If you were under the impression that Roseanne might shy away from the political nature that made it a lightning rod for controversy this spring, we have some news for you.
Despite ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey informing reporters last week that season 11 of the beloved sitcom, its second since being successfully revived by the network and becoming the No. 1 show in America, would be less about politics and more about family, executive producer and co-showrunner Bruce Helford has admitted that that isn’t exactly the case.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the show’s season 10 finale, which saw the Conners get something of a win after a storm ravaged its way though Lanford, Helford admitted that the interpretation of Dungey’s comments hadn’t exactly been accurate.
“I think what she was reflecting was the first episode of the first season was very much on the nose because we wanted to show the polarity between Roseanne and Jackie and the other members of the family, their political views and how that had become part of the American landscape in a working class household,” he explained. “But definitely we will be tackling issues, but in all of the episodes…politics was a subtext and we always deal with it through the eyes of the family. So because we don’t want to be preachy, 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.”
One political hot button issue that came up during this most recent season was Muslim panic, which was addressed through Roseanne Conner’s (played by Rosanne Barr) biases towards her new neighbors, whom she’s been spying on. While Helford and his writing staff have yet to begin breaking story for season 11, he revealed that the plan is for Fatima (Anne Bedian) and her husband Samir (Alain Washnevsky) to return. “They’re their neighbors, they live right next door so we definitely want to see more of them,” he said.
Throughout the season, Roseanne welcomes back several familiar faces from its original nine-season run, none more highly-anticipated or difficult to arrange than Johnny Galecki‘s reprisal of David Healy. Despite his busy schedule on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, the show managed to snag him for an episode that colored in the dynamic between David and Darlene (Sara Gilbert), now divorced. With David returning to Lanford to try and develop a relationship with his children, the door was left open for Galecki to return down the line. And Helford’s hopeful it’ll happen.
“We certainly hope that Johnny Galecki will come back again as he has free time,” he said. “He wants to and we want to have him.”
As for where the show goes next season, there’s the small matter of Roseanne’s opioid addiction to deal with. Now that President Trump has declared a State of Emergency in Illinois from the storm, the Conner’s have found themselves the recipients of FEMA relief funds, which they plan to use to bankroll the knee surgery Rosie so desperately needs. One imagines that with the excuse of her knee pain removed, it’ll be a lot harder for her to keep her pill addiction under wraps.
While Helford promises the addiction storyline won’t be going anywhere, he’s less certain about where season 11 will pick the story back up. “We’re talking about if we come back in quote unquote real time, it would be probably right after Roseanne’s surgery but we may jump forward in time. We just really haven’t decided yet what we want to do there,” he admitted.
Whatever they decide, Helford’s just looking forward to keeping the conversation surrounding the show going. “This show has to go where other shows are a little afraid to go or may be very afraid to go. So the show will continue to be socially relevant, the show will continue to get this dialogue going. What I’ve said to everyone is…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 in America,” he said. “It’s really a really intense and educated discussion between all the bloggers and the critics and the reviewers and the lovers and the haters and it really has been I think really healthy and really always the intention to start a real dialogue. And I’m hoping that dialogue and those conversations are going on in people’s homes as they watch the show.”
Roseanne will return for season 11 this fall on ABC.