Only eagle-eyed viewers of The Conners will have noticed the cryptic reference to Roseanne that the sitcom spinoff snuck into the season 4 finale. Although it was very subtle and well-hidden, The Conners season 4 finale featured a sly nod to the legacy of Roseanne. The specter of Roseanne looms large over The Conners. The Conners began life as Roseanne, a family sitcom following the exploits of the outspoken matriarch and her unruly brood.
After Roseanne Barr’s firing, The Conners rarely mentioned her, with her widow Dan’s second wedding featuring no references to the character. However, this approach didn’t really work, as many viewers watching The Conners remember Roseanne and are aware of the title character’s impact on the series. Luckily, The Conners season 4 finale managed to sneak in a cryptic reference to the character. When Neville informed Louise that (although he loves Jackie) he thought that the entire Conners clan would end up in Hell, the family shrugged in unison, undaunted by the prospect. It was a clever nod to a moment earlier in season 4 when Becky quipped that Roseanne was in Hell. Nevill’s comment and the family’s indifferent attitude showed just how fitting Becky’s joke was.
In season 4, episode 8, “Yard Sale, Phone Fail, And a College Betrayal,” The Conners’ Becky joked that Roseanne had most likely ended up in Hell. When burning their old furniture, Dan remarked they were sending it “up to Heaven,” prompting Becky to crack that if it went down to Hell instead, at least her mom would get her furniture back. The joke seemed somewhat mean-spirited (given the character was killed off via an off-screen overdose at the beginning of The Conners season 1), but the season 4 finale’s confirmation that the Conners think they are all headed to Hell made the joke surprisingly sweet. There is a sense of solidarity in the “us against the world” attitude embodied by the Conner clan, one that Roseanne fostered and that both jokes underlined.
The Conners S4 Finale Ending
When ABC revived Roseanne for a belated tenth season in 2017, the show’s ratings were superb. However, controversial series star Roseanne Barr was then fired shortly after the end of season 10 due to racist remarks she made on Twitter. Faced with the option of continuing Roseanne without Roseanne herself, the network opted to retool the series by killing off Roseanne and focusing on the rest of the family. Thus, while The Conners occasionally nails Roseanne’s tone, the legacy of the earlier show is still a tricky subject for the spinoff series. The show hasn’t always handled her absence gracefully, but The Conners season 4 finale’s callback joke is a perfect example of how the show can honor Roseanne’s legacy in a way that doesn’t overshadow everything.
Becky being comfortable enough to joke about her mother’s damnation proved that she inherited Roseanne’s devil-may-care persona. Meanwhile, The Conners season 4 using Jackie’s love interest as a mirror for the Conners’ blasé attitude about ending up in Hell showed that the family wasn’t singling out their late mother for mockery earlier in the season. It fits the hardy, unflappable Conner family to a tee. The joke was not only a subtle reminder of Roseanne’s legacy on the family, but also proof that The Conners knows how to pay homage to its predecessor.