The Conners has been the source of great curiosity following the roller coaster of events following the Roseanne reboot's cancellation to the announcement of the spinoff to its actual premiere on Tuesday (mere months after the reboot was canceled). The first episode handled Roseanne Conner's exit with poise, poignancy and punch lines. It also took the opportunity to plant its flag in the ground when it came to announcing what kind of show it wanted to be going forward. Topics that permeated the original series are now coming back into focus in this spinoff, while supporting characters are being given the chance to step forward and show what they can do.
While The Conners has many similarities to the rebooted Roseanne, we wanted to break down this first episode based on the major differences between these shows so you can decide for yourself if it's worth watching this highly anticipated spinoff. Here's what we noticed about the new and improved series.
1. The intro & the outro feel familiar, but there are some key changes
The Conners opted to go with the same font, same backdrop and even the same music to open and close out the spinoff. However, one piece of the puzzle was noticeably absent. That recognizable cackle you can hear a mile away, the one you can name even if you never watched a single episode of the show in the ‘90s, is now gone. Additionally, instead of panning the kitchen table at the beginning like Roseanne used to do, The Conners closed out the episode with a reenactment of that same camera circle, sans Roseanne. After an entire episode that revolved around the exit of this character, you would think that small absence wouldn’t feel too stark, but it does.
2. The Conners feels more like the original Roseanne than the reboot did
One of the most notable differences between The Conners and the Roseanne reboot is how much more this new show actually feels like its original source material than last year’s revival did. The original Roseanne spent the majority of the '80s and '90s lamenting over issues of folks who fell into the white lower-middle-class socioeconomic bracket. It also shed light on a new hardship this group of Americans faced in each new episode, tackling it with dry wit, sarcasm and a healthy dose of anger.
Although this premise in and of itself is indicative of the white privilege that has permeated the series from inception, it felt more organic to see this new series go back to its roots. The Roseanne reboot tried a few times to find this formula again by tackling issues like the 2016 election and introducing a few people of color and a grandson who is gender-fluid into the household. These additions elevated the quality of the show tenfold, but they didn’t trigger the same types of problems Roseanne and Dan faced week by week. Roseanne’s death by opioid overdose in The Conners brings that familiar formula back into the picture; hopefully, in future episodes, it continue to do so without sacrificing the diversity it has to work with now.
3. The talented Conners cast gets to show off their acting chops
It could be argued that Roseanne suffered from one of the key drawbacks of most other sitcoms that have been created around a single stand-up comedian, like Everybody Loves Raymond and Seinfeld. It's tough to build a show around an actor whose performance is in some ways overshadowed by their more seasoned costars. Roseanne Barr was, in my opinion, never the best actor in the series, but it was her show, so she towered over nearly every scene.
In The Conners, we’re able to watch some really talented actors shine. We all know John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, and Laurie Metcalf can act, but we really get to see it now. Their chemistry as a family is really fun to watch, and it feels like we can finally focus on these talented folks who have built up their chops over the years in other assorted film, television and theater projects. This in turn lets us, the viewers, really give the supporting cast their due — without risking seeing Roseanne overtaking the scene at any given moment.
4. There's a different kind of comedy at work
The character of Roseanne always functioned a bit like a lightning rod, and the rest of the cast took turns waiting around to see who she was going to strike next. She created conflict both between herself and the outside world and between herself and the rest of her family. Without Roseanne, everyone else in the Conner family gets along pretty well, possibly even too well.
The Conners is funny, but it’s definitely working with a different brand of humor without Roseanne around. Her dripping sarcasm and biting comebacks were the primary source of the laughs Roseanne was built on. Now, Darlene’s dry wit, Dan’s gruff grumpiness and Jackie’s quirks are going to have to carry the comedy (which, not gonna lie, is something that will be very exciting to see play out).
5. Everyone (thankfully) is a lot less angry
When Roseanne lashed out, her insults were based in a chilled anger. Without that anger, there’s now a chance some of the issues brought to light in The Conners might fall flat. But there’s also a chance it might be a breath of fresh air, which one can only hope happens since with only one episode under their belts, it's too early to tell. But even Dan’s anger in The Conners' premiere episode over the neighbor who gave Roseanne pain pills fizzles out quickly without Roseanne to carry the torch. The Conners is guaranteed to be a more sympathetic look at their surroundings, which might actually be what it needs.
As a final note, it's no accident the title of The Conners' premiere episode is "Keep on Truckin'," because it looks like that’s exactly what the Conners plan to do. We’ll just have to see whether or not the family runs out of gas without Roseanne to fire up the engine, but for now, consider us very optimistic to see what comes next for this TV family.