'The Conners' doesn’t need Roseanne Barr — and it’s actually a much stronger show without her

ABCJohn Goodman and Laurie Metcalf on ‘The Conners.’

In March, ABC’s revival of the sitcom “Roseanne” premiered to excellent ratings, but mixed reception. Star Roseanne Barr’s conservative views dominated the revival and resulted in some backlash, particularly over an episode that featured a storyline in which Roseanne thought her Muslim neighbours were terrorists.

In late May, ABC cancelled the “Roseanne” revival after firing Barr for a racist tweet that compared former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrette to an ape.

But the “Roseanne” revival was such a ratings success for ABC, and remains one of the most watched shows of 2018. So ABC ordered a 10-episode season of “The Conners,” a continuation of the story and characters in “Roseanne,” only without its title character played by Barr.

Why you should watch: Its supporting cast, which proves that Roseanne Barr was what was holding the revival back

The ConnersABCWithout Roseanne Barr, the supporting cast gets the chance to shine.

Shows have continued without their leads before, but “The Conners” is a bit different. “Roseanne” revolved around its lead and Barr’s worldviews, so the show is essentially reinventing itself without her presence.

“The Conners” pulls off this reinvention, without feeling like a completely different series. “Roseanne” became such an iconic sitcom because of its relatability for audiences all across the country, especially the middle class. It was an honest representation of an American working class family that wasn’t afraid to take on difficult issues often ignored on sitcoms. But these issues, such as race and the current political divide, made the “Roseanne” revival feel like a different show that wasn’t in line with the spirit of the original. Thankfully, “The Conners” brings back what made the show so great in the first place.

“The Conners” does this successfully because the show has more time to explore what’s going on with the strong set of supporting characters including Dan (John Goodman), Becky (Alicia Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf, who were previously written around the character of Roseanne without much room to shine.

What’s hot: Laurie Metcalf, possibly the most gifted actor working today

The ConnersABCLaurie Metcalf gets a lot more to do on ‘The Conners.’

Earlier this year, Laurie Metcalf was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” Her role in the movie as Lady Bird’s mother has comedic elements, but is primarily dramatic.

Thankfully, Metcalf has way more room to show off her incredible comedic talent on “The Conners” that she did not have as much time to show off on “Roseanne” as a supporting character. Even in the premiere, which focuses on her character’s grief over the sudden loss of her sister, Metcalf uses her gift for physical comedy to show how Jackie is handling it in an obsession with organising the kitchen.

What’s not: The first episode focuses so much on Roseanne’s exit that it feels like she’s still there

The ConnersABCJohn Goodman’s performance as a grieving husband is devastating but funny at the right moments.

The first episode of “The Conners” doesn’t get a chance to separate itself from Roseanne. This was inevitable, because the show couldn’t exactly start in the middle of things without an explanation. While the episode dissects how people respond to grief in their own unique ways, it focuses on Roseanne so much that is almost feels like she’s more present then she would have been if she was actually in the episode.

The bottom line: “The Conners” showcases on the original series’ strengths instead of its controversial lead

The ConnersABC‘The Conners’ is definitely worth your time.

You may not be initially interested in watching “The Conners,” especially if you didn’t like the “Roseanne” revival season. But “The Conners” is much different. Instead on focusing on what divides us, “The Conners” uses its talented cast and memorable characters to focus on what people have in common.

Grade: B-

“The Conners” premieres on ABC Tuesday at 8 p.m. Watch the trailer below:


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