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‘The Conners’ Explains Roseanne’s “Death” In a Controversial Way

Here's what happened.

ABC

The biggest secret of primetime TV has finally been revealed. The season premiere of The Conners has officially killed Roseanne Conner off-screen. And the cause of her fictional death will likely raise some eyebrows. If you don’t want to be spoiled on the very first episode of The Conners (which could be considered the first episode in Roseanne season 11) stop reading now. Because the way in which Roseanne “died” is out there.

Ready? The episode explains that Roseanne Conner died of a drug overdose, specifically opioids. Which, is the either the tackiest or smartest way to kill off a TV character, ever. But, what makes the plot explanation all the more interesting is the fact that in real life, Roseanne Barr blamed her racist Twitter episode on the side-effects of the drug Ambien. So, real-world Roseanne had her career finished by a prescription drug, while TV-world Roseanne literally died because of “a drug overdose on opioids.”

Dan (John Goodman) is mostly in denial of this fact and says her overdose “is not possible.” And says “it doesn’t make any sense…I flushed all her pills.” The whole thing plays realistically enoughbut it retroactively makes the matriarch of this family someone with a secret. For what it’s worth, Barr herself had already told the press in September that she wanted the show to grabble with the opioid crisis but was against depicting it as the cause of her character’s death. “I wanted to show [opioid struggle] in the show. But I was never going to have Roseanne die of an opioid overdose. It’s so cynical and horrible,” she told Deadline earlier this year. 

Does the explanation work? It does if you have a twisted sense of humor, which is pretty much the definition of what a sitcom actually is: an attempt to depict real people’s real problems, but to make fun of those problems.

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The heavy moment has the tension broken in the most Roseanne-esque way possible: with a tasteless joke. Darlene (Sarah Gilbert) says that the pills were “the only things in mom’s closet I actually wanted.”

The spirit of Roseanne is still here. Whether people are ready for it or not.

The Conners airs on ABC on Tuesday nights at 8 pm EST.