'The Conners' Greeted With Strong Reviews
Roseanne Barr's hit TV series returns to ABC without Roseanne as The Conners premieres Tuesday (8 p.m. Oct. 16, Channel 9). Many critics like what they see.
Entertainment Weekly's Kirsten Baldwin gives the show a B: "For those on the fence, I'd say if you liked the original and its short-lived revival, this incarnation will feel like a new — and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny — window into the lives of old friends."
Forbes' Dana Feldman calls it "brilliant" and "hilarious, smart and filled with heart."
Before ABC canceled Roseanne in May after Barr's racist tweet about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, the March debut had drawn an amazing 27.2 million viewers in its first seven days. ABC earned $45 million from the spring episodes, so it was no surprise that the network would reboot the show without Roseanne, who has no control or financial interest in The Conners.
The show returns with the rest of the spring cast: Sara Gilbert, John Goodman, Lecy Goranson, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman, plus the addition of Maya Lynne Robinson as Fishman's Army nurse wife returning home from combat.
I've read four reviews, and three were very positive. The lone dissenter was Deadline Hollywood's Dominic Patten, who called The Conners without Roseanne "just another" sitcom.
ABC insisted that reviewers not reveal how Barr's disappearance is handled in the first five minutes. Here's a sampling of their reviews:
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER by Daniel Fienberg: "The Conners is a TV show capable of standing on its own two feet…
"Without Roseanne Barr, ABC's Roseanne spinoff puts the spotlight on John Goodman, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf, who deserve endless credit for making the show work … The emphasis that Roseanne put on politics in several early episodes last season is basically gone, but everybody involved with the show last year tried to emphasize that Roseanne was not now, and never really was, a show about politics … The questions are about how you pay for medical bills or how you raise children or how you handle difference…
"(Executive producer) Bruce Helford remains at the creative helm, and anybody who claims they can recognize any big changes in voice, at least once you get past the thing that can't be revealed in this review, is projecting. The show's heart still lies in Dan's (Goodman) bluster and exasperation, Aunt Jackie's (Metcalf) frazzled distractions and the withering and loving scorn directed by Darlene (Gilbert) at, and occasionally back at Darlene by, siblings Becky (Lecy Goranson) and D.J. (Michael Fishman)."
DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD by Dominic Patten: "The Conners is fundamentally just another multi-cam (multi-camera sitcom)… The first two episodes I've seen (are) … packed with jokes and one-liners you can see coming long before they land and full of scenarios you’ve seen a million times before on the small screen.
"Bleached of the Donald Trump associations and politics that made the March 27 Roseanne return debut crackle with confrontational relevance … The Conners distinctly doesn’t seem to want to cause any waves for itself or the network – and that’s the biggest problem. Like Two and a Half Men without Charlie Sheen or The Who without madman drummer Keith Moon, what The Conners noticeably lacks most of all is a bit of the crazy.
"The Conners is still quite watchable, if for no reason than the strong talent of Goodman, Metcalf and Gilbert as the acerbic heir to her mother."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY by Kirsten Baldwin: "Based on the first two episodes screened for critics by ABC (under the condition that reviews do not reveal how Roseanne’s character is written out), The Conners is an above-average family comedy with a strong cast and sharply drawn characters that could very well exist for several seasons on their own — if, of course, the audience is able to let go of the past.
"There are no traces of Roseanne herself — Barr’s name appears nowhere in the credits (nor does she receive any financial benefit from the show), and her face seems to be entirely absent from the family photos on display in the Conner living room. As for that family, they are coping with their new normal as we would expect them to — and we do have expectations, because Darlene, Becky, Jackie (Laurie Metcalfe), Dan (John Goodman), and DJ (Michael Fishman) are characters we’ve known for decades. The Conners may be in a uniquely unfortunate position, having to escape the dark shadow cast by its former star, but it also has a unique advantage in characters who come fully formed, with a history and 10 seasons of story to draw from.
"Will this be enough for viewers, queasy about what came before, to give The Conners a chance? For those on the fence, I’d say if you liked the original and its short-lived revival, this incarnation will feel like a new — and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny — window into the lives of old friends. Grade: B."
FORBES by Dana Feldman: "Whether or not the show is a ratings hit, one thing is certain: It's brilliant. My personal opinion is that The Conners, with its inclusion of the same talented cast, writers and crew, is hilarious, smart, filled with heart and its handling of the exit of Roseanne Barr was done brilliantly, and in the show's true fashion, in a way that touches on a hugely important and newsworthy topic.
"One condition the network had for us today was that we cannot spoil for the audience the way in which Barr's character was written out of the show. All I can say with certainty is that I laughed, I cried and then I kept laughing and crying. You'll have to wait until the show's premiere Tuesday on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/PT to decide for yourself."