The latest episode of the hit ABC sitcom Roseanne blasts bigotry against Muslim immigrants and preached that they are usually like everyone else; just regular folks trying to get by in difficult times.
In the May 8 episode entitled “Meet the Neighbors,” the Connor matriarch (Barr) and sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) become suspicious of the new Muslim family from Yemen that has moved next door to the Connors in their fictional Chicago suburb of Lanford, Illinois.
Raising their fears to a fever pitch, Roseanne worries that the unusual amount of fertilizer piled up outside the neighbors’ home may be the makings of a terrorist bomb. But, as the episode continues, Roseanne is forced to go hat-in-hand to the neighbors to ask if she might use their WiFi so that her granddaughter can speak to her mother. The granddaughter’s mother is a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan and can only be reached at 2 AM U.S. time.
Roseanne’s own ignorance of Muslims becomes the butt of the joke when at the early morning hour she and Jackie knock on the neighbors’ door to beg to use the WiFi. The Connor sisters and their new Muslim neighbors, Samir and Fatima, proceed to trade barbs about how “scared” they are of each other. Roseanne is even shocked that the couple’s little boy is sleeping in a bulletproof vest because they have withstood some intense bigotry from other neighbors and he was frightened to sleep without the vest.
The family also explains the mound of fertilizer. It was delivered because, as Fatima groused, Samir doesn’t seem to understand that every time you click on Amazon, you are ordering another bag!
Ultimately, the Muslim couple decides to allow the Connors to use their WiFi password despite the annoying morning intrusion.
Displaying compassion, Fatima insists that they don’t want to let the “ignorance of adults” hurt the kids. “Go Cubs,” Roseanne is told to her confusion. “That is the password. We are big baseball fans” the Muslim couple says.
As the episode wraps up, Roseanne, now much more comfortable with Fatima, bumps into her new neighbor at the local grocery store where Fatima is embarrassed that she doesn’t have enough funds on her EBT card to buy groceries. Roseanne then graciously lends her own EBT card to help her neighbor finish the purchase. The star also slams a snotty grocery clerk who made a series of bigoted remarks as Fatima tried to pay for her items.
“You know that saying, ‘See something, say something?’ Well I saw something, and I’m gonna say something to your manager,” Roseanne said to the clerk. “You’re ignorant. That woman is twice the person you’ll ever be, and she’s dealing with a lot of stuff that you don’t even know about. So next time she comes into the store, you keep your mouth shut. She has enough fertilizer to turn this place into a smoking hole in the ground.”
The episode ends with Samir pounding on Roseanne’s door at 2 AM to repay the money borrowed at the store. “Did you have to bring it back at 2 AM?” Roseanne carps. “Oh, yes,” Samir says with relish as he paid back both the money and the annoying early morning intrusion.
The episode is a piece with the show’s drive to address controversial issues in a hilarious and even-handed way. The re-booted 90s sitcom has been rewarded with steady ratings after its amazing 27 million-viewer debut this season. Even the Muslim panic episode was the number one program on prime time on Tuesday, Forbes reported.
“It averaged a 2.6 Nielsen overnight rating, which was up a tenth of a point from the previous week. That puts it on track to once again rank as the No. 1 scripted show on broadcast TV for the week, a position it held for the week ended May 6 as well, just edging CBS’s ‘The Big Bang Theory,’” Forbes said.
Roseanne has averaged 10.2 million viewers making it consistently the top scripted show on TV.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.