TV

Without Roseanne Barr, ‘The Conners’ stalwarts raise their game

Updated October 17, 2018 - 5:31 am

NEW YORK — Can there be a “Roseanne” without Roseanne? The answer is yes, indeed. There can even be a pretty good sitcom. And you might not miss her that much.

ABC on Tuesday night aired the first episode of “The Conners,” a spinoff of “Roseanne” without Roseanne Barr. An overdose of pain pills may be the explanation for the contentious comedian’s absence from the Conner dining table, but she still haunts it, at least in the new show’s pilot.

The writers — Bruce Helford, Bruce Rasmussen and Dave Caplan — have done an absolutely masterful job of tackling a post-Barr world, confronting sadness, cynicism and hopefulness in just the right amount of proportions.

They’ve accomplished that without the main reason people once tuned in. Barr was the show’s gravitational pull, the hurler of barbs in that accusatory, whiny voice. Leaving her behind is akin to taking Neil Patrick Harris out of “How I Met Your Mother” or airing “Star Trek” without William Shatner.

But in the absence of Barr’s acerbic black hole, the trio of Dan Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert raises its acting games, turning the first episode into something like a one-act play, albeit a comedy written by Arthur Miller.

The pilot begins three weeks after Roseanne’s funeral, with the family still coming to grips with its loss in its own trademark way with off-color barbs. “I’m tired of crying. And laughing inappropriately is what mom taught us to do,” Lecy Goranson’s Becky says. When husband Dan is offered a free sympathy beer at a bar, he successfully upgrades it from domestic to German.

Goodman has never been better, showing his tender and angry sides underneath all that bluster and gruff, while an aching Gilbert tears up at one point, freed from her usual rat-a-tat joke demands. And you can feel Metcalf’s yawning grief at the loss of her sister in a visceral way as she goes on a manic cleaning binge. “I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to leave this house because I don’t want to leave her,” she wails.

We learn that Roseanne had multiple pain-pill suppliers and was stashing stockpiles all over the house. “Who am I supposed to be mad at now?” Dan asks. For his part, Dan also starts to deal with his uncomfortableness with homosexuality, in the end sitting down with his gender non-conforming grandson to help him pick a potential boyfriend.

One thing noticeably absent from the first episode: politics. There’s no Trump, no Hillary, no Washington. The fission of red state-versus-blue state infighting that made the reboot of “Roseanne” such a flashpoint is gone. Viewers are left with a blue-collar family worried about bill collectors and military deployments.

Barr’s absence makes sense since her addiction to opioids was a prominent story line in last season’s reboot. ABC fired Barr from “Roseanne” after she posted a racist tweet (she apologized). Barr said she agreed to the spinoff to save the jobs of 200 cast and crew members who were idled when “Roseanne” was canceled.

“Roseanne” was always masterful at quickly popping its own moments of emotional sweetness with a wry, sardonic needle, basically and gleefully mocking the traditional sitcom formula. Thankfully, “The Conners” stays in that tradition.

When Jackie, who in one scene is putting away kitchen tools, tearfully hugs Darlene in the kitchen, the younger woman admits: “It hurts.” Jackie responds: “I know, hon. It’s going to hurt for quite a while.”

“No,” replies Darlene, “Corn holders in my shoulder.”

The first episode artfully mixes boob jokes and poignant scenes, as when Dan silently hugs the empty space in the bed where his wife once lay. The swirling credits and harmonica theme song that plays when family members gather around the kitchen table now comes at the end, and without Barr’s throaty laugh.

The cast seems to reference the elephant in the room when Dan and Darlene toast Roseanne’s stubbornness. “She was gonna to do what she was gonna do,” Goodman says. “She never listened to a damn person in her life.”

With her polarizing presence gone, we can finally listen to the rest of the family. And maybe we might, one day, ask, “Roseanne, who?”

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like