Movie Reviews

The Conners Season 5 Episode 12’s Roseanne Joke Was Bleak (But Accurate)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Conners season 5, episode 12.

While The Conners has a dark sense of humor, season 5 episode 12 of the Roseanne spinoff reminded viewers just how mean-spirited its former heroine could be. Unlike most family sitcoms of the early 90s, Roseanne had a sharp edge to it. The story of a working-class middle-America family, Roseanne had its moments of hugging and learning but was a lot darker and more grounded than the schmaltzy Cosby Show or the more cartoonish Married… With Children. Unlike those shows, Roseanne touched on real issues like unemployment, poverty, and discrimination.

While The Conners season 5’s darkest jokes prove that the sitcom spinoff is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor, without the sour presence of Roseanne, the tone of The Conners has lightened up a little since the character’s offscreen death. The Conners still touches on plenty of real-life problems like Beverly’s dementia or Becky’s alcoholism, but the jokes are a little less caustic than they were in Roseanne and the family members take better care of each other than they did in the earlier sitcom. One particularly bleak joke in The Conners season 5, episode 12, “Stuck in the Middle and Stuck in the Past,” highlighted this change.

Related: The Conners Pulled Off Perfect Reunion For Another Family Comedy

While earlier seasons of the spinoff struggled with mentioning its former heroine, The Conners season 5 honored Roseanne when Dan sat down to thumb through his first wife’s diary at the end of episode 12. When he found that it was too emotional, his grandson Mark offered to do the honors, thus setting up a gag that reminded viewers just how mean Roseanne’s jokes could be. The idea that Mark would need to skim through entire pages of Roseanne’s diary to find anything positive about Dan was brutal, but it did fit her character.

Roseanne was not a ray of sunshine, and she never made her anger, frustration, or annoyance a secret. As the leading lady of the family sitcom, Roseanne could be surprisingly ruthless when it came to mocking her own husband and children, and this was reflected in Mark’s slow, wordless reading when Dan told him to only read the “good stuff” aloud. While Roseanne’s death was a tragedy for the Conners, this doesn’t make her legacy any less complicated and, while the character loved her husband, children, and grandchildren, it is impossible to deny that she had a funny way of showing it.

Without Roseanne’s acerbic wit, Roseanne could have been another cutesy, sentimental family sitcom at a time when the television landscape was flooded with these offerings. Roseanne’s ability to make fun of herself and her loved ones was what made Roseanne stand out as a series, and The Conners held on to this approach throughout its five seasons. While few Roseanne characters return in The Conners, plenty of the show’s jokes pay homage to Roseanne’s unsparing wit.

The Conners needed to keep Roseanne’s mean streak alive as this was what made the series stand out when it first aired. When Roseanne became The Conners after Roseanne’s offscreen death, the spinoff ran the risk of softening its humor and becoming another anodyne family sitcom. As such, it is good to see The Conners season 5 referencing Roseanne’s mean streak and keeping the earlier show’s dark side alive.

More: The Conners Season 5 Already Fixed A Major Cameo Problem

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