If you watched TV in the late 80s and early 90s then you probably watched “Roseanne.” The story of an acerbic blue collar mom and her middle-America family, Roseanne was always good for a laugh and more than a few gasps as well. It was one of those shows I just can’t forget, and now they’re bringing it back. At South by South West this year, ABC set up the show’s fictional diner, the Lanford Lunch Box, and select rooms from Roseanne’s house for guests to experience, in an effort to drum up interest in the series reboot which starts at the end of March. So I went.
Having been a resident of Austin for more than 20 years, I’ve seen SXSW grow and change quite a bit. This is a festival that is now the marketing extravaganza that merits bringing pieces of a Roseanne set halfway across the country just to build buzz for an upcoming TV show.
It’s a little weird driving around East Austin, a neighborhood formerly known mostly for small music clubs and family run Mexican restaurants, and seeing large signs with John Goodman hugging Roseanne Barr with arrows pointing toward their SXSW showcase event.
After taking way too long to park amongst the Millennial madness that is modern East Austin, I made my way to the pop-up Lanford Lunch Box on East 6th Street. Walking into Roseanne’s SXSW home I was treated immediately to free swag, which is always plus. A nice guy greeted me at the door, handed me some buttons with images big-haired Roseanne, “Original Becky” as they’re calling her, the couch, and more.
You walk straight into the Lunch Box, or at least a very small recreation of it. There is a counter where they were giving out free pie and coffee, plus a few tables to sit at while a TV on the wall played some clips from the show, and teasers of the reboot. You could get pecan, apple, or cherry pie, so of course I got cherry, because given the option to get cherry pie, one always does. Period. It was actually pretty good.
After my free pie and coffee, I stepped into the Conner family living room where they had recreated the feel of the show’s main set piece. Throughout the show’s nine seasons much of it centered around the couch. People argued on the couch, kissed on the couch, the show happened on that very couch and in that living room, and there I was standing in a line to sit on that couch, in that living room — well, at least a mobile version of it.
When it was my turn to sit down on the couch I was genuinely excited. It was like the time I was a kid at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and I got to see the Star Trek exhibit with the Captain’s chair from the U.S.S. Enterprise. It was that moment you saw something from your TV childhood up close and in person. Nothing matches a moment like that. So despite the fact that I take awful pictures, particularly after walking ten blocks and mowing through a piece of cherry pie, I proudly smiled for that camera.
There it is! Me on Roseanne’s couch, America! I can hear Roseanne’s famous laugh now as she looks at the picture, but I don’t care. I’m on the couch!
After taking your picture on the couch, you get either a free t-shirt or a free tote bag. I chose a t-shirt with a Roseanne phrase that perfectly sums up my typical grumpiness: “I consider myself a pretty good judge of people, and that’s why I don’t like none of ‘em.” Yep. Then you can retreat to “Dan’s garage” where you can watch clips of the show. I stayed for about ten minutes in one of the lawn chairs they had set up. The clip playing was from the first season.
Of course, everything throughout the Lanford Lunch Box and the Conners’s home is hash-tagged with #Roseanne or #ABC or #SXSW or something else to not so subtly remind you that this is in fact a very expensive PR stunt. In fact, each person I came in contact with, all of whom were very polite, reminded me, “Don’t forget to watch the all new episodes that debut Tuesday, March 27th on ABC!” Oh don’t worry, I won’t. Maybe I’ll have some pie while I watch it.