The Conners Season 5 Snuck In A Secret Roseanne Nod

While The Conners season 5 premiere was mostly business as usual for the sitcom, the episode did sneak in one nod to its former main character, Roseanne. The Conners has a complicated relationship with Roseanne. The sitcom came into existence when Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets led the network to fire her, which resulted in her character’s offscreen death as the Roseanne revival became The Conners.

While the death itself was handled tastefully, The Conners made some mistakes with Roseanne’s memory in the years since. At first, The Conners barely mentioned the late Roseanne, although by season 4 the show was getting better at addressing her impact on the characters’ lives. However, these references always ran the risk of reminding viewers about the real-life behind-the-scenes drama that plagued the show’s production. Fortunately, The Conners was usually able to balance reverence and irreverence when it came to mentioning Roseanne.


Related: How A Major Character Exit Affects The Conners Season 5

Luckily, The Conners season 5 proved that the sitcom can still mention Roseanne without sacrificing the show’s light-hearted tone. When Becky called Harris (unaware that her niece was drunk), Harris answered with “Conners Insane Asylum, the best place to drop your nuts.” Becky recounted this to her father, prompting a laugh from Dan who noted “that was your mom’s joke. You think the young ones aren’t listening, but they are.” The Conners season 5 managed to attribute a joke to Roseanne without dwelling on the character herself, proving that the show could balance goofy character comedy with nods to her legacy.

Why The Conners Season 5’s Roseanne Joke Is Secretly Sad

Harris’ joke hid some layers of secret poignancy. For one thing, it reminded viewers that three generations of the Conners clan lost Roseanne, something that can be easy to forget since Harris and Mark were so much younger when she died and the pair were only introduced in Roseanne season 10, shortly before Roseanne was killed off. The other thing that made The Conners season 5’s Roseanne joke so subtly sad was the fact that the gag was still relevant years after Roseanne’s death. Calling the Conners family unhinged has remained a family favorite gag, which just goes to show that the poor Conners have not gotten any more stable over the intervening years.

In fairness to the titular family, that is not for lack of trying. Jackie and Darlene, both of whom were famously unlucky in love, managed to find supportive partners and get married since Roseanne’s death, while Mark is on track to make it into college (if all goes well in The Connors season 5) and Becky has remained sober for some years despite her struggles. That said, between Becky sleeping with her professor in college, Darlene almost losing her job, Mark’s prescription pill problem, and Harris almost marrying the wildly immature Aldo, there is a reason that Roseanne’s granddaughter still refers to the house as the “Conners insane asylum.” Thus, The Conners season 5 premiere’s Roseanne reference works as both a tribute to her character and a sad reminder of how little things have changed for the perpetually put-upon family.