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The Conners: Roseanne Reboot Needed Young Sheldon’s Smartest Trick

When The Conners rebooted Roseanne without the title star, the sitcom could have taken a leaf from The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon’s book and copied that show’s cleverest trick. The Conners has a complicated history. The sitcom began life as Roseanne way back in 1988, when it was a vehicle for its star Roseanne Barr.

Roseanne was canceled after a disastrous ninth season in the late ‘90s, but 2017 saw the series revived for a tenth season featuring the entire original cast. However, soon after, racist remarks by Barr resulted in Roseanne dropping its titular star, and The Conners has struggled with Roseanne’s exit ever since. Few, if any, sitcoms could handle such a fundamental upheaval gracefully, but The Conners failed to borrow a trick used by The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon that could have helped the series.

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After The Big Bang Theory ended, Young Sheldon reintroduced the show’s star as a precocious teen. The spinoff traded The Big Bang Theory's hang-out sitcom formula for a family sitcom setup, and in the process made a stylistic shift that The Conners would have learned from. While The Conners couldn’t pull off a time jump between seasons while retooling Roseanne, unlike Young Sheldon, the reboot could have switched from Roseanne’s traditional multi-camera setup to a single camera, laugh-track-free style. This switch let the spinoff feel fresh even as Young Sheldon revisited The Big Bang Theory’s oldest gags, and the same change could have made The Conners feel like a new, related show, rather than “Roseanne sans Roseanne.”

Switching from a multi-camera setup to a single camera one is a major stylistic change for a series to undergo, but could have allowed The Conners to visually look like a different show from Roseanne. Not only that, but single-camera comedies like Scrubs, The Office, and Modern Family dominate the modern sitcom landscape, meaning this retool could also have made The Conners feel more timely and less antiquated. The loss of Roseanne was a major blow to the show’s established formula, so changing the style of The Conners could have made this shift feel more intentional and less forced. The absence of recurring Roseanne characters from The Conners can often make the show feel like a flawed follow-up, whereas a single-camera family comedy that brought back the same characters in a new style could have felt less derivative of the original series.

That being said, the switch to a single-camera style alone may not have been enough to help The Conners. Unlike Young Sheldon, the show is not a normal spinoff, but rather a retooling. Reshaping the series Roseanne without Roseanne is a tall order for any creator, and it could be argued that no amount of updating the show’s style could help this imbalance. However, when many of the biggest storylines on The Conners such as Darlene and Ben’s relationship rely on drama as much as comedy, the more intimate single-camera style would have been a fitting switch for the show to make. As such, the Roseanne reboot The Conners should have copied Young Sheldon’s stylistic choice, even if this alone may not have redefined the show.

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