‘The Conners’ Return for Season 2 With an Emotional Trip to the Delivery Room

As the second season begins of ABC’s The Conners, the sitcom confirms that it is now truly free to become its own, enjoyable mix of humor and family drama. Its origins were of course overshadowed by the firing of Roseanne Barr from what was originally a revival of the show “Roseanne.” Going into a new round of episodes, “The Conners” more than ever is about the daughters now running the family and Dan (John Goodman) having to face what parenting truly means, albeit a little late in life.

We catch up with the lovingly feisty Conners with quite a few brewing dilemmas. Darlene (Sara Gilbert), the main breadwinner, is having duel love affairs with boyfriend Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) and ex-husband David (Johnny Galecki, who does not appear in this episode). Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) can’t offer much advice other than the need to eventually find a way to choose one. She herself is dealing with having mother Bev (Estelle Parsons) still around with her acid commentary. Dan (Goodman) is, as usual, playing the all-knowing grandfather but doesn’t notice that Darlene’s daughter Harris (Emma Kenney) has been making weed cookies in the kitchen. He only realizes it when an irate mother of one of Harris’s classmate customers comes knocking at the door. But everyone is soon scrambling to the hospital when Becky (Alicia Goranson) goes into labor two months early. 

The season two premiere, “Preemies, Weed and Infidelity,” is classic American sitcom vibes infused with modern commentary. The charm of the original “Roseanne” was that it celebrated working class American life like few shows of its time, indeed “The Conners” still stands out when compared to other network fare. There’s never enough money, Dan has to virtually threaten a hospital clerk so Becky can be quickly attended, Darlene has to juggle work and single parenting. We love the Conners because their struggles are our struggles too. If there are clashes they stem from Darlene angry that Dan isn’t really paying attention to what Harris is up to at the house. To Dan’s credit it’s a bit hard when Harris is going through the same, moody teenage phase her mom was famous for back in the 90’s. When Becky’s water breaks in the family living room, Harris can only moan, “this is why I never come downstairs.” There’s even some sly, biting social commentary when Becky asks everyone to join her since the baby’s father, Emilio, was deported at the end of last season. Bev has some funny moments of bad humor amid all the hospital chaos, saying the waiting room reminds her of the famous scene in “Gone With the Wind” where the camera pans over rows of Confederate wounded and dead. 

If there’s a gimmick that gets slightly weak it’s the whole love triangle involving Darlene. At the office Ben suggests they finally move in together. He notices she’s tense and distracted, but would never fathom the real reason. When Jackie finds Darlene walking out of her room and David asleep in her bed, she offers to take Ben off her hands. Well, why not? We wonder. But every sitcom needs this kind of juice to it. There are worst avenues “The Conners” could have taken.

Where the episode shines is in the moments dealing with Becky having a premature delivery. There are echoes here of the moving episodes in “Roseanne” long ago when Darlene also had a “premmie” birth. The moment the baby comes out and the doctors rush out with it, Becky breaks down with a well-written, moving regret about being too old to even have a child. Some dark humor brilliantly breaks the tension when Darlene reminds her that Harris was born premature and came out ok to which Becky replies, “no she didn’t!”

There’s also fun in these revival shows in the way they show characters we viewed as children now get a hard time from their own offspring. Darlene confronts Harris in the hospital about selling weed at school and Harris casually dismisses her, wondering why Darlene even cares when she’s rarely ever home anyway. For Darlene it’s a mirror reflection of how she used to give Dan and Roseanne such a hard time. A show like “The Conners” works because it’s about generations. It doesn’t need to retread, it just has to catch up with everyone. 

“The Conners” returns to remind us what primetime used to be. Producers Bruce Helford, Bruce Rasmussen, and Dave Caplan keep the “Roseanne” 90’s format intact while still updating it for new viewers. We laugh and might even cry, at least on the inside, because this family’s frustrations can hit close to home.

The Conners” season two premiered Sept. 24 and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.