How ‘The Conners’ Killed Off Roseanne — And What Roseanne Thinks About It
After a tumultuous summer, Roseanne returned to TV this week, minus its title character and star. The show is now called The Conners, following Roseanne Barr’s firing last May as a result of a racist tweet. Though the series had previously made it clear Barr would not return, and hinted strongly that her character would be killed off, the exact nature of her death wasn’t certain until last night’s season premiere (which you can watch right now on Hulu).
Roseanne Conner is already dead when the episode begins, with the surviving family sitting in their kitchen, cleaning dishes and commenting on how they continue to receive casseroles from concerned neighbors three weeks after Roseanne’s funeral. Dialogue alludes to Roseanne having a heart attack in her sleep — but a few minutes later Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) pulls Dan (John Goodman) aside and tells him that an autopsy revealed the truth: Roseanne actually died of an opioid overdose.
Here’s a few clips from the episode:
Maybe not too surprisingly, Roseanne herself was not enthused with how her fictional alter ego was dispatched. She released a lengthy statement on Facebook, and while she wished the cast and crew of The Conners well, she also called Roseanne Conner’s death via pain pills “unnecessary grim and morbid”. It continues:
This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another’s personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord. The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country.
Insisting that she deserves “forgiveness,” the statement also claims that a great way for our society to heal would be through “a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman - who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them.” But a few hours earlier, Roseanne had struck a slightly different tone on Twitter.
The Conners continues on without Roseanne Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC.
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