While The Conners is a sitcom, Tuesday night’s episode — the first season finale — is definitely not a laugh a minute. There are even a few tearjerker moments, of the kind that only actors of the caliber of Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman could pull off.
Sara Gilbert, an executive producer and star of the show, acknowledges that it’s an “emotional ending to the first episodes of a show that evolved from ’80s sitcom Roseanne, which was rebooted last year. (That show was infamously canceled after Roseanne Barr, the Conners family matriarch, sent a racist tweet, but it was quickly revived without her.)
“I just hope they enjoy it,” Gilbert tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I hope they laugh and cry, basically.”
The episode “We Continue to Truck” deals with family issues, of course, as Gilbert’s character Darlene decides whether to relocate from the family’s hometown of Lanford, Ill., to Chicago with her new boyfriend, Ben, played by Mad Men alum Jay Ferguson. The audience sees Metcalf’s character, Jackie, dealing with her relationship (boyfriend Peter, played by guest star Matthew Broderick), and pregnant Becky heading into an uncertain future. There’s also an important subplot concerning a hot topical issue: immigration.
“It’s something that we love to do on the show that I think not every sitcom can do, and we get to sort of do a blend of comedy and drama,” Gilbert says. “Somehow, I think our writers are so great, because we can take on these really dramatic subjects, and they still figure out how to make people laugh, which I think is sort of remarkable.”
While it would be easier for the show to shy away from controversial subjects, Gilbert says it’s necessary to address those topics in order to make something great. She doesn’t want to make something “vanilla, down the middle.”
“I think we want to talk about what’s happening in our culture,” she explains. “We’ll have varying viewpoints on issues that are going on today and it’s sort of just seen through the lens of the family. How does this affect this family? Versus some overtly political statement or view. This person feels this way, this person feels that way, and how it affects everyone differently, just when something hits close to home.”
Gilbert has made it her philosophy to make “something that we love and we believe in,” and tune out the rest of the noise.
And this episode seems to fit into that category.
“I feel it’s a really satisfying end of the season,” she says. “I feel like a lot of things are addressed and revisited and tied up that people will … feel satisfied, hopefully, by the journey they went on with us.”
It’s so far unclear if there will be any more adventures, although Deadline reported last month that negotiations were underway for the show to continue next season.
Gilbert will only say, “I’m hopeful.”
The Conners season finale airs at 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Jan. 22 on ABC.
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