It’s the spinoff forced into existence by a flameout.
Starting Tuesday night on ABC, “The Conners” will attempt to stand on its own as a family sitcom without the namesake character of “Roseanne, ” which imploded last May when the network fired star and producer Roseanne Barr after she posted a racist tweet. She relinquished any financial and creative stake in the spinoff, which allowed the cast and crew of “Roseanne” to carry on with “The Conners.”
ABC is trying to keep the momentum “Roseanne” earned as the highest-rated primetime series of last season. Curiosity will initially draw viewers who want to find out how the character has been written off. (Ms. Barr has said her character, who dealt with a pill problem last season, dies of an opioid overdose; ABC is guarding plot details.)
But after explaining the character’s disappearance, writers had to reconstruct the show without its previous center of gravity. Executive producer Bruce Helford said they tried to take a realistic approach. “What would really happen if you took the matriarch out of a family? Certain people step up in certain areas. We found ways for each of the characters to fill some of the pieces of the puzzle that were taken away.”
The success of “Roseanne,” celebrated by President Donald Trump, held symbolic importance to many fans who rallied behind Ms. Barr’s character as a working-class woman who didn’t suffer fools or elitists.
In the new season, DanConner (John Goodman), known for deferring to his brassy wife, takes a more active role in running the family, along with daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert). Relationship dynamics shift, too, with Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) turning more to Dan in lieu of her sibling.
And without Roseanne’s voice on the show, others will be amplified. “With Dan being able to express his views more openly this year,” says executive producer Dave Caplan, “audiences will see there’s a lot of overlap in what he and Roseanne believed.”
Past TV series have carried on with mixed success after leading actors abruptly exited due to salary disputes (Valerie Harper, “Valerie”) clashes with producers (Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men”), allegations of misconduct (Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”) and other off-screen issues.
“The Conners” aims to keep core fans in the fold, Mr. Helford says: “The audience is reflected in the Conner family. Roseanne Conner is a beloved mom, and so we have treated this absence in a way that the audience will share the feelings of the family.”