‘I ain’t dead, bitches!’: Roseanne exits ‘The Conners’, and she’s not happy

Roseanne Barr slates ABC’s decision on how to write her out of her ‘happy family show’

Unhappy: Roseanne Barr has been killed off in the first episode of The Conners. Photograph: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty

Unhappy: Roseanne Barr has been killed off in the first episode of The Conners. Photograph: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty

 

Roseanne Barr has objected to the way her character has been written out of one of American television’s best-known families, as it returned to the screen on Tuesday without its matriarch after her feisty character, Roseanne Conner, was killed off through an accidental opioid overdose.

“I ain’t dead, bitches!!!!” Barr tweeted after The Conners, the comedy series featuring all the main characters in the blue-collar family from Roseanne except for its star and creator, had its premiere on the Disney-owned channel ABC five months after Roseanne was cancelled following a racist tweet by Barr.

Audiences had last seen Roseanne Conner hiding an opioid addiction stemming from knee pain and about to undergo long-delayed, costly surgery.

Earlier, Barr had said in a statement, “We regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character. That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”

In the first episode of The Conners the family is shown struggling to come to terms with the death of Roseanne from what is first thought to be a heart attack but is later revealed to be an opioid overdose.

They find she had been hiding painkillers all over the house, and getting them from a circle of friends who shared medication to avoid costs.

The original Roseanne, which ran from 1988 to 1997, was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life. The revival in March, in which Barr played a Donald Trump supporter, was ABC’s biggest hit, drawing an average 18 million viewers per episode.

The opioid theme at the centre of The Conners could hardly be more topical. Addiction to opioids – mostly prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in more than 49,000 deaths last year.

The Conners: Maya Lynne Robinson, Jayden Rey, Michael Fishman, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Emma Kenney, Ames McNamara and Lecy Goranson in the ABC comedy. Photograph: Robert Trachtenberg/ABC
The Conners: Maya Lynne Robinson, Jayden Rey, Michael Fishman, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Emma Kenney, Ames McNamara and Lecy Goranson in the ABC comedy. Photograph: Robert Trachtenberg/ABC

ABC cancelled Roseanne in May after Barr sparked a furore with a tweet that compared the black former Obama administration Valerie Jarrett to an ape. Barr apologised and said the tweet was political, not racist. But she agreed to step away from the show she created and will have no financial or creative involvement in The Conners.

The series’ executive producer Bruce Rasmussen said the makers of The Conners had thought carefully about how to write out Roseanne’s character. “You don’t want to be flip about how you do this,” Rasmussen told Variety last week. “A lot of people cared about these characters, and it’s separate from whatever feelings they had about the person and her political views and the things she said.”

The Conners stars the original Roseanne actors John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert.

The first episode of The Conners ends on a bitter-sweet note with Goodman’s character, Dan, getting back into the marital bed for the first time in the three weeks since Roseanne’s death and reaching out an arm to an empty pillow beside him. – Reuters