Furrow-browed ABC executives and fans of “Roseanne” the reboot take note: The show’s heavily debated dive into the political scene as seen through the lens of the Conner family won’t stop anytime soon.
In a conference call promoting the first-season finale on May 22, executive producer Bruce Helford offered a tease of the second season: “There will probably be controversy in the future.”
He added: “Put it this way. The threads have all been put in to go forward so the things that are raised there will definitely be continuing through next season. There’s all kinds of issues to be discussed.”
Helford, who also worked on the sitcom’s initial run, was unable to get into specifics, citing that the writers won’t begin planning where to take the Conners next until late this month.
Also up in the air is whether to pick up from where the finale leaves off or whether the show should move forward in time.
Story lines that are likely to continue include the opioid addiction of Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr), which was revealed in this week’s episode, and the Islamophobia sparked by a Muslim family who moved in next door to the Conners: “We want them to return, they’re their neighbors,” Helford said.
He added that the show planned to examine further cultural changes to the Conner’s fictitious Lanford, Ill., which, like what he considered one of the town’s real-life counterparts in Elgin, Ill., has seen an influx of Latino residents. “We definitely will be seeing more Hispanic characters.”
“As, hopefully, as well done as it can, we’re going to be socially relevant and talk about all the issues that are facing working-class people in America,” Helford said.
The producer also resisted the idea that the Conners were intended as surrogates for families who support President Trump, and clarified remarks made by ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey during this week’s television upfronts in which she hinted that “Roseanne” would turn away from politics to focus more on family in the new season.
“I think what [Dungey] was reflecting more is the first episode of the first season, which was very much on the nose, because we wanted to show the polarity between Roseanne, her sister Jackie [Laurie Metcalf] and the other members of the family and how that had become part of the American landscape,” he said.
“But in all the episodes, politics was subtext, and we always wanted to deal with it through the eyes of the family,” Helford added. “ We don’t want to be preachy, and we’re not doing the issue of the week, but at the same time we will definitely be handling issues that are political hot buttons. Whether people agree with the show, don’t agree with the show, I love the level of discussion that’s going on about this show.”
He said the show had “plans and hopes” to see other characters from the original series return next season, including another appearance by Johnny Galecki, who came back for a recent episode. Galecki, who stars in “The Big Bang Theory,” played the on-and-off boyfriend of Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert).
“We’d certainly love to see George Clooney — I am not promising anything,” Helford said.
Helford also outlined a few changes to the show’s writing staff going into the new season. He said Whitney Cummings was doubtful to return next season because of other commitments, but added, “She’s always a member of the family.”
The show will be adding new writers Ali Liebegott (“Transparent”), Emily Wilson (“A.P. Bio”) and comic Jena Friedman as well as bringing back Norm Macdonald and Wanda Sykes. But for all the changes, the show remains committed to addressing difficult topics.
“We feel in order to have an honest dialogue, you have to make people uncomfortable,” Helford said.
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