Roseanne Barr wants to make one thing clear: She's not dead. However, her iconic TV character, Roseanne Conner, the center of the now-canceled Roseanne, is indeed dead. The character was killed off between the Roseanne finale and The Conners premiere. She died from an opioid overdose. Her family originally suspected it was a heart attack until her addiction came to light. Barr, whose show was canceled after a racist tweet aimed at Valerie Jarrett, returned to Twitter the night The Conners premiered and also released a statement with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about the new show's debut.
"While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne's cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character. That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show," Barr and Rabbi Shmuley said in a joint statement.
"This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another's personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord. The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country.
"Through humor and a universally relatable main character, the show represented a weekly teaching moment for our nation. Yet it is often following an inexcusable – but not unforgivable – mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness. After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness. In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.
"Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman – who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive," the statement concluded.
Roseanne was canceled in May following a very successful first revival season. After Barr's tweet, which she said she sent on Ambien, ABC was swift with condemnation. "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," ABC's Channing Dungey said in a statement announcing the show's cancellation.
A deal for The Conners was struck in June. Barr signed away any financial gains and creative control. Her name does not appear in the show's credits. "I regret the circumstances that have caused me to be removed from Roseanne," Barr said in a statement when the series was announced. "I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved."
The Conners stars John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman. The new comedy airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on ABC.