‘The Connors’ Return!
The Family Lives Again, But This Time Without Their Matriarch.
They’re back! …And they even brought their couch!
Last Tuesday, we saw the return of the Midwestern family made famous by Roseanne Barr who was notably absent from this repurposed, rebooted, rebranded, and retooled version that is now called The Connors. To add, Roseanne is not present in the show, and it shouldn’t shock anyone; it has been in the news since she was fired last spring. The question on everybody’s mind now is this: Is the show any good?
Yes, yes it is.
This, of course, is not the first show in history to lose the person after whom the show is titled. I grew up enjoying Valerie in the late `80s/early `90s. After the first season, Valerie Harper left the show and the title changed to The Hogans. So, there is a precedent for this though it is always a risk when it is tried. Roseanne was a ratings bonanza when it premiered earlier this year, and it no doubt led to the revival of several other late `80s hits. I’m looking at you, Murphy Brown.
ABC knew they were taking a gamble with this decision, but they also knew people would be curious. How they would pull it off? During the run up to last Tuesday night, ABC ran several Lost style promos in which they boldly declared, ALL! YOUR! QUESTIONS! WILL! BE! ANSWERED!
(I found this ad campaign to be hysterical, by the way, treating a sitcom like the serialized drama that was Lost.)
The series returns in medias res. Not only is Roseanne already dead, but they have already had her funeral, too. The Connors are grieving, and Dan is angry. When they find a a bottle of prescription pills with another woman’s name on it, Dan launches a campaign against her—bad mouthing her name on the side of his work truck in the form of a handwritten poster board. When the woman finally comes calling, it is clear that she has had a couple of drinks, and judging from the content of the episode, she may have mixed those drinks with her opioid prescription. Dan hears her out, and maybe some of his anger leaves, but maybe not. However, he does the responsible and the right thing when he asks Darlene to make sure she gets home okay. Even amidst his pain and anger, he doesn’t wish death on anyone, and it is the stand-up move I’ve always associated with Dan Connor.
The performances by John Goodman and Mary Steenburgen, as the woman who has been saddled with Roseanne’s death are spot on: poignant, moving, and ranging from anger to sadness to emptiness. These scenes could have easily been overdone, but these two actors nailed it. Another great moment involved Darlene and Aunt Jackie where they come to terms with their grief, which are two more solid actors.
There were a few other storylines in the episode: Jackie trying to organize the kitchen in a way that makes sense only to her because she is afraid to leave the house and go home; and also Darlene’s son trying to decide which boy he wants to sit next to on the bus for a field trip, and seeking advice from Dan—who then has to come to terms with his grandson being Gay.
Nonetheless, the main storyline of the episode was the family grieving over Roseanne’s death by overdosing on opioids. She stopped breathing in her sleep, and Dan woke up to his cold wife’s body the next morning. In choosing to kill off Roseanne via opioids, the show not only continued a storyline that was brought up and hinted at last season, but the show also did what it has always done best: addressed a social issue and made it digestible. The Connors were not dealing with the opioid crisis of the whole country, they were dealing with it in the four walls of their house.
That’s what they show always did great, and now it is something the show continues to do great.
Well done, Connors.
Finally, I really like the way the show closed. The famous opening credit scene where a camera revolves around the family table before focusing on Roseanne, as she cackles with laughter, was of course gone. In fact, this episode had no opening credit scene, and instead choosing what is referred to as a “cold open.” However, as the episode ended with the family finally starting to put the pieces back together as they sat at the dinner table in the kitchen, the camera picked up its familiar track and moved around the table—crediting each person as they came into view, and finally focusing on Darlene.
It is a great movie to focus on Sara Gilbert, as one of the executive producers, she is truly one of the driving forces behind the show. I had hoped they would give her the laugh, but maybe she and they were not quite ready to laugh yet…Maybe next week.
At any rate, good to see you again, Connors. Can’t wait to see you every week.
Until next time,