Warning: This story contains spoilers about the series premiere of “The Conners.”
Nearly five months since ABC’s much-publicized axing of its “Roseanne” revival from its lineup, the network on Tuesday premiered “The Conners,” a half hour spin-off framed around the fictional family of Roseanne Conner.
In the first episode, Dan (John Goodman), Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Roseanne’s children are three weeks into dealing with the aftermath of her sudden death from what they believe to be a heart attack.
It doesn’t take long, however, for the truth to come out: Roseanne died as a result of opioid abuse.
Roseanne Barr, whose Twitter tirade led to her dismissal from the show both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, said in September that this would be her character’s fate. ABC did not comment at the time.
Initially, Roseanne’s family is in disbelief, particularly Dan, who says defensively that he had flushed her pills.
A prescription bottle reveals, however, that Roseanne had participated in an exchange of sorts with neighbors in order to get pain pills. And later, her family finds Roseanne’s small stashes of medication around the house.
When Dan later confronts the woman (Mary Steenburgen) who exchanged pills with Roseanne, she’s anguished. The uninsured neighbors are used to helping each other out, she tells him.
“I never would have given them to her if I knew she had a problem,” she says to him. “I know what it’s like to have that problem, so I’m sorry.”
This conversation helps Dan, who has been unable to sleep in the bed he once shared with his wife since she died, find an ounce of peace.
“She was going to do what she was going to do,” he says at one point. “She never listened to a damn person in her life.”
It’s an eerie line considering the real-life circumstances of the show’s one-time star, but also effective.
Barr posted a tweet on Tuesday night reminding followers she’s not actually dead. She later released a joint statement with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in response to “The Conners” premiere.
“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,” the statement read in part. “That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”
By episode’s end, “The Conners” makes it clear that the matriarch’s presence remains important to the family but the reset button has been pressed. In new opening credits, Dan, daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Jackie take center stage.
With Dan now able to slumber, the show is eager it seems to put the drama that led to “Roseanne’s” demise to bed as well.