Zodiac Sign · May 23, 2024

In the Season 6 finale on Wednesday, Becky and Harris dropped a bombshell: they intended to move out of Darlene's home. Eventually, Darlene relented and agreed to co-sign a lease, enabling Harris to rent a one-bedroom apartment and embark on her own journey. Meanwhile, Becky opted to remain at home after Darlene suggested that Tyler move in. This gives Beverly Rose's mom the opportunity to test the waters with her new flame before making any drastic life changes.

Meanwhile, Mark, ever the resourceful tech wiz, embarked on a series of unconventional jobs to finance his dream of attending the University of Chicago. Unfortunately, his stint as a repo man (aided by the ever-enthusiastic Dan and Jackie) proved short-lived. In a desperate move, he took on an illegal hacking job – a decision that's likely to have major repercussions in the upcoming season.

As fans may already know, "The Conners" will be waving goodbye with a shortened seventh season, featuring only six episodes scheduled for a 2025 premiere. This bittersweet farewell will mark the 17th season for the franchise overall, bringing the long-running Conners saga to a close after a remarkable 343 episodes. In a recent interview, executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan delve into key moments from the finale - including a touching heart-to-heart between Darlene and Dan - and discuss the challenges of carrying the weight of "Roseanne's legacy" as they craft a fitting conclusion for these two intertwined shows.

This episode sheds light on Darlene's journey in the wake of Roseanne's passing. We see her acknowledge the responsibility she took on to hold the family together. But was this a conscious decision she made all along, or has it subtly shaped her choices?

Reflecting on the show's evolution, Executive Producer Bruce Helford highlighted the initial tug-of-war between Darlene and Jackie to assume the role of the family matriarch after Roseanne's passing. Darlene, initially hesitant, and Jackie, emotionally overwhelmed, both struggled with the responsibility, ultimately leading to a breakdown for Jackie. However, over time, Darlene has grown into the role, embracing her position as the dependable pillar upon whom everyone in the family relies.

Caplan emphasizes that this role has always been a burden for Darlene. While she recognized her own logic and capability as the most qualified candidate, it was never a role she embraced. It was a duty, one she diligently fulfilled. But now, a shift in perspective is emerging. Having always yearned for independence, Darlene is starting to question the one-sided nature of her sacrifices. The sentiment is clear: "I stepped up when needed, where's the reciprocity?"

Helford adds another layer. Darlene, who once craved escape from the family dynamic, now faces the realization that she actually needs them. Dan, in a moment of comedic wisdom, explains this as the inevitable consequence of maturing, having children, and ultimately turning into a "big pile of mush".

With the realization that the family might not need her constant support anymore, will Darlene finally prioritize herself? Can she pursue her own career aspirations, especially after leaving the cafeteria job to help Mark at school?

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): Absolutely. Even though she's unaware of Mark's illegal hacking scheme, she feels like she's finally free from the shackles of the cafeteria uniform. Maybe it's time for something more fulfilling. Of course, with Ben venturing into the risky world of starting a magazine, their financial stability remains a concern.

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): It seems Darlene is at a critical juncture. It's decision time: a fulfilling career path or a series of odd jobs. This might be her last chance. Does she want a job that offers meaning and purpose, or simply one that pays the bills?

Bruce Helford: Everything Darlene has done has revolved around navigating the family's financial struggles, from Dan's issues to helping the kids, especially Mark with college. Now, in this second act of her life, it's time for a crucial choice.

A defining characteristic of "The Conners" has been the intense family bond. From Ben to Louise and Neville, everyone who's married into the family has experienced it firsthand, sometimes to the detriment of their relationships with Darlene, Dan, and Jackie. But is this closeness a positive force? Or does it ultimately hold them back?

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): You've perfectly captured the double-edged sword of a strong family support system. While banding together has been their survival strategy, it also creates a comedic tension. There's a balance, and people inevitably develop resentment as they grow and change. This enmeshment can be both a burden and a source of strength.

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): We even reached a point where Darlene attempted to break free by moving out in Season 5. Of course, the family simply followed her, proving the enmeshment is persistent. (Laughs) It's a complex dynamic. They love and need each other fiercely, but sometimes that closeness becomes suffocating.

Dave Caplan: Remember the Thanksgiving episode a few seasons back? Darlene's control over the Lunch Box caused immense tension with Jackie, culminating in a shocking slap. That's the extreme example – a moment where their codependency becomes painfully evident. And there's a price to be paid for that level of closeness.

Dan and Jackie's well-intentioned (but slightly desperate) attempt to support Mark through odd jobs highlights a conundrum for viewers. It's heartwarming to see them help Darlene's son, but we also yearn for them to savor their retirement. So, how will Season 7 navigate this new chapter in their lives?

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): Both Dan and Jackie are experiencing that classic "what now?" feeling that often hits people in retirement. Right now, helping Mark with these odd jobs feels like a temporary solution, maybe even a welcome excuse to stay active. But it's clear they're in a transition phase. After all, Dan's ultimate dream was to own the house and finally retire comfortably, while Jackie's retirement came sooner than expected, leaving her with less time with Neville than she'd envisioned. These are issues that need to be addressed.

