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How The ‘Roseanne’ Reboot Celebrate 100 Episodes

SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot points from Wednesday’s episode of The Conners on ABC.

The Conners celebrated a big milestone — 100 episodes! — by doing what it does best: telling stories about small-town life and reminding folks that it has one of the most experienced ensembles on broadcast TV. Here, Executive Producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan talk about their six-season odyssey and whether it’s time to start planning for a seventh year on ABC.

DEADLINE I still remember the day when former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey abruptly canceled the Roseanne reboot. And now, the spinoff, The Conners, is celebrating 100 episodes.

DAVE CAPLAN We have a hard time believing that ourselves.

BRUCE HELFORD There are a couple of milestones. This is the first time to have the whole cast of a show hit the 100-episode milestone twice.

DEADLINE Because you are celebrating 100 episodes, did you purposely give a shout-out to old Roseanne characters like Nana Mary and Crystal Anderson-Conner?

HELFORD It worked into the story and we thought it would be nice. I don’t know how many people remember that Shelley Winters played the grandmother on the show, the mother of Stella Parsons [Beverly Harris]. We’re very proud of that. And Crystal was always a wonderful part of the show. We haven’t really had a way to work her voice into this, so this was a nice way to bring her back.

DEADLINE The smash and grab storyline at the hardware store was a pretty clever to way to go, especially given how relevant it is these days.

CAPLAN We weren’t really trying to do an issue show, per se. We were just trying to examine what happens in the life of a small town business and how the odds are so stacked against those little companies in so many ways. And you know, rising crime is just another way that people think, oh, insurance will take care of it. But for these mom and pops, there’s a bigger impact than that. We were just trying to put a face on that, the owner of the store, and what they go through when something like this happens.

HELFORD It’s just so wonderful that whatever you give John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, they make it better. We’re very, very lucky to have a cast like this, where you’ve got four or five people who could have their own leads in shows. The chemistry between John and Laurie is particularly strong.

CAPLAN We always look for ways to put the two of them together in a scene so they can play off each other. We’re going to get something that we didn’t anticipate. We’re going to get extra value over and above what we wrote.

DEADLINE So how was it taping the 100th episode? Anything special happened that night? Did you guys look at each other and think, ‘holy sh–, we’re still here?’

HELFORD If you know the beginning of this, the idea was to do a reboot of Roseanne to give it a better ending than it had in its original run. We wanted to kind of undo that. The idea was really just to go one season, and then see what happens after that. The actors only have contracts year to year. There are no long term contracts. Every year we get together and say, are we still having fun? Do we still feel the quality is up? When we agree on that, then we move forward. So this is one of those things that nobody expected to go to 100 episodes. And yet when you get there, it feels like it went by so quick.

DEADLINE So when will you have that discussion for the new season?

HELFORD Well, we’ve had the discussion. Everybody’s very much in love with doing the show. And if ABC gives us the opportunity to continue, we definitely will.

CAPLAN The three of us also don’t want to be searching for stories and forcing the issue. But the stories keep coming, which indicates that we don’t feel like it’s over. There’s still a lot of things to talk about with the disappearing middle class in this country. We have that theme and these fantastic characters and actors. It still feels pretty vibrant to us.

HELFORD The ratings have been very strong this season.

DEADLINE What kind of notes do you get from the network? I know other sitcom writers say executives want more issue oriented comedy these days, with less emphasis on continuous punchlines.

HELFORD I think we’re given a bit more leeway. We’re kind of grandfathered in from what the show was. The show was always was edgy, it always took on things that could make people uncomfortable. And we’ve been allowed to continue doing that. It’s very difficult anyways, launching new shows. We’ve been very fortunate to have probably the most successful reboot.

DEADLINE Is there another live episode in your future?


HELFORD I’m the one who brought that in from the old Drew Carey days. I love a live episode. But it is huge, especially with this season being shorter. You couldn’t do it because it takes us two weeks to do the episode as opposed to just one week. So we really didn’t have the schedule that would allow for it this year. But I bring it up every year. And sometimes they say yes, but mostly they say no. We have a tribunal. We all vote.

DEADLINE As you are sitting here right now, do you know how this season will end?

HELFORD Yes. We know what we want to do.

DEADLINE Is it a cliffhanger?

HELFORD Well, we can promise you this, whatever it is, it will not be what people expect, because we pride ourselves on doing that. And so it will be unexpected, and it will be emotional.

DEADLINE The show has yet to be picked up for the new season. Are you feeling like you have to craft a series finale just in case this is the last year?

HELFORD Well, we don’t know. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got a final episode that may be one or the other. We love it.

Beginning May 1, The Conners will air at a new time, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, following new episodes of Abbott Elementary.

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