrassingly, was below the tune-in for an episode of Pawn Stars Lifetime imported from sister network History and aired in the 8 p.m. hour.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times called Roseanne's Nuts, "an occasionally weird, occasionally hilarious show that is simultaneously a window into the life of an eccentric performer and a wickedly fun send-up of the genre, dating all the way to Paris Hilton and The Simple Life."
No one can revel in the dirty messiness of real life while making it seem funny and endearing the way Barr can. And while she has faded from the limelight in the years since she offended baseball fans with a fractured rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," the blue-collar-mom-turned-wealthy-comedian just might become relevant again in this Great Recession world.
But will American audiences tune in to watch the unglamorous, unvarnished (and possibly braless) Barr chase wild pigs and string obscenities together? Will they laugh with her or at her?
I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the show gains an audience, because I want bushels of Roseanne's Nuts. Am I crazy for liking Roseanne's new show? Tell me what you think.
Roseanne's Nuts airs Wednesday 9/8 C on Lifetime.
Photo © Lifetime