TV re­boots are walk­ing back ma­jor story lines

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Travis M. An­drews

As “Roseanne” gears up for its re­turn to tele­vi­sion af­ter more than two decades off the air, its cre­ators opted to pre­tend a plot line taken in the orig­i­nal se­ries’ fi­nale never hap­pened. It’s a tac­tic seen in other shows, too, such as “Will & Grace” and “Dal­las.”

In the case of “Roseanne” and “Dal­las,” pro­duc­ers res­ur­rected pop­u­lar char­ac­ters killed off in pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions of the shows. With “Will & Grace,” char­ac­ters who had chil­dren when the show ended in 2006 will carry on as if they never had kids in a new ver­sion of the pro­gram.

As once-pop­u­lar shows resur­face again in new forms, tele­vi­sion fans are grow­ing used to plot­lines be­ing re­jig­gered. As net­works and stream­ing ser­vices race to re­vive old shows — as ev­i­denced by “Twin Peaks,” “Fuller House,” “The X-files,” “24” and “Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment,” to name a few — this chal­lenge will likely be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon.


ABC re­cently an­nounced an eight-episode re­boot of the pop­u­lar sit­com, which ran for nine sea­sons from 1988 to 1997. John Goodman is slated to reprise his role as Roseanne’s hus­band, Dan Con­ner, de­spite the fact that his char­ac­ter died in the orig­i­nal se­ries.

In the orig­i­nal show’s fi­nal sea­son, the blue-col­lar cou­ple ap­peared to find luck af­ter eight sea­sons of per­pet­ual strug­gle. Dan sur­vived the heart at­tack he suf­fered at the end of sea­son 8, and the fam­ily won $108 mil­lion in the Illi­nois State Lot­tery.

Life for the Con­ners was good. Or so it seemed.

The dev­as­tat­ing se­ries fi­nale ripped that hap­pi­ness away in its fi­nal few min­utes, when Roseanne Con­ner re­vealed that the fam­ily never won the lot­tery. Nor did Dan sur­vive — the heart at­tack killed him.

Ev­ery­thing that oc­curred in that last sea­son was fan­tasy, all writ­ten by Roseanne Con­ner (the char­ac­ter) as a means of cop­ing with her hus­band’s death.

The end­ing was praised by some crit­ics and fans, hated by oth­ers. One thing was cer­tain: it was no­ticed, end­ing up on var­i­ous Top 10 lists fea­tur­ing the best, worst and most con­tro­ver­sial fi­nales.

But now, the show is re­turn­ing in 2018, with Goodman back in the cast as Dan, ABC En­ter­tain­ment pres­i­dent Chan­ning Dungey con­firmed.

As­pects of the fi­nale re­main. For ex­am­ple, the Con­ners will not have won the lot­tery. In­stead, the fam­ily “will con­tinue to deal with the eco­nomic chal­lenges of liv­ing pay check to pay check in 2018,” as Dead­line re­ported.

Ra­bid fans of the show might not be shocked by the re­turn of Dan, given that Roseann Barr wrote a blog post in 2009 out­lin­ing what even­tu­ally hap­pened to all the char­ac­ters from her show, ac­cord­ing to Dead­line. Dan, she wrote, faked his own death and reap­peared alive.

“Will & Grace”

“Will & Grace” will re­turn to NBC on Sept. 24. But a few char­ac­ters will be miss­ing.

The show was four sin­gle peo­ple: two gay men named Will and Jack and their pla­tonic fe­male friends Grace and Karen. But the fi­nale gave Will a hus­band and a son, and Grace a daugh­ter and a hus­band.

In the new se­ries, the cre­ators will just pre­tend the mar­riages and chil­dren never hap­pened.

“That fi­nale re­ally caused us a lot of grief,” the show’s co-cre­ator Max Mutch­nick told En­ter­tain­ment Weekly. “You write a fi­nale be­cause a show is over. You never think that it’s com­ing back again.”

“When the de­ci­sion was made to bring the se­ries back, we were like, well, we left them with kids, right?” co-cre­ator David Ko­han added. “And if they have chil­dren, then it has to be about them be­ing par­ents, ’cause pre­sum­ably it would be a pri­or­ity in their lives. And if it wasn’t a pri­or­ity in their lives, then they’re still par­ents, they’re just bad par­ents, right? We frankly did not want to see them be­ing ei­ther good par­ents or bad par­ents. We wanted them to be Will and Grace.”

It helps that these are sit­coms, in which the plots aren’t nearly as im­por­tant as the laughs they pro­duce. Re­al­ism isn’t nearly as vi­tal as it is for dra­mas.


Dra­mas have a harder time. In 1985, when “Dal­las” was ar­guably one of the small screen’s most pop­u­lar shows, ac­tor Patrick Duffy chose to leave the show. So in its sea­son 8 fi­nale his char­ac­ter, Bobby Ew­ing, was killed off.

Or, as Chicago Tri­bune’s TV critic Jon An­der­son put it, he was shown “ex­pir­ing in a Dal­las hos­pi­tal” af­ter a de­mented hit-an­drun driver plows into a down­town crowd and hits him.

Trou­ble was, a year later, Duffy wanted to re­turn to the show and the pro­gram wanted him back. So how did they res­ur­rect his char­ac­ter?

In an now in­fa­mous scene, Bobby Ew­ing’s wife, Pamela, awak­ens to hear the shower run­ning. She is shocked to open the shower door and find the hus­band she thought was dead. “Morn­ing,” he says. When she ex­plains to him that she thought he was dead, he dis­misses it as a bad dream.

“None of that hap­pened,” he tells her.

The As­so­ci­ated Press called it “the shower heard ’round the world.”

Dan Wat­son, ABC

The orig­i­nal “Roseanne” cast, from left: Michael Fish­man, Sara Gilbert, Roseanne Barr, Ali­cia Go­ran­son, John Goodman and Lau­rie Met­calf.

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