SPOILER ALERT: This some story includes details about tonight’s season finale of Roseanne.
ABC’s Roseanne revival wrapped its first season tonight with another slice-of-life episode, in which the Conners are pushed to the brink by economic hardship. Dan is resorting to hiring undocumented workers in order to make enough money for Roseanne’s knee surgery, betraying his union and best friend Chuck in the process. Things go from bad to worse when the Conners’ basement gets flooded by a storm but said storm also ends up being a blessing when its aftermath is declared a disaster with residents eligible for federal relief funds. The family comedy bookended the season with mentionings of the president — never by name — in the premiere and in the finale. The latter referenced a typo in his tweet about the storm.
In an interview with Deadline, Roseanne executive producer/showrunner Bruce Helford talks about the finale, the one sensitive issue they wanted to address this season that will likely be dealt with next year, what will happen to the Conners in Season 2 and which characters from this season and from the original run would return for a visit. (Will Johnny Galecki and George Clooney be back?) He also clarified recent comments by ABC chief Channing Dungey about the show emphasising family over politics next season.
DEADLINE: This season the show tackled a number of hot-button topics like the opioid epidemic, non-documented workers, healthcare, politics. Was there a topic you had discussed with the writers but opted not to address on the show, and are there any controversial subjects on tap for next season?
HELFORD: The only issue we discussed tackling, but didn’t have time to address, was sexual harassment. I’m sure we’ll discuss it again once the writing room starts in June and if we find a way to address it within the family, in a way that feels organic to the show and adds some fresh or rarely discussed working-class perspective to the discussion, we’ll tackle it. We actually don’t start out to find stories that are controversial, but when you deal with real-life issues in an honest, unflinching way, it can become very controversial. And I’m sure we’ll see threads of some of the issues that were considered controversial this season weave into next season as well.
DEADLINE: What is in store for the Conners next season?
HELFORD: We’ll be exploring Roseanne’s relationship with DJ’s wife and in-laws, we’ll be showing more of what current life is like in Lanford and how that community has changed and how Jackie takes an active role in it as Lanford’s #1 life coach, we’ll be following Dan’s struggles to continue providing for his family, we’ll be watching Darlene and Becky as they take a deep breath and jump back into dating again, even as Darlene contends with raising her kids, we’ll be seeing more of David – it’s gonna be a busy year for the Conners.
DEADLINE: ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey recently said that Roseanne would move away from politics and focus more on family next season. Any other changes you are planning?
HELFORD: No, I think Channing may have been misinterpreted on that a bit. She loves that we’re dealing with relevant themes. Aside from the premiere episode, the show has been about family and the politics were subtext within the Conners’ lives and their trials and tribulations and we’ll continue to do that. We’re not an overtly political show, but the discussions about us are overtly political. And we’re all happy to see the discussions. It’s very healthy.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to end the season with a more subdued and serious episode that had Dan cross lines in order to be able to pay for Roseanne’s knee surgery? Is this an indication that the show will become more serious next season?
HELFORD: Dan was faced with a bad choice — risk being kicked out of his union, which is their main means of support, or let his wife suffer, possibly moving toward becoming further addicted to painkillers. He did what he had to do. It’s family first. We built that to be serious and it needed to bottom out somewhere and it did with the flood and Chuck. The family was saved by the storm. We will be no more or less serious next season than we were this season, or frankly, any of the show’s prior seasons. We’re not afraid to make people uncomfortable, but we’re equally anxious to make them laugh. I guess it’s the equivalent of crying during a drama. It’s cathartic.
DEADLINE: You already mentioned in an interview that Conners’ Muslim neighbors will be back. What other characters from this season are you looking to bring back? Would Sarah Chalke’s character return? And what about other actors from the original, like Johnny Galecki and George Clooney?
HELFORD: The Muslim family will return, and we’re hoping that, schedules allowing, Chuck and Anne-Marie will return. And we’re looking at Sarah Chalke and how we’d continue to see her interact with the Conners. We, of course, hope that Johnny Galecki will be back as David, and we’ll reach out to George Clooney and see what he’s up to. I think we’d love to have as many actors from the original back as we can, it’s just a matter of how much we can do in 13 episodes.
DEADLINE: What do you think was be the biggest surprise for the fans of the original in the new season?
HELFORD: I think about how emotional it is. There’s definitely something about getting older, about the kids having kids, and you’re going to see, it’s probably the most emotional season of Roseanne that there has ever been.
DEADLINE: Anything else you would like to say about tonight’s finale and next season?
HELFORD: I guess the only thing left to say is that the writers had a great time, the actors had a great time, we all felt we did good work and we’re happy that our fans helped us to come back and do more. I hope that the finale viewers found the journey satisfying and, in the end, hopeful.