Despite losing Roseanne, The Conners has kept the same character dynamics as its earlier iteration, something Dan finally acknowledged in season 4.
It has taken a while, but The Conners finally offered an oblique acknowledgment that the show has to both keep the tone of Roseanne alive and still move past the actual character herself. The Conners had a strange start as a sitcom when it debuted in late 2018. Following the misadventures of the titular working-class clan, The Conners was not an original series but rather a retooling of the hit Roseanne.
A phenomenon in the ‘90s, Roseanne’s popularity waned by its last season but interest in the sitcom was still strong enough to prompt a revival in 2017. However, one season into the Roseanne revival, titular star Roseanne Barr herself was fired from the show due to racist remarks. Since then, The Conners has struggled without Roseanne, attempting to keep the same character dynamics as its earlier iteration despite missing a central figure from its lineup.
In terms of graceful ways to handle a sudden exit by the show’s protagonist, The Conners’ decision to kill off Roseanne via an opioid overdose was not a bad choice. However, Roseanne’s sudden death has been a sticking point for The Conners for years now as the show has never been able to gracefully acknowledge her absence while trying to maintain the same balance between the family’s personalities as if she never left. However, one exchange in “Let’s All Push Our Hands Together For The Stew Train and The Conners Furniture” (season 4, episode 7) helped start to fix this.
A few weeks after Dan and Louise’s wedding, The Conners stars were finally moving Louise’s stuff into the house that has been the primary setting of the series since the show was still Roseanne. Louise stated that Dan could keep the living room and kitchen the same as they had been for years because ‘there’s a long history of fighting and dysfunction in there, and I want to respect that.’ However, she noted that the couple needed a fresh start and compromised with Dan to change their bedroom alone, leaving the rest of the house (and, as such, the show’s set) unaffected. The moment felt like a tacit admission that The Conners has had to change since its Roseanne days, but is trying to keep that change limited to Dan’s relationship with his partner and not altering the rest of the family’s dynamic.
When retooling Roseanne, The Conners could have copied Young Sheldon and switched to a single-camera setup to make the new show feel “the same, but different.” However, The Conners instead went with the relatively risky decision to change nothing but the name, leaving some critics feeling that the new show felt like Roseanne sans Roseanne. However, this episode’s offhand comment from Louise implies that Dan has now firmly moved on from his dead wife, but his house and the family that live there will still never change, meaning The Conners can still feel like Roseanne without ever mentioning its former star. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but it is a clear statement of intent from the creators of The Conners that, even four seasons into Roseanne’s absence, her exit will not change the show’s tone or character dynamics.
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