The cast of ‘The Conners’ on comedy against the backdrop of COVID-19
ABC’s “The Conners” isn’t really a sitcom. It’s more of a “human comedy”. Just like “Roseanne” (1988-1997, 2018), created by star Roseanne Barr and Matt williams, was praised for offering a realistic look at middle-class life while keeping people laughing, as well as Spinoffs set to return for its fourth season this fall.
This year, the expansive Conner family living in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois have been hit hard by COVID-19. There was unemployment. Dan (John goodman) almost lost the family home. His girlfriend Louise (Katey sagal) caught the virus. Becky (Lecy Goranson) got out of the wagon and into rehab where she had an emotional confrontation with her father Dan. Darlene (executive producer Sara gilbert) and her boyfriend Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) went through difficult times. Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) struggled to keep the Lunch Box restaurant afloat but found love with Louise’s brother Neville (Nat Faxon), the city veterinarian.
“I feel like we were trying to balance two things when we got there this season,” Gilbert noted in a recent Variety Zoom conversation with Metcalf, Goranson – and his stage thief cat – and executive producers. Bruce Helford, Bruce rasmussen and Dave caplan. “One is that we have a deal with our audience to try to paint a bit of real life for a middle class family. So I think we collectively felt it would be a betrayal not to portray him somehow and just go out to dinner, have a drink with friends.
But they also wanted to balance that with the “pretty severe” COVID fatigue people were having at the start of season three. “And then we wanted to show masks and the people who wore them. Playing a 22 minute show where everyone wears masks all the time is obviously not good TV. So it was also a balance.
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Gilbert gives the writers credit for walking the pandemic minefield while also tackling issues around her, such as when Darlene transferred some of her pandemic anxiety to her gay son Mark. “And Darlene thinking she’s spread COVID, which is another thing that worries a lot of us. And then the character of Katey Sagal becomes COVID. So we did not run away from it. “
Caplan admitted that it would have been easier to avoid the pandemic all together. But “we still feel like part of the Conners’ journey is also trying to keep your head above water in a cost-effective way. The pandemic hit families, especially families who didn’t have much of a safety net. We felt we had to portray it, although it certainly would have been easier to pretend we were a show set in a future or in the past. “
Perhaps the strongest episodes of this season came when Becky started drinking again only to be found by the sleeping family while taking care of her baby Beverly Rose. Returned to rehab, she finally confesses to Dan the impact of the death of her husband Mark (the late Glenn Quinn) on her while Dan lets out the pent-up feelings he had for Mark. “Everyone’s been sort of on the verge of breaking down,” Goranson said. “So it was no surprise that Becky would sort of crack this season. I know we all thought it was a little unrealistic for her to get sober when she got pregnant. I think in the scene with Becky and Jackie – it’s kind of when she hit rock bottom when Jackie says the baby fell into the crack between the bed and the wall. It’s a joke but I think Becky can’t dispute this as a possibility. I think what was so beautiful and powerful about this scene [in rehab with her father] is that you felt like Dan had kept a lot of that inside too, all of his true feelings about Mark.
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Caplan is just a media psychologist. “So when we got to this particular scene, Dave kind of walked us through what was real and what wasn’t,” Helford said. “You’ve seen a lot of therapy scenes on TV, and they usually say, ‘Oh my God, that’s it. Everything is fine now. And it’s not like that, obviously, most of the time. So Dave kind of walked us through what would have happened there. “
Metcalf described the writing of the series as “extremely relevant all the time. Our audience will accompany us sometimes when we get a little dark. I don’t even want to call it dark. Maybe just like “supremely realistic” at times. I am always amazed at the scenarios you invent. The actress noted that she didn’t know what to expect since she found love with Neville. “Oddly, I think Jackie isn’t really obsessed with this right now, which is quite surprising,” said Metcalf. “He likes older women. We know that. And he’s the best vet in Lanford. We love to work together. I have no idea what to expect. “
“Laurie is so fantastic at portraying Jackie’s neuroses and getting them out of her head and into the world,” Caplan said. “We figured if we gave her a good guy and watched her sabotage him with past damage, that would be as fun as giving him a bad guy.” And it turned out like this.
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