The Conners, Roseanne Barr and TV Shows That Survived or Perished With Retools

ABC is moving ahead with a Roseanne Barr-less series, but it's not the first show to undergo major changes

By Chris Harnick Jun 26, 2018 6:49 PMTags

In May, Roseanne Barr sent a racist tweet. Shortly after, ABC canceled her show, Roseanne, despite it being one of the most successful shows of the 2017-2018 TV season. In June, ABC announced a "spinoff" of Roseanne, currently titled The Conners, would take Roseanne's place on the fall schedule. The new series will follow the family from RoseanneLaurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson are returning—just not Barr's Roseanne Conner. It's Roseanne without Roseanne.

The Conners will feature the family facing the daily struggles of life in the wake of a "sudden turn of events." What that is remains to be seen, but we've got some ideas for the writers. Regardless of what happens to the character, The Conners is basically retooled Roseanne. And it's not the first show, nor will it be the last show, to undergo a retooling and loss of a star.

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Perhaps the most similar example to The Conners and Roseanne is Valerie Harper and her 1980s sitcom Valerie. After a dispute with producers, Harper was written out of the family sitcom following the second season. Sandy Duncan joined the cast and the show returned for a third season as Valerie's Family, and then became The Hogans at the end of the third season. The Hogans, in its entirety, ran for six seasons across NBC and CBS.

Run length after retool: Four seasons.


Kevin Can Wait

More recently, viewers can look to Kevin Can Wait. The CBS sitcom starred Kevin James as a retired cop adjusting to life at home with his three kids and wife Donna (Erinn Hayes). During the first season, James' King of Queens costar Leah Remini guest starred as his former coworker. The chemistry between the two actors was still evident and producers retooled the show for the second and last season. Hayes' Donna was gone, she died, and James returned to the work force alongside Remini's Vanessa, at a security company. CBS canceled Kevin Can Wait after the second season in May 2018.

Run length after retool: One retooled season.

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8 Simple Rules...

After the death of John Ritter, ABC was forced to retool 8 Simple Rules. Ritter died during production of the second season. The show had filmed three episodes and took a hiatus before returning and his death was incorporated and the focus shifted to Katey Sagal's character and her new life as a widowed mother. James Garner and David Spade joined the cast later in the second season and the show was renewed for a third season, which would be its final one.

Run length after retool: Two seasons.

The WB/James White


Charmed, The WB fantasy series about witch sisters, dealt with the exit of Shannen Doherty by killing off her character in the third season finale and introducing a just-discovered half-sister played by Rose McGowan in season four. Charmed ran for eight seasons total, four without Doherty.

Run length after retool: Four seasons.

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After seven seasons, NBC announced it was shelving Scrubs, only to have ABC come to the rescue. The show moved networks for its eighth season, which many, including the cast, assumed would the last season. But ABC ordered a ninth season, but the cast was overhauled. Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke appeared a handful of times and characters played by Donald Faison and John C. McGinley were made into medical school professors. The new cast included Dave Franco and Eliza Coupe. Scrubs did not return for a season 10.

Run length after retool: One retooled season.


The X-Files

The X-Files shifted focus from Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) after season seven. Aliens abducted Mulder at the end of the seventh season, following a lawsuit Duchovny filed against 20th Century Fox. Anderson remained with the series and Robert Patrick was added to the show as John Doggett. Annabeth Gish appeared in the eighth season as Monica Reyes and became a series regular in the ninth season. Anderson was with the series for its entire run and Duchovny made appearances during the eighth and ninth season. Season nine would be the last before a second movie and a two-season revival on Fox that starred Duchovny and Anderson once again.

Run length after retool: Two seasons.

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The Facts of Life

Classic sitcom The Facts of Life went through several retoolings. After the first season, half the cast was dropped, including a young Molly Ringwald, and the focus shifted to a handful of Eastland students and introduced Nancy McKeon as Jo. After the girls aged out of high school, the setting shifted to Mrs. Garrett's (Charlotte Rae) bakery business. That setting changed once again following a fire and the women managed a novelty store. Rae had a reduced role in seasons six and seven and left the series altogether. Mrs. Garret left at the start of season eight and her sister, played by Cloris Leachman, took over the shop. The show ended after its ninth season.

Run length after retool: After the first major retool, eight seasons. After the second with the departure of Rae, two.


Law & Order: SVU

Law & Order: SVU had a cast shakeup between its 12th and 13th seasons when Christopher Meloni exited the series. The spotlight shifted to Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson and Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino joined the cast. With then-showrunner Warren Leight at the helm, the show explored the personal lives of the elite squad of detectives more so than it had in the past. Leight and Pino have since exited the series, but Giddish and Hargitay remain alongside Ice-T, Philip Winchester and Peter Scanavino. SVU was recently renewed for season 20, tying it with Law & Order and Gunsmoke as the longest-running live-action, scripted American TV series.

Run length after retool: Seven seasons and counting.

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These are just some shows that underwent a retool and lost characters while achieving various levels of success. The Conners has a tough road ahead. It's a "spinoff" of a show that originally aired 30 years ago and was only back on the air for nine episodes after spending 20 years dormant. Barr and her character were major forces within the show, with many fans already balking at the idea. That, coupled with Barr's real-life political views and the divided discourse in the nation, could prove a big hurdle for The Conners. Plus, many of the aforementioned series weren't on in the Peak TV era; there was no social media or streaming networks.

See how The Conners does Tuesdays this fall on ABC.