by Cindy Pearlman
TV Dad Returns
He was the most understanding husband on television. For more reasons than one.
For starters, he was married to Roseanne.
How do you top that one? John Goodman has come out. With a whopper.
He will play a gay divorced dad in a new Fox sitcom next season.
But don't blame his union with TV's most raucous wife for the change in prime-time orientation.
"For me, fictional marriage to Rosie was the most wonderful thing in the world," says the guy who saw Rosie through thick and thin (literally), two real-life marriages and her lesbian kiss on TV.
"Let's say it was never boring," Goodman says.
The same might be said for his new TV role. The blue-collar dad's sexual leanings are not the focus of the 13 episodes already ordered by Fox.
"I don't know the exact tone," Goodman says. "All I know is that a couple of weeks ago, I was pitched by the Carsey Werner people I worked for at `Roseanne' for 10 years. They said, `John, what about another dysfunctional family?'
"I said, `Gee, that's a fresh angle. What can we do to mix it up a little bit more?' "
The truth is that after his Dan Conner character was revealed to be dead on the last episode of "Roseanne," Goodman, 48, began to long for the days when he was required on the set.
"I miss doing sitcoms. I like going in every week. I like putting a little play together. It's fresh. It's new. And I love a live audience," he says.
Meanwhile, he's been moonlighting on the hit CBS drama "Now and Again." The premise: The brain of the lead hunk jumped out of Goodman's body for far cuter quarters. "I never thought my brain would be in a body that looks that good," he jokes. "It makes me think, `In real life why can't this happen?' Hey, my wife would enjoy it."
Goodman is enjoying himself on the big screen, too. He stars in Garry Shandling's current battle-of-the-sexes film, "What Planet Are You From?" But the father of 9-year-old Molly turned down a sequel to "The Flintstones," his hit from 1994.
"I got sick of driving car pool with the other kids screaming, `Hee hee! Your Dad is Fred. Hey, Mr. Goodman, drive the car by sticking out your feet.' "
Goodman prefers darker roles, such as the one he plays in an upcoming comedy opposite George Clooney for filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. "I play a one-eyed Klansman who is delighted to have the world at his feet. George is a fugitive from a chain gang trying to get home."
How do they meet in the movie? "Through a dating service," Goodman teases. "Nah, I take George in the woods for a lesson."
"It's not `Deliverance,' " Goodman adds, adopting what might be his next TV voice.
"I mean, I wish. George is pretty good-looking." He pauses. "Ah, I'm just kidding."
March 6, 2000