Helford worked on Roseanne in its original run and in its wildly successful reboot last season, and he is now the showrunner on The Conners as well. The series had its work cut out for it as it tried to keep the comedy alive while acknowledging the absence of its once-lead character.
However, in his Hollywood Reporter article, Helford explained that he thought the sudden death was as respectful a send-off as possible.
“There was a lot of chatter in the ether about how we should explain Roseanne’s absence,” Helford wrote. “Should she have a sudden heart attack, a mental breakdown or go off into the sunset on a boat with her son Jerry Garcia? But back in the writers room, we firmly decided against anything cowardly or far-fetched, anything that would make the fierce matriarch of the Conners seem pathetic or debased."
Helford has made it clear over the years that he has a lot of respect for Roseanne Barr herself, despite her recent actions and statements. Helford began working with her on Roseanne back in 1992 as a writer.
“After much discussion by all parties, it was decided that we would have to make her departure clearly permanent,” he added. “On a personal note, Roseanne [Barr] helped launch my career, and while we had our disagreements... I wanted a respectful sendoff for her, too — one that was relevant and could inspire discussion for the greater good about the American working class, whose authentic problems are often ignored by broadcast television. If you watched the first episode, I hope you’ll agree we did that.”
Naturally, the episode was met with its share of backlash on social media. Barr herself did not help the matter, taking to Twitter as soon as the episode was over in a condescending outrage.
“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,” the statement read.
The Conners airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.