The Conners: Roseanne’s Family Takes Over

by The Cowl Editor on October 25, 2018

Arts & Entertainment

After Controversy on Twitter, the Show Carries On

by: Madeline Weaver-Nolting ’19 A&E Staff

Actors on the set of the ABC show The Connors

There is something different about the new TV sitcom called The Conners. Based on the popular television series Roseanne, the character Roseanne Barr is missing. Roseanne, a highly successful show that ran for nine seasons from 1988-1997, was about a working-class family where nothing was off-limits. 

ABC revived the beloved series in March 2018 for a 10th season. Due to early success with over 17.7 million viewers watching, it was signed for its 11th season. However, the show was changed forever when Barr sent racist tweets about Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman who served as a senior advisor to former president Barack Obama. The New York Times has described her as “one of his most influential aides.” 

Rather than forget about the series altogether, ABC decided to create a spin-off called The Conners. In terms of how to eradicate Barr’s character from the series, the writers had her character die due to an accidental opioid overdose. Many fans found this unusual because it is a stark contrast to the previous light-heartedness of the family show. 

With the main character missing, the network decided to shift the focus to Sara Gilbert’s character, Darlene. ABC’s press release describes the new show as saying, “After a sudden turn of events the Conners are forced to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before…The Conners’ stories demonstrate that families can always find common ground through conversation, laughter, and love. The spinoff will continue to portray contemporary issues that are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago.”

With only 10.5 million U.S. viewers for the first episode on Oct. 16 of The Conners, there is a clear divide within the audience about whether to watch without Barr present. Despite this, the first season received great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with a 96 percent rating from 45 critics. The website reads, “The Conners offers the comforts of its source show, but more focus on the family’s ever-evolving dynamics adds a welcome layer of working-class empathy without losing any of the laughs.” 

Although she has zero involvement with The Conners, Barr has not been silent about the new show. She said on her YouTube channel about her character Roseanne, “They have her die of an opioid overdose. I wanted to show [opioid struggle] in the show, but I was never going to have Roseanne die of an opioid overdose. She should have died as a hero or not at all … It wasn’t enough to [fire me], they had to so cruelly insult the people who loved that family and that show.” 

Despite her outrage, Barr agreed not to be a part of The Conners and her castmates appear to be grateful for that. Actor John Goodman says it was a very big deal that she gave them a chance to finish the show. He said, “There was a debt owed to this fictional family. We want to finish telling this story.” Only time will tell if revamping the show will pay off for the network.