Nielsen says 10.5 Million Watch Premiere of 'The Conners.'

This image released by ABC shows Lecy Goranson, from left, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert in a scene from Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via AP
This image released by ABC shows Lecy Goranson, from left, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert in a scene from "The Connors," airing Tuesdays on ABC.

October 17, 2018 12:18 PM

The 10.5 million people who tuned in to ABC to watch the premiere of ABC's sitcom "The Conners" is a classic half-full, half-empty story.

It was the first time the old "Roseanne" cast had appeared without Roseanne Barr, and viewers were curious how the sitcom would deal with her absence after being fired by ABC. (Spoiler alert: she died because of an opioid addiction).

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The Nielsen company said Wednesday the audience for "The Conners" was larger than any other ABC show this new season, either new or returning. It was bigger than any new show on any network, narrowly beating NBC's "Manifest."


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Yet it could not approach the 18.2 million people who watched the first episode of the "Roseanne" reboot last spring.

"The Conners" star Michael Fishman says dealing with the cancellation of "Roseanne" reboot was heartbreaking but describes the return of the cast in the revamped show without Roseanne Barr as a gift.

Fishman was among "The Conners" stars who came out for the premiere of the show on Tuesday night at the Paley Center — the same night it made its debut on ABC.

Barr was fired from "Roseanne" after making a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a top official in the administration of former President Barack Obama. Barr tweeted over the summer: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." She was dismissed shortly thereafter and the show was canceled.

Fishman plays Roseanne's son DJ on the show, and had been a part of "Roseanne" since he was a boy. He describes moving on without Barr in the spinoff as "odd."

"We had such a close relationship and we think about her all the time. But, at the same time, we know as a group that we kind of collectively have taken the decision to carry the legacy, and so it's important for us to do it right," Fishman said.

But it was a little nerve-wracking before the spinoff was announced.

"Well it was a heartbreaking summer, but then the idea of coming back was just kind of this amazing gift. You know this will be the third time that we're all together in this way and trying to bring these characters to life. And it's a really special opportunity," Fishman said.

The Nielsen company said Wednesday that 10.5 million people tuned in, larger than any other ABC show this new season. But it didn't come close to the 18.2 million people who watched the first episode of the "Roseanne" reboot last spring.

Lecy Goranson, who plays Becky, says Barr's firing initially affected so many more.

"I think what people don't understand is it's not just the cast or the writers. We have a huge crew that was also put out by all of this, and people who not only love to work, but they love to work with each other," Goranson said.

The new series begins after the death of Barr's character from an opioid overdose.

Goranson thinks that while Barr's infamous tweet was racially insensitive, she doesn't believe that Barr is a racist.

"I feel like the comment was racist. I think undeniably it was. And part of what I thought was what it must be like to be a black person in America and grow up to hear those comments, whether it's at the grocery store or in the media or wherever you are, over and over and over again. And how that must chip at yourself over time, even — especially if it's casual," Goranson said.

However, Goranson says she doesn't think Barr's tweet reflects who she is as a person. Nevertheless, she feels Barr acted irresponsibly.

"Do I think Roseanne is a racist? No. Has she ever said a racist thing to me one time? Never. So, to me it was a political thing. It was a mistake. But you know, if you're that — if you're on the forefront of a show and you're the star — you have to take accountability for what you say and do. And, unfortunately, this was the outcome, and it's devastating," Goranson said.

Co-stars Sara Gilbert and John Goodman were also at the premiere, but declined to walk the red carpet.

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The Associated Press

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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