The Remains Of Roseanne Are To Be Reassembled As The Conners

Roseanne Reboot
Credit: Variety

After Roseanne Barr successfully torpedoed Roseanne in quite a blaze of publicity, ABC have now formally commissioned a ten-episode series of a spinoff, using the working title The Conners, featuring the rest of the cast in the exact same roles. Of course, given that Roseanne was fired over a racist tweet directed toward a member of the Obama administration, this is less ‘a spinoff’ and more ‘cutting out the cancerous tissue so that the rest of the body may survive’.

The network has been making moves in this direction ever since the show was cancelled, as it was ABC’s most-watched and best-rated production of the previous season, and they’d likely have taken any option to breathe life back into this particular corpse, up to and including replacing Barr with Ashton Kutcher just like Two And A Half Men. It was in anticipation of reaching a deal to repurpose the charred remains of Roseanne that they had not yet ordered anything as a replacement for that spot in the schedules.

The reason The Conners wasn’t immediately announced when Roseanne was cancelled comes down to finicky squabbles over rights. ABC, having very loudly burned Barr, were unwilling to stomach any arrangement where she would profit from The Conners, or have any creative input on the show – and having been listed as a creator of the original series, had she fought it’s likely she would have got at least something. It was only when executive producer Tom Werner presented Barr with a Sophie’s choice regarding the future careers of the rest of the cast and crew that she agreed to step aside. 

In a statement released by ABC, Barr said “I regret the circumstances that have caused me to be removed from Roseanne…I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved.” Her former co-stars John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman added “We have received a tremendous amount of support from fans of our show, and it’s clear that these characters not only have a place in our hearts, but in the hearts and homes of our audience. We all came back last season because we wanted to tell stories about the challenges facing a working-class family today. We are so happy to have the opportunity to return with the cast and crew to continue to share those stories through love and laughter.”

Barr owns the exclusive rights to the fictional character ‘Roseanne Conner’, so this arrangement completely precludes any suggestion of her returning – at least on ABC:

The assumption is that, for continuity’s sake, Barr’s character will be killed off or otherwise put on a bus to Siberia. The usual wags have already been speculating over what form her removal might take, with one popular theory being that she would die of an Ambien overdose – a reference to Barr’s clumsy attempt to blame the offending tweet on her use of the popular sedative (essentially, a version of ‘I was hacked’ for slightly older children).

Although Barr was always central to the show’s formula, this is not necessarily a death knell for The Conners. The late ’80s sitcom Valerie (which later became Valerie’s Family, and then The Hogans, for reasons which will become clear shortly) had Valerie Harper in essentially the same position Barr occupied for Roseanne – but, when Harper left the show in 1987 amidst a row with the executives over pay, the producers brought in Sandy Duncan as a surrogate, with whom the show continued for four further seasons until 1991. And of course, as alluded to above, Two And A Half Men managed to weather the cocaine-related departure of Charlie Sheen – which, all told, was probably the best thing for everyone concerned.