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'The Conners' writer explains why show 'killed off Roseanne like that'

Showrunner Bruce Helford opened up about the decision to have Roseanne Conner die from an accidental drug overdose.
/ Source: TODAY

Roseanne Barr may not be happy about the way her character was killed off on "The Conners," but the show's writers believed it was a "respectful sendoff."

Bruce Helford, who co-wrote Tuesday's premiere of the new "Roseanne" spinoff, penned a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, explaining the decision to have Barr's character, Roseanne Conner, die of an accidental opiate overdose.

Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), Becky (Lecy Goranson) and Dan (John Goodman) struggle to make sense of Roseanne's death in "The Conners" premiere episode.ABC

"There was a lot of chatter in the ether about how we should explain Roseanne's absence: Should she have a sudden heart attack, a mental breakdown or go off into the sunset on a boat with her son Jerry Garcia?" Helford wrote of the writers' dilemma of creating a "Roseanne" spinoff without Barr, who was fired by ABC in May after tweeting a racist remark.

"But back in the writers room, we firmly decided against anything cowardly or far-fetched, anything that would make the fierce matriarch of the Conners seem pathetic or debased," he added.

Image: FILE PHOTO: Actress Roseanne Barr waves on her arrival to the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills
ABC canceled the top-rated "Roseanne" revival in May after star Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist remark about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

The writers eventually decided Roseanne Conner's departure should be a "permanent" one so that Conner family members "could truly move on boldly with their lives, evolve and grow."

But the manner in which Roseanne died "would have to be reverent to the woman who was so beloved by her family. And the result would have to leave no shadow over Dan, Jackie, Darlene, Becky, DJ and all of Lanford," he wrote.

Making things trickier was the fact that Barr helped launch Helford's television career. "I wanted a respectful sendoff for her," he wrote, "one that was relevant and could inspire discussion for the greater good about the American working class, whose authentic problems are often ignored by broadcast television."

"If you watched the first episode, I hope you'll agree we did that," he added.

Roseanne reacts after character's death on "The Conners"
Roseanne reacts after character's death on "The Conners"@therealroseanne/Twitter

Barr did presumably watch Tuesday's premiere and, unfortunately for Helford, she hated what she saw.

After the episode aired, the outspoken comedian took to Twitter to voice her outrage, tweeting, ""I AIN'T DEAD, B------!!!!"

In a more thoughtful post-show statement, one released in conjunction with longtime friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Barr made it clear she was disappointed by her character's death.

“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of 'The Conners,' all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne’s cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character," the statement read. "That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show."

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