Despite the presence of Ellen DeGeneres as guest star, “Roseanne” turns in a rare, below-par episode. Good gags in Laurence Broch’s script keep the show above standards of most sitcoms, if noticeably below its own. Two members of the Connor family are absent: daughters Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Sarah Chalke). Though they’re missed, that’s not the problem; what is, is that the episode lacks the warmth that ties the Connor family together in the face of adversity.
Main plot finds the Connors’ son, D.J. (Michael Fishman), off to his first school dance, paired with a new girlfriend, Lisa (Ashley Johnson). Shrill and bossy, Lisa cows male members of the Connor household, though Roseanne likes her just fine.Argument follows between Roseanne and hubby Dan (John Goodman) as to whether relationship is healthy. He’s against it; she figures it’s about time women started asserting themselves.
Meanwhile, Roseanne’s sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), and Jackie’s husband, Fred (Michael O’Keefe), are having problems; she drags him to a marriage counselor. In her one scene as the therapist, DeGeneres acts pretty much like the “Ellen Morgan” character on her own show — hyperactive, fluttery and jokey (“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to record the session … I kinda like to play the tapes for my friends.”). The shrink, though, is better dressed than Ellen Morgan the bookstore owner.
While DeGeneres is fine, previous “Roseanne” stunt casting — David Crosby, Traci Lords, Bonnie Bramlett Sheridan — has been far more unconventional and less obviously ratings-oriented. Gail Mancuso’s direction and other tech credits are fine.