The Conners is a show will go on, but it lacks grace
The Conners, a renamed reboot of a reboot returned on Tuesday, Oct. 16 amid much fanfare and controversy. How could this show survive without the eponymous matriarch, Roseanne, whose comedy routines are what made the original series happen in the first place?
Answer: it will, but it shouldn't.
No one will deny that Roseanne committed career suicide last spring when she sent out an offensive tweet about President Obama and Valerie Jarrett, and that tweet and her subsequent failed efforts to explain her words were worthy of a serious consequence.
However, in this case, most of her colleagues and the ABC studio executives rushed to pass judgment to circumvent a PR nightmare. In a very rapid succession, she tweeted, was admonished, fired, a new show was announced and Roseanne, who cared about the cast and crew who would be out of work, generously stepped aside and forewent any extra monies that would normally have gone to her so the show could go on without her and on Tuesday night, the show went on.
And how did they repay this generosity? They killed off her character in an exact manner she predicted. Roseanne Conner died of an accidental overdose of Opiates.
To be fair, they set up the opioid use and growing dependency on them last season, as well as the high cost of meds, but especially after Roseanne predicted this death for her character, one would hope that they would have let her die from a heart attack, you know, the way Dan originally did but didn't in the reboot.
Roseanne was a show that never shied away from tough issues, so having her death be shrouded in controversy could work for The Conners, but it felt like overkill to have her death shrouded in political nuance.
The premise of the first episode "Keep on Truckin'" was how can anyone replace Roseanne? Well, try as they might they can't and won't be able to, but the show may succeed because that's what people want from this show.
Roseanne's politics likely weighed as heavily as her infamous tweet in the re-imagining of a series without her. The original reboot was being praised for bridging the awful political divide that is going on in this country. Pluralistic points of view, the cornerstone of democracy were discussed, sometimes forcibly within a loving family. While they weren't quite able to agree to disagree, they loved each other and life as a family went beyond politics.
It was going so well... until the tweet heard round the world was posted.
Try as she did, Roseanne was not able to take back the tweet. She apologized and vehemently denied any racial business in the tweet, but to no avail. Many of her colleagues and friends responded to her tweet using words like "disgusting," "abhorrent," "repugnant," "racist" and "outrage." Perhaps they were also extra anxious because they thought the loss of their jobs was imminent, but their reactions seemed beyond a simple CYA move. These responses seemed very personal against Roseanne.
So, none of these people ever said or wrote something that they would later regret? I get being disappointed and angry for what Roseanne tweeted, but these people know her. Her show was one of the most diverse shows out there and it showed a multitude of beliefs and lifestyles. In fact, her TV grandson is depicted as being gender fluid. She is partially responsible for creating a space where this was possible. These people, her friends, colleagues and fans forgot about these contributions.
Do these people who know her really believe her to be a vile racist? If they did, they probably wouldn't have agreed to do the reboot in the first place.
People need to be responsible for their actions and words, but there has to be perspective and the punishments need to fit the crime. Offensive things are said by celebrities every day, and while they usually receive many comments, few get the serious consequences and public vitriol that came to Roseanne.
But where is forgiveness? Roseanne and Rabbi Shumley Boteach issued a joint statement on Facebook on Oct. 17 begging the question "Whatever happened to forgiveness?"
Former co-stars Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman were less vocal in their criticism than the rest of their team.
In fact, last May, Goodman was cornered by an Entertainment Tonight videographer and he said, "It's not that I disrespect you guys. I would rather say nothing than to cause more trouble," said Goodman according to ABC News.
While doing recent press for The Conners on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Goodman praised Roseanne for giving up her financial stake in the show, “She gave up a lot so that people could work.”
So, how was the new show? It was okay. The family is grieving, yet still quick with the insults and banter. The new show goes as follows:
It has been three weeks since Roseanne died of an apparent heart attack. Early in the episode, Darlene (Sarah Gilbert) learned that Roseanne really died from an overdose of pain pills. This angers Dan (John Goodman) to the point of him trolling Marcy Bellinger (Mary Steenbergen), the woman who gave Roseanne the pills. It turns out Roseanne was part of a pill sharing group, and a distraught Marcy gave her the pills not realizing she had a problem.
Meanwhile, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is desperately trying to do what Roseanne would do and was reluctant to go home. The Conner home feels empty without Roseanne.
The show was real, had funny moments and was quite heart-breaking, but like real life, the characters haven't forgiven Roseanne.
There is no grace.
The Conners airs on ABC on Tuesday nights.