On Tuesday, The Conners premiered on ABC, reintroducing the Conner family sans their fictional matriarch Roseanne, who was killed off on the show after the real-life Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets. Barr tweeted during the Roseanne spinoff’s premiere, and her reaction to the sitcom carrying on without her was pretty much what you’d expect.
“I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!” Barr tweeted Tuesday night. That may be true — but Roseanne Conner is definitely gone. The premiere revealed that the Conner family’s mom died of an opioid overdose, leaving the rest of the cast — sorry, I mean family — to carry on without her. According to the AV Club, the show works surprisingly well without Barr’s character, and it’s been garnering fairly strong reviews overall.
During an event Tuesday night, The Conners cast spoke about moving on without Barr, and how carrying on without her character mirrored some of their feelings about moving on without Barr herself.
“What ended up happening is we wanted to make a really honest episode, and channel whatever we were feeling into the episode,” Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene, said Tuesday at the annual Paley Fest in New York City, according to Variety.
“I think every family, at some point, goes through losing their matriarch, so we got the chance to tell that story, and I think it aligned with some of the emotions we were feeling and we were able to put into the show.”
That The Conners has soldiered on without her seems to be a sore spot for Barr, who also released a joint statement with Trump-supporting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Vulture reported. In the statement, the two lamented the network’s decision to kill off Barr’s character and called it a missed opportunity to teach the lesson of forgiveness. Read the full statement below.
While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne’s cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character. That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.
This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another’s personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord. The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country.
Through humor and a universally relatable main character, the show represented a weekly teaching moment for our nation. Yet it is often following an inexcusable – but not unforgivable – mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness. After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness. In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.
Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman – who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive.