While The Conners didn’t handle Roseanne’s death all that well, the sitcom spinoff managed to get around this issue thanks to its family sitcom formula. The real-life firing of Roseanne Barr led to the off-screen death of Roseanne’s titular heroine after the show’s season 10 revival in 2018. The in-universe death of Roseanne was the first storyline that The Conners addressed as the series continued the tale of the family. Unfortunately, the early seasons of The Conners dealt with the plot in a questionable manner.
It is understandable that The Conners couldn’t handle Roseanne’s death perfectly given how sudden the behind-the-scenes changes were. Even The Conners season 5 fumbled some major stories, so the sitcom spinoff’s debut season was always going to take time to find its feet. However, since real-life families don’t by and large deal with the deaths of their loved ones in clear and concise ways, this problem has played well into showcasing both the dysfunctionality of and the bond between the family. Even now, The Conners can continue to explore the family’s messy, complicated, and human reaction to the tragic event and its fallout.
The Conners’ Questionable Roseanne Death Reaction Works For A Sitcom
It’s tough for any show to kill off its former title character, but the fact that the Conners was already an unstable family worked in the show’s favor in this instance. Dan didn’t let go of Roseanne until four seasons into The Conners, while other characters scarcely mentioned her — or, in the case of Becky, only brought her up to joke about her place in hell. This disparity might seem extreme, but it reflects how family dynamics can create messy, dysfunctional environments where people can feel like they need to mask their real feelings with humor, or may not even access their emotions for years after a traumatic event.
While The Conners did go entire episodes without ever mentioning Roseanne in its first few seasons, this also reflected the way that grief affects real-life families. The Conners felt the need to go back to business as usual since, as a working-class family who use humor to cope with their struggles, that was what they were raised to do. Roseanne’s best Christmas episode, from season 5 in 1992, addressed generational trauma and parental abuse in a half-hour of television that still somehow managed to end on a hopeful note, and The Conners recaptured this tone in its early seasons as the family tried to laugh off or ignore their loss.
How The Conners Can Lean Into Its Initial Roseanne Storyline Mistakes
While it might have been rooted in realism, it was still a mistake for The Conners to dismiss Roseanne’s legacy wholesale. The failure to mention Roseanne resulted in some strange outings where she felt like the elephant in the room as the characters went out of their way to avoid talking about her. However, as The Conners season 5’s most tragic plot proved, the series can lean into its earlier mistakes to devastating effect. When Jackie had to break the news of Roseanne’s death to Beverly due to her dementia, this moment proved that The Conners can still address the loss in moving terms despite how much time has passed.