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): We want to keep some surprises under wraps for Season 7, but it's safe to say retirement wasn't exactly on any of the Conners' agendas. They're all a bit thrown for a loop by it.

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): Heck, Dan probably never thought he'd live long enough to collect Social Security!

Darlene's decision to let Tyler move in raises a question: shouldn't she discuss it with Ben first?

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): That's part of their dynamic. Darlene tends to be the more impulsive decision-maker. I suspect it will come up eventually. Ben and Tyler have developed a bit of a friendship, so there's a chance Ben might be okay with it. But for now, she's making the call while Ben's away launching his magazine, and she can always claim he was on board with the whole "buying a magazine" thing.

Speaking of the magazine, as someone in the journalism industry in 2024, I can't help but be surprised by Ben's choice to invest his insurance money from the hardware store into print media. Isn't that a risky move?

Bruce Helford (Laughs): He's convinced he can create a hybrid – a trade magazine that also features long-form stories like The New Yorker. He genuinely believes there's a market for it. The good news is, trade magazines are still doing relatively well, so there's some stability there.

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): It felt very "Conner" to us. Ben dreams of writing for prestigious publications like The Atlantic, but reality might land him running a hardware industry trade magazine that he'll try to mold into something more fulfilling.

Remember all the speculation about a potential alternate ending for "The Conners" last season? Here's the inside scoop from the showrunners themselves!

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): We did consider filming an alternate tag scene as a potential series finale, but ultimately decided to hold off. The network's signals were clear – they didn't want the show to end just yet. Everyone, including the cast and crew, wanted to properly wrap things up. Originally, the Roseanne revival was only intended for one season, a way to reclaim the legacy and then move on. But things took an unexpected turn. We did another season as "The Conners" with the same intention – a respectful send-off. Honestly, none of us envisioned reaching over 100 episodes. However, the show kept its charm, and everyone involved remained enthusiastic about continuing. We felt the quality remained strong, and everyone was having a blast.

So, you did have a potential ending planned?

Bruce Helford: Absolutely. We wrote a possible finale because we didn't want a standard "business as usual" conclusion. We, especially Sara Gilbert and the entire team, felt strongly about ending on our own terms. However, the network indicated that an immediate ending wasn't necessary. So, we didn't film it. We didn't want to jinx ourselves. There was even a video farewell the cast filmed as a precaution, but thankfully, it wasn't required.

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): The cast is deeply invested in the show, and rightfully so after all this time. They were adamant about a proper goodbye. Everyone yearned for a final season to wrap things up with the respect the show deserved. Thankfully, it all worked out. We now have a dedicated set of episodes to bring the Conners saga to a fitting close.

Bruce Helford: To be honest, six episodes felt like the perfect number. This wasn't a cancellation; it was always the plan. Everything unfolded exactly as we envisioned. As Disney Television Group president Craig Erwich announced, this will be a "major TV event of 2025." Get ready for something big!

How will the final season differ from previous ones?

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): This final chapter will be a six-episode event, with each episode serving as a significant piece of the overall story.

Are there specific goals you want to achieve with these final episodes besides Becky's potential marriage and Darlene finding fulfillment in her career?

We can't reveal too much, but expect plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the Conners' lives. Remember that iconic line from Fiddler on the Roof? "We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't you choose someone else?" (Laughs) There will be a lot of surprises, some beyond anyone's imagination. Just consider Beverly's current situation – hopping trains and pilfering windowsill pies! There's a lot happening, both pre-planned and yet to unfold.

Let's talk about that Illinois State Lottery scene in Episode 9. It felt like a potential repeat of the Roseanne lottery win, but the story went in a different direction. Was that a deliberate tease?

Bruce Helford: That particular scene was just a fun Easter egg for fans to catch.

Dave Caplan: We enjoyed planting that little hint.

With "The Conners" approaching its final curtain call, how are you considering the show's legacy, especially in light of the twists and turns in the original "Roseanne" series?

Bruce Helford (Executive Producer): The weight of the "Roseanne" legacy is something we carry heavily. It's a tremendous responsibility. Here's one guarantee: the Conners will never win the lottery and strike it rich.

Dave Caplan (Executive Producer): The pressure of honoring the entire "Roseanne" run has been a constant presence throughout "The Conners." These are the same characters we've known and loved, and we owe it to them to give them a fitting send-off. This is paramount as we craft the final six episodes.

Bruce Helford: There were certain creative choices we made to avoid hindering the characters and their storylines moving forward. For instance, I recently saw a detailed analysis online about the fate of some characters who vanished from the original series. We've considered reintroducing some of these characters, but only if it can be done realistically. Rest assured, the lottery win is definitively out, and Jackie's first marriage has been relegated to "dreamland." We had to establish a clear starting point for this "dream" reality, rendering anything before that non-canonical.

Dave Caplan: It's no secret that the early seasons of "Roseanne" faced some creative and leadership challenges. We prioritized elements that resonated most with viewers and had the most significant impact on the characters' long-term arcs. These factors ultimately guided our decisions.

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