Roseanne Barr is gone from her titular series, but that doesn’t mean The Conners are lost without her.
Don’t let the numbers fool you.
Despite a dip in viewers for the premiere of The Conners on ABC, compared to the Roseanne premiere last spring, the quality of the show is just as good without its star. In fact, the death of Roseanne Conner by opioid overdose feels like a natural progression for the show, given that last season ended with Roseanne headed for knee surgery (she was only going to be more reliant on pain pills).
Even though all of the family members miss Roseanne in the premiere episode “Keep on Truckin'”, it’s interesting that the series itself doesn’t feel like it has void to fill because there are so many other compelling characters on this series.
Geena Williams-Conner (DJ’s wife played by Maya Lynne Robinson) is home on a five-day bereavement leave from the army; Mark Conner-Healy (Ames McNamara) finally addresses his budding sexuality to his grandfather Dan (John Goodman); and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) tries to move forward, hilariously, by redesigning the flow of the kitchen. Other than Roseanne Barr no longer being a presence on the show, the series feels like it’s business as usual, which is a testament to the wealth of great characters. Not many shows could survive without their title character (imagine Seinfeld without Seinfeld?). Even though her name was in the title, Roseanne was never the focal point; in the last season, she mostly just made snarky commentary about what was going on around her while battling opioid addiction.
“I don’t even know where I belong,” says Jackie. “I don’t want to leave this house; I don’t want to leave her.” It’s a powerful moment in the premiere. This show has always been able to deal with real-life situations in a very natural way and this scene involving grief is no exception. In terms of awards consideration, expect Laurie Metcalf and Dan Goodman to get back into Emmy and Golden Globe awards discussion, because they are excellent and probably would have been bigger contenders during the most recent Emmys if it weren’t for the tweet read around the world.
So much controversy surrounded the first iteration of the series, when they famously killed off Dan in the final episode. They were smart to bring back Goodman for the reboot, but maybe they just killed off the wrong character the first time around. Maybe it should have just been The Conners this whole time.
The Conners airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.