ABC’s new sitcom “The Conners” — which picks up on the story of Roseanne Conner’s working-class family without its matriarch — opened Tuesday to 10.5 million viewers, on par with the audience levels for “Roseanne” at the end of last season.
Nielsen data for the premiere of “The Conners” are dramatically below the stunning audience figure for the March 27 debut of “Roseanne,” which was watched by 18.2 million viewers on the night it aired.
But a more apt comparison is the season finale of “Roseanne,” which leveled off to 10.6 million viewers by the end of its run on May 22.
“The Connors” was the second-most watched program of the night, behind the CBS drama “NCIS,” which had 11.9 million viewers. The ABC sitcom scored a 2.4 rating in the 18-to-49 age group coveted by advertisers, the highest of any new series debut this season.
“The Conners” is ABC’s attempt to salvage the revived “Roseanne” series that became a surprise hit last spring. The network brought the popular comedy back with its original cast intact after a nearly 20-year hiatus.
The success was short-lived. After the program finished the 2017-18 TV season among the most-watched prime-time shows, the sitcom’s star, Roseanne Barr, posted a racist tweet about former Obama administration advisor Valerie Jarrett. ABC fired her immediately and then proceeded with a reconstituted version of the show with the rest of the cast and eliminating Barr’s character.
Even without its signature star, “The Conners” is expected to be the most-watched new broadcast network sitcom of the the 2018-19 TV season due to the attention generated by the controversy over Barr’s firing. ABC is counting on the audience for “The Conners” to generate sampling of its other new Tuesday entries “The Kids Are Alright” and “The Rookie.”
In the premiere episode of “The Conners,” family members cope with the sudden death of Roseanne’s character and learn that she had an addiction to opioids.
The episode, which was widely praised by TV critics, was expected to have a strong opening. The challenge for ABC will be sustaining the audience going forward.
According to a survey of media buyers conducted by Ad Age, “The Conners” commanded an average price of $201,000 for a 30-second commercial, making it the ninth-most-expensive show in prime time.