Let the Conner Saga End

By Nate Blake

Ever since Roseanne tweeted a racist comment about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett and was quickly fired by ABC, speculation has been rampant that the network would try to create some similar yet different version of the show she and Matt Williams created. There are various ways this could be done, and it would likely mean changing the last names of the Conner family and setting the show in a new fictional town, as fictional Lanford was also created by Roseanne Barr.

As a viewer, I wish ABC would just let this arc in television history come to an end. Back in March when season ten of Roseanne premiered, I reviewed the first two episodes by saying, Barr’s politics aside, the show did not espouse any particular viewpoint, but was, as it had been, a show about flawed people overcoming their differences to get through tough times. My delight in having the old show and the original cast back together again was short lived. The next episode featured Roseanne advocating for corporal punishment, which was a complete and unexplained reversal from her position on the issue in season six. Nearly every week after the premiere also featured cringe-worthy explorations of the characters’ views on race and immigration. In one very controversial joke, Roseanne Conner dismissed the importance of viewing shows like Fresh off the Boat and Black-ish; shows that air on ABC no less. It’s unfortunate that she and her character feel that way, because if they watched Fresh off the Boat or Black-ish, they might get a much needed education on what humor and quality writing are like.

I didn’t make it to the season finale. I still haven’t watched it and I’m not going to. I’m also not going to watch any spin-off or reimagining of the Conner family that ABC may greenlight. It’s unfortunate that Barr had to ruin the series and its legacy for her co-stars. But if I’m being honest, after a week of thinking about the entire mess, it’s hard not to think that on some level, the rest of the cast, writers and producers are also culpable for everything that went wrong with the Roseanne reboot. Did no one question the inclusion of that “shows about Black and Asian families” joke before it hit the airwaves? John Goodman was part of that bit. Did he question it and have his concerns shot down? If so, by who? Or, did he just say what was written because it meant a hefty paycheck? What about Sara Gilbert and her role as producer? It has been widely reported that the reboot was her idea. Had she never seen Barr’s Twitter rants?

We as viewers are culpable too. Those of us who tuned in enough to make Roseanne the number one show of the season, despite being uncomfortable about Barr’s politics, knew what we were doing, and are also to blame. We knew who Roseanne was as a person and still decided to overlook that, briefly, for the sake of not throwing the artist out with the art. Barr’s racist tweet last week is a reminder that the two shouldn’t be separated. People can change, and people can be forgiven. But there has to be evidence of change, and there wasn’t any when ABC picked up another season of Roseanne.  Barr is the same person now as she was in 2017 and 2016 and 2013 and so on.  Everyone knew better. The cast, writers and producer knew better. ABC executives knew better. Many viewers knew better. Roseanne has gone down in flames, as of course it was going to. ABC needs to declare it a total loss and focus on better projects. They can start by never again trying to use hits from the past to address the present. Maybe all the networks should try that out.

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