Why isn't Roseanne Barr in The Conners? (The star's controversial departure explained)

Premiere Of ABC's "Roseanne" - Arrivals
Premiere Of ABC's "Roseanne" - Arrivals / Alberto E. Rodriguez/GettyImages

It's rather rare that the lead and titular star of a series isn't in its revival, but that's what ended up happening when Roseanne returned to the airwaves in 2018. While Roseanne Barr returned to lead the classic sitcom's revival in the nine-episode season 10, the outspoken comedian put herself into some controversy that led to her firing, a new series, and her character's death.

After the ill-fated Roseanne season 10, ABC salvaged the sitcom revival's season 11 renewal by creating a whole new revival series centered on the blue-collar family: The Conners. The first five seasons of the family sitcom are now available to stream on Netflix as of March 2024, and a whole new audience will be discovering the series and relishing in the nostalgia.

But still, many will wonder... What happened to Roseanne? What led to killing off Roseanne Conner at the beginning of The Conners? For some, going back over the controversy will be review in case you forgot, but others might have missed the entire scandal altogether. Let's get into the reason behind Barr's firing and how the show chose to write off her formerly titular character.

Roseanne Barr was fired after racist comments

When Roseanne returned to TV in March 2018, the revival revved up quite the comeback, with the season 10 premiere bringing in over 18 million viewers. Although the ratings naturally declined from that opening figure, the series continued to bring in strong numbers. ABC renewed Roseanne for season 11 just three days after the big return.

But about a week after the season 10 finale, ABC promptly pulled the plug on the show when Barr went on a racist rant on Twitter. ABC president Channing Dungey said at the time, "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show." Disney CEO Bob Iger agreed with the show's cancellation in spite of its high ratings, and Barr was also dropped by talent agency ICM partners.

Barr started tweeting reactions to political topics in late May 2018 and her "jokes" soon took incredibly racist, Islamophobic, and just overall offensive turns while discussing President Barack Obama's former advisor Valerie Jarrett. One of Barr's tweets read, "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." In other tweets, Barr also took swipes at Chelsea Clinton that had other incorrect and offensive implications. Barr's Twitter account still exists, though the tweets do not.

While she later attempted to apologize in the wake of the widespread negative reception to her comments and the cancellation of her show, the deed had been done. She also blamed her tweets on taking a sleep aid medication, but the prescription drug's manufacturer had a rather blunt rebuttal for Barr. With just one tweet, she had completely severed ties with her legacy.

By June 2018, word began swirling that ABC was looking to revive Roseanne without Roseanne. There had been initial reports that a potential spinoff would revolve around Darlene, but within a few weeks, ABC announced The Conners. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Barr had agreed to waive her rights to any future profits from the spinoff and receive a one-time payment. She still retains her financial stake in Roseanne's 10 seasons. This cleared the way for the next chapter.

More about The Conners:


How The Conners killed off Roseanne Conner

Following the unfortunate situation of the cast and crew of Roseanne losing their jobs in an especially inopportune time in the television season because of one person's words, The Conners picked up where the revival left off. However, now without Roseanne — the actress and the character — the spinoff series had to decide how to proceed without the titular character of the universe.

In the series premiere of The Conners, the spinoff sitcom answers the question right away and reveals that Roseanne Conner has died of an overdose of opioids. The episode takes place three weeks after the Roseanne season 10 finale. The Conner family had assumed Roseanne passed away from a heartache after undergoing knee surgery. Dan isn't willing to accept that his wife kept her addiction from him, but his family discovers Roseanne's hidden pills throughout their home.

Based on where season 10 left the character and the series, exploring the opioid crisis and Roseanne's addiction had always been in the cards. Barr reportedly said herself in an appearance on a conservative podcast that she wanted to tackle the topic, but she disagreed with killing off her character in such a dark way. Per The Hollywood Reporter, she's supposedly quoted as saying, "She should have died as a hero or not at all."

In February, Barr spoke with the Los Angeles Times while promoting her Fox Nation comedy special and documentary. She revealed that she "can't bear" to watch The Conners and wanted to apologize through the show, but ABC wouldn't let her and "hated [her] so badly." Barr elaborated by saying, "I’m the only person who’s lost everything, whose life’s work was stolen, stolen by people who I thought loved me."

Seemingly, Barr's feelings regarding the situation can be summarized by this quote from the same 2023 interview:

"I can’t believe what they did, with all the pain that I went through to bring the show back. And it didn’t faze them to murder my character, either. They s— on my contribution to television and the show itself. But I forgive everybody. "

Roseanne Barr

Although Roseanne was initially pulled from streaming and syndication, which likely impacted Barr's financial gain from the series, all 10 seasons are currently available to watch on Peacock. The sitcom still isn't available to watch on Hulu, the platform it once called its streaming home, but it's also back in syndication, too, on networks like CMT, COZI TV, and TV Land. Meanwhile, The Conners just entered its sixth season and will celebrate its 100th episode milestone.

The first five seasons of The Conners are currently streaming on Netflix.

The richest stars of Seinfeld ranked by net worth. The richest stars of Seinfeld ranked by net worth. dark. Next