The Fall TV season is in full effect and one premiere that garnered a ton of media attention was ABC’s Roseanne. Now technically called The Conners, the sitcom reboot is now missing its namesake star, Roseanne Barr, following some controversial remarks she made on social media. That, of course, is old news. What developed this month, however, was how the producers chose to handle her exit on screen. To the surprise of many viewers, Barr’s character was killed off after overdosing on painkillers.
Not surprisingly, that shocker stirred up a lot of comments online. Many praised ABC for bringing the opioid crisis to primetime TV. Others, including Barr herself, found the move exploitative and “cheap.”
For the record, Roseanne’s counterpart did suffer from an opioid addiction in the prior season. The new episodes made a point to focus on that, even bringing on a character who supplied her with her fatal dose.
Producer Tom Werner quickly addressed the choice to have Roseanne die in this way. He believes it reflects some very real problems happening in middle America right now.
“This is a problem that has affects tens of thousands of people, opioid addiction,” Werner told People Magazine. “80,000 people died last year dealing with opioid addiction and overdose. We felt that this is something that could shine a light on.”
Barr was quick to fire back against that statement. In a prepared letter, she declared that having her character die (particularly from a drug addiction) went against the show’s core values.
“While I wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, I 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. This was a choice the network did not have to make.”
For better or worse, the fans did seem to side with Barr. Since the show’s mid-October premiere, ratings have been dropping. Truth be told, this is probably because of the absence of Roseanne vs. the way her character was killed.
We will certainly be keeping our eyes on this sitcom and, for what it’s worth, applaud its producers for at least trying to get the opioid conversation into mainstream media.