Viewers who had been fans of the Roseanne sitcom reboot were left with quite a surprise following this week’s season premiere. Most people know that series star Roseanne Barr would not be returning due to personal issues, but there was some mystery surrounding the fate of her iconic character. After episode one, however, the truth became painfully clear. In the first few minutes, it was revealed that “Roseanne Conner” had died from an opioid overdose.
Reaction was certainly mixed online, with some praising the show for its honest and unflinching portrayal of this deadly American crisis. Others, including Barr herself, felt it was a cheap ploy and somewhat exploitative. Quick to defend the decision, series producer Tom Werner explained that this seed had been planted late last season.
“There are a lot of choices in television, but this is a show about a working-class family that is very identifiable to the audience,” Werner told People Magazine. “When we talked about what to do moving forward… if you’d seen the show in the last year, Roseanne Conner was struggling with a drug [addiction]. This is a problem that has affected tens of thousands of people, opioid addiction — 80,000 people died last year dealing with opioid addiction and overdose. We felt that this is something that could shine a light on.”
And indeed they did; illustrating everything from the shock of discovering Roseanne’s body, to emotional scenes with her prescription pill dealer. Producers promised that this topic would not go away after episode one. Though the Roseanne character is gone, her addiction and demise will be an issue the family continues to struggle with.
Barr, herself, was clearly not happy with the direction. Immediately following the season premiere, she issued a joint statement with her rabbi condemning the manner in which her character was killed.
“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character,” Barr’s statement read. “That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”
We certainly agree that this can be a touchy topic for a primetime sitcom. But while opinions are divided, it is positive to see that the crisis is being talked about in the mainstream media. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that Roseanne 2.0 has become an important opioid conversation starter.