Featured on USA Today. Author: Bill Keveney
R.I.P., Roseanne Conner.
Viewers learned that the TV matriarch had died at the top of Tuesday's premiere of "The Conners," the spinoff sitcom that replaced "Roseanne" after a racist May tweet by star Roseanne Barr led to her firing and the top-rated sitcom's cancellation.
The cause of death? Opioid drug use that aggravated existing health conditions.
Barr, perhaps not surprisingly, took a different tack in a tweet – the communication form that got her in trouble in the first place – shortly after the episode aired on the East Coast.
"I AIN'T DEAD, BITCHES!!!" she wrote.
She also issued a more carefully crafted statement with her friend and adviser, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, arguing the importance of the canceled "Roseanne" in addressing the deep divisions threatening society and celebrating a strong matriarch. They objected strongly to the character's cause of death.
"While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of 'The Conners' … we regret that ABC chose to cancel 'Roseanne' by killing off the Roseanne Conner character," the statement says. "That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show. … This was a choice the network did not have to make."
They say ABC refused to grant forgiveness and another chance after Barr's racist tweet, which was directed toward Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama.
"After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness," they say.
There had been much speculation that death for the Roseanne character would be the only way for a new series about the working-class Conners to explain the permanent absence of the person at the center of the family.
John Goodman, who plays Roseanne's husband, Dan, let slip that Roseanne dies in a summer interview with a British news outlet, but ABC, producers and stars had been mum about the character's fate.
Later in Tuesday's episode, to the surprise of Conners, it was revealed that opioids played a role in the death of Roseanne. Family members had thought her heart was the cause, but Roseanne also had a problem with painkillers last season stemming from knee pain.
Dan found a way to pay for her knee surgery and said he threw out all of her drugs – or so he thought.
Roseanne's sister, Jackie, broke the news: “I just got a call from a friend in the coroner's office. The autopsy found that it wasn’t a heart attack. Roseanne OD’d on opioids.”
Dan was shocked. "That’s not possible. We knew she had a problem. She was only on pain pills for two days after surgery. And then it was just ibuprofen. It’s got to be wrong.”
Jackie: “Well, I wish it was but they think that she must’ve taken the pills right before bed and with her health issues, it was enough to stop her breathing.”
Dan responded: "It doesn't make any sense. I got her knees fixed. I flushed all her pills."
And then Roseanne's daughter, Becky, revealed she had found pills, supplied by a neighbor, in her mother's closet. A search revealed pills hidden in other spots in the house.
Barr had revealed the opioid abuse angle in a recent interview.