‘The Conners’ Proves Canceling ‘Roseanne’ Was a Big Mistake
The new ABC sitcom suffers from the absence of the woman who actually created these characters
There was a lot about the “Roseanne” sitcom that made it special for its 10 seasons on the air, but the unique ingredient of that series was always the captain of the ship, Roseanne Barr.
ABC’s decision to fire Barr from her own show aside, the “Roseanne” spinoff “The Conners” — which premiered on the network tonight — is just odd.
Barr has always been vocal about how personal the long-running “Roseanne” was to her. Many of the family relationships on the show were inspired by her own experiences, and she was always the one who fought so hard to keep the series honest to its blue-collar roots.
That heart and honesty she fought for is why the series stood out in its last season — by tackling hot-button political issues from a middle ground fueled by character and story. The last season also stood out because it chose to show a Trump-supporting character in a sympathetic light rather than painting her with the broad, stereotypical brush that so many Hollywood writers like to use.
That Trump-supporting character is now gone. The matriarch of “Roseanne” — who was played by Barr — has passed away on “The Conners,” due to an opioid overdose.
Without the character for whom the show was literally titled and without the program’s original creator, “The Conners” is really nothing special. Instead of offering an authentic look at blue-collar America and the currently divided culture, it is now just another sanitized half-hour comedy series that seems to be doing its best to imitate blue-collar life without any real firsthand knowledge.
“The Conners” opens a few weeks after the death of central character Roseanne Conner. It’s an odd decision, since it never feels like the premiere fully tackles the death. Not setting the story in the immediate aftermath of Conner’s death is a lazy way for the writers to fall back on easy sitcom writing — and avoid tackling the elephant in the room head-on.
In the premiere of “The Conners,” Roseanne’s family actually first believes she died from a heart attack. It’s revealed later in the episode that she belonged to a group of neighbors who shared prescription medication.
While this would seem like a good way to launch into a larger and more important conversation about substance abuse — something the 10th season of the series did with Barr — “The Conners” doesn’t have the same bite that “Roseanne” did.
On a positive note, all of the cast from “Roseanne” who transitioned into “The Conners” is as solid as ever. John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf (pictured above center), Sarah Gilbert (above right), Alicia Goranson (above left), and others are solid performers who are able to balance comedy and drama well. Still, Barr’s absence is felt in every second of the premiere of “The Conners.”
No matter how one feels about the comedian’s personal politics, it’s hard to deny her unique abilities as a performer and a writer. If the premiere of “The Conners” is any indication, her removal from the show is simply a hurdle this sitcom will not overcome.
Watch a clip from the premiere of “The Conners,” below: