Last night saw the highly-anticipated premiere of the Roseanne spin-off, The Connors, on ABC.
The reboot of Roseanne Barr’s self-titled sitcom was cancelled earlier this year after the comedian tweeted racist messages about former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Barr eventually agreed to step away from the show and characters she helped create so dozens of jobs associated with the sitcom could continue.
And so, we have The Connors.
(Warning - Spoiler alert)
As previously reported, Roseanne’s character was killed off in the debut episode via an opioid overdose. Longtime fans of Roseanne have seen the show tackle several controversial issues, like the current opioid epidemic, over the years.
The issue was treated with the seriousness and gravity that it deserves.
The episode opens three weeks after the passing of Roseanne’s character and the family members are still pretty much in shock. Especially husband, Dan, played by John Goodman.
When the cause of death (previously believed to be a heart attack) is revealed, Dan remains in denial saying he knew he had flushed Roseanne’s prescription pain killers.
But a pill bottle belonging to a neighbor (played by Mary Steenburgen) is soon found hidden in a coat pocket. It seems the uninsured neighbors traded prescriptions occasionally to help each other out.
Dan initially blames and shames her for giving the pills to Roseanne, but soon even more hidden stashes of pills are found.
"She was going to do what she was going to do," admits Dan in a line that easily could have been directly about Roseanne Barr herself. "She never listened to a damn person in her life."
This being network sitcom-land, the family comes to a landing of sorts by the end of the half-hour, but not before the always dependable Laurie Metcalf delivers the “moment” of episode. Her affecting, layered performance is definitely worth the watching.
Along the way, there's also an adorable second storyline regarding Mark, Darlene's gender non-conforming son.
After his new friends Joey and Enrique leave, Mark approaches Dan for advice. It seems he has crushes on both boys, but doesn’t know who to sit next to on the bus during an upcoming field trip.
Although initially uncomfortable, Dan ultimately helps Mark by sitting down with his grandson to make a pros and cons list for each boy. #Sweet
For her part, Barr, who earlier had told the world she would move to Israel rather than stay in the U.S. for the premiere, tweeted in classic Roseanne fashion, “I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!”
Later in the evening, in a lengthy statement issued through her longtime friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Facebook, Barr called the decision to kill off her character with opioids in the debut episode "grim and morbid."
“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."
According to CNN, the premiere of The Connors drew about 10.5 million viewers, which is on par with the finale of Roseanne last season.
Writing for Vanity Fair, television critic Sonia Saraiya praised the evolution of the show and its characters.
The Conners felt richer, after one episode, than the revived Roseanne season did after nine. Barr’s personality took up a lot of space on the Roseanne set. Without her, the cast and the characters have a chance to breathe. And the result is an unlikely, appealing family sitcom with a motley crew of characters all held together by the same loss.
In advance of the premiere, the producers of The Connors released this featurette yesterday.
What do you think, readers? Do you plan on watching The Connors?
(h/t CNN, Vanity Fair)