It’s hard to separate Roseanne Barr from Roseanne. She co-created the show and stood at the center of it through its original run and its attempt at a comeback. When that new version painted its main character as a Trump supporter and superficially focussed (too much?) on a deep political divide that is cracking dinner tables in half across America, it was a decision that was seemingly born from Barr’s own political shift. And yet, at the dawning of a Roseanne-free spin-off born from necessity following the comic’s racist and controversial Twitter implosion, everyone remaining who is responsible for the success of the original (and ABC) needs there to be some daylight between The Conners and Barr.
That didn’t happen in a premiere episode that primarily dealt with Barr’s absence while also setting the tone for the future. What was learned about what comes next? Who is the focal point now? And does the show still have an edge despite the name change and the exit of its star? Here are a few spoiler-y thoughts on the premiere of The Conners and those specific questions.
It says a lot about the direction of the show, going forward, that they chose to connect Barr’s absence and her character’s death to a very timely topic (the return of a hidden opioid addiction tied to the high cost of healthcare and economic pressures long at the center of the show) that sparked complex emotions from the show’s other characters.
The original Roseanne earned praise for the frank and digestible way it dealt with divisive issues when they popped up. Last season’s approach didn’t get the same reaction, but it’s clear that the want was still there to play in that sandbox and the premiere of The Conners shows that that may still be true.