The Roseanne revival took a risk when the sitcom focused on political divides, and The Conners season 5 just brought back its most controversial plot.
Warning: Spoilers for The Conners season 5, episode 2.Despite the Roseanne revival series courting controversy by addressing political divides in its premiere episode, The Conners season 5 still managed to reference this storyline. In 2017, Roseanne was renewed for a belated season 10 after two decades off the air. Following that successful season, the sitcom was radically retooled when Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets led the network to fire her and kill off her titular character.
Roseanne then became The Conners, which is now in its fifth year. For its first few seasons, The Conners rarely joked about Roseanne since the death of a central family member generally made the mood of the sitcom feel oppressively somber. However, now that a lot of time has passed, The Conners season 5 can regularly reference Roseanne without this feeling awkward or more poignant than intended.
The Conners season 5 celebrated this by bringing up one of the most divisive storylines in the show’s history. One of the more surprising choices made by the Roseanne revival was the decision to center an entire episode on re-litigating the 2016 presidential election — in the season 10 premiere, no less. While this risky choice was ultimately met with relatively solid reviews, it was enough to prompt a flurry of think pieces and stirred up the most controversy that the Roseanne revival faced until Barr was fired a year later. In the episode “Scenes From Two Marriages: The Parrot Doth Protest Too Much,” The Conners season 5’s Roseanne callbacks were taken to new heights when Becky (Lecy Goranson) brought up this infamous outing.
How The Conners Season 5 Referenced Roseanne’s Election Episode
During the extended cold open of The Conners season 5, episode 2, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) went through boxes of her stuff as she prepared to move in with Neville (Nat Faxon). Becky pulled out the infamous pink pussy hat that marked Jackie out as the conservative Roseanne’s liberal opponent in the Roseanne season 10 premiere. This prompted Jackie to gleefully announce that the box of memories had “stuff from all times throughout my life.” Jackie donned the hat but said nothing more about her and her sister’s political disagreements, instead rooting further around in the box and finding her service taser from her time as a police officer.
While Jackie and Neville moving in together was a perfect setup for this trip down memory lane, The Conners was wise to keep the reference brief. While Roseanne’s season 10 premiere was well-liked at the time, The Conners still struggles to bring up the final episodes before Roseanne’s death since the character’s irascible personality (and the abrupt real-life behind-the-scenes circumstances of her actor’s firing) meant she was at everyone’s throats right until the unexpected end. As such, The Conners flashing back to the controversial election episode could easily have been a mean-spirited re-litigation of that Roseanne outing, whereas the brevity of the nod limited the scene to a funny and welcome surprise.
New episodes of The Conners air on ABC on Wednesdays.