The Conners already set the bar high for its Thanksgiving episode, welcoming back a Roseanne alum for the first time in two years. But the details from the episode became a heartbreaking reminder of why the classic series continues to be a hit with fans.
Estelle Parsons' return as Jackie and the late Roseanne's mother Bev was just as emotional as some of the original series episodes dealing with the sisters and their mom. In Wednesday's The Conners, Bev arrived and was suffering from dementia. But given the past dealings with Parsons' character, Jackie wasn't buying it.
This initial feeling quickly gets replaced with reality after Bev asks about Roseanne, who has been dead since The Conners started. With some guidance from Dan, Jackie finally got to face her mother about their past while also realizing help was needed and it wouldn't be easy.
Executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan discussed the return with TV Line and the toll it could take on the family. They also revealed a bit about how Parsons' return played out and her reaction to the story.
"We were concerned. Obviously, Estelle is not a spring chicken, and we were wondering what her reaction would be to doing this kind of story, but she seemed delighted," Helford told TV Line. "She's a person who is [still] able to perform and do all the things at her age, which is already a miracle when you think about it. She's 94! She came to me after the [taping] and said, 'That was a very good script, wasn't it?'"
The Oscar-winning actress brought her powers to the role, once again shaking her daughter's life to the core, while leaving her still reeling from their frosty past. "I don't know if she can ever make peace with that. I think she is accepting that she is going to be her mother's caretaker... But Bev is a very selfish woman, and there were episodes beyond that [one you mentioned on The Conners] where [she was considering] giving money to Harris or Mark. Bev just never supported her family, and she likes playing one against the other," Helford said, with Caplan adding. "I think there's a really wonderful moment where you see Jackie realize that she is never going to get what she wants from her mother, and decides that she still has the duty and the need to take care of her. It's all done without dialogue, and it's powerful as hell."
You can catch up on the series on Hulu and see new episodes on ABC on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.