Tuesday, October 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Conners' - Details of How Roseanne Leaves the Family are Revealed in 'Keep on Truckin'

ABC's The Conners - Episode 1.01 "Keep on Truckin'"

A sudden turn of events forces the Conners to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of ABC's The Conners.

"Keep on Truckin'" was written by Bruce Helford, Dave Caplan & Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Andy Ackerman

Roseanne was a massive hit for ABC. That was true during its original run and when it came back earlier this year. And yet, that didn't justify Roseanne Barr's behavior off camera. Her actions led to the cancellation of the show. Some can still argue over whether or not it should have been brought back in the first place considering Barr didn't suddenly become a new person with a new presence on social media after the revival began. Meanwhile, it was debated whether the show could or should continue on without its lead character. The series was based on Roseanne's life and comedy. She holds rights to the show. As such, it was significant when ABC was able to bring back the entire team for The Conners with the provision that Roseanne would have no creative input or financial profit from it. That's the smart decision. But again, that also has to be weighed with the potential impact on viewers. It's fully expected that this premiere will have a huge tune-in. That's what occurred with the first episode of the revival season. The numbers steadily dropped off every week after that. It was still enough for it to be the biggest comedy on television. The Conners could still hold onto that title as well. But again, this new show will have to function beyond just the grief of Roseanne's departure. It could succeed by focusing on the other members of the Conner family. But it may also have to accept that it risks alienating the viewers who believe Roseanne shouldn't have been fired in the first place. Even Roseanne has spoken out about the way she was dismissed from the series. All of this was controversy long before the show made its big debut tonight.

And yes, the only thing that really matters in this episode is how the writers decided to deal with Roseanne's sudden absence. They opted to kill her off. Roseanne Conner died from an opioid overdose following knee surgery. The family was led to believe that she died in her sleep from a heart attack due to complications from the surgery. But instead, this story highlights how she kept her addiction problems a secret from her family. This was already a story that the show was developing when Roseanne was still around. So, that continuity is still maintained. It still provides an outlet to showcase just how working class families are dealing with health care at the moment. Mary Steenburgen makes a stunning impression as the neighbor the family blames for Roseanne's death because she supplied her with the pills. It's not as simple as that though. Roseanne had many different hiding places around the house. And now, everyone is just grieving this massive lose in their lives. It's a story that should remain a huge focus for the characters. But finding that right balance is bound to be tricky because the show needs to be establishing new material as well. Darlene absolutely steps up and fills the void of the opinionated member at the center of the family. Dan's bond with grandson Mark continues to show how easy this show can tell stories that matter that have absolutely nothing to do with grief and loss. That presents the best way forward. And yes, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf largely remain the reason to watch the show. The other members of the family mostly just pop up without a whole lot to do. Of course, D.J.'s wife is introduced for the first time here. She immediately has an awkward dynamic with Darlene. In fact, everyone has a complex relationship with Darlene. And yet, they are all getting through this together because she has the clarity to see what needs to get done in order to support the entire family.