WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the series premiere of The Conners, "Keep on Truckin'," which premiered Tuesday on ABC.
Viewers have known since August that ABC's Roseanne spinoff The Conners would kill off Roseanne Barr's character, and with tonight's eagerly anticipated series premiere, they finally learned how.
"Keep on Truckin'" opens weeks after the death of Roseanne, with the remaining Conners still struggling the finish off all the funeral casseroles and return the dishes to their owners. The family had been operating under the belief that Roseanne died from a heart attack, until Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) receives a call from the coroner, and delivers the news that the actual cause was an overdose of painkillers.
That picks up on a plot thread from the Roseanne revival (the 11th season of the comedy), in which Roseanne became addicted to opioids following knee surgery. In the penultimate episode, "Netflix & Pill," it's revealed she had been hoarding other people's leftover medications, and taking them as well. The revelation floors the family, who looks for someone to blame, before concluding that Roseanne was going to do what she wanted, and no one could stop her.
The loss of the Conner family matriarch comes nearly five months after ABC canceled its hit revival of Roseanne following a racist tweet by the often-controversial Barr. Within a month, the network announced plans to move forward with a spinoff featuring the entire Roseanne cast, except for Barr. That raised the immediate question of how The Conners would explain away Roseanne's absence, something answered, perhaps inadvertently, in late August, when John Goodman said in an interview that his character, Dan Conner, will likely be "mopey and sad because his wife’s dead.”
ABC stoked curiosity about how exactly Barr's iconic character would be written off The Conners, promoting the premiere first with Carly Simon's "Anticipation," and then with a TV spot teasing, "There's one thing on everyone's mind." At the same time, the network kept a tight grip on spoilers, only making the premiere available to critics at exclusive screenings in Los Angeles and New York City.
Inspired by Barr’s own standup comedy, Roseanne originally aired from 1988 to 1997 on ABC, and is typically ranked among the greatest television sitcoms of all time. It was revived last year for a nine-episode 10th season, which earned high ratings, resulting in a Season 11 renewal before its ultimate cancellation. The network has ordered 10 episodes of The Conners.
Airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, The Conners stars John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman, Emma Kenney, Ames McNamara, Jayden Rey and Maya Lynne Robinson.