The Conners EPs Talk Darlene and Becky’s Futures and Carrying the ‘Weight of the Roseanne Legacy’ Heading Into Final Season

The Conners will soon disband, and poor Darlene is already suffering from separation anxiety.

In Wednesday’s Season 6 finale, Becky and Harris broke the news that they were planning to move out of Darlene’s home. Darlene ultimately agreed to co-sign a lease so that Harris could rent a one-bedroom apartment and start her life. Becky, meanwhile, decided to stay put after Darlene told her that Tyler could move in, thus affording Beverly Rose’s mom a chance to find out if she and her new beau are truly compatible before she uproots her life.

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Elsewhere, Darlene’s son Mark took a series of odd jobs, determined to find a way to pay for tuition at the University of Chicago. After striking out as a repo man (with an assist from retired-and-restless yokes Dan and Jackie), the tech whiz took an illegal hacking job that is bound to end poorly for him in Season 7.

As previously reported, the Roseanne spinoff will end with a shortened seventh season, consisting of just six episodes and premiering in 2025. It will mark the franchise’s 17th season overall, and bring the decades-long Conners saga to a close after a remarkable 343 episodes. Below, executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan touch on key moments from Wednesday’s finale — including a heart-to-heart between Darlene and Dan — and discuss the pressure that comes with carrying “the weight of the Roseanne legacy” as they contemplate how to put a bow on two distinct (but interconnected) shows.

TVLINE | In this episode, Darlene acknowledges how she stepped up to take care of the family after Roseanne died. Do you think that’s something that she’s been cognizant of this entire time — that she became the de-facto matriarch — and how she’s been letting that role affect all of her decisions?
HELFORD | In the very beginning, when we came back after the death of Roseanne, it was kind of between Jackie and Darlene. Both were vying for who was going to be, more or less, the matriarch of the family. Darlene was a reluctant matriarch; Jackie was too emotional to handle it and had a breakdown. I think Darlene has evolved into the role, and I think she has come to accept that she’s the go-to person for everybody.
CAPLAN | Being the matriarch has always been a weight on Darlene. It’s something she knew she had to do because she was the most logical and the most qualified, but it wasn’t something that was excited about; it was something that she knew she had to do. It was an obligation, and she was conscientious about it. For the first time, she is thinking about loyalty, about reciprocity. She’s thinking, “I stepped up when I needed to. Where’s everyone else?”
HELFORD | Classically, Darlene was the first one who wanted to get out of the house and get away from the family. She talked about having a place with Ben where she could wave goodbye to everybody and lock them out. Now she is realizing that she actually needs them. Dan explains to her that that’s the nature of maturing, and getting older and having kids, and now she’s just one big pile of mush, which he has become as well.

TVLINE | Now that Darlene is starting to come to terms with the idea that the family doesn’t need her as much anymore, will she be able to start making some decisions about her own life — particularly about her career, and what she wants to do next, now that she no longer has to work at the cafeteria to support Mark?
HELFORD | Yes…. Even though she doesn’t know that Mark is hacking and doing something illegal, she feels that she is at the point now that she can finally get out from under the hairnet and maybe do something more. Of course, Ben is off starting a magazine, which is going to be interesting because that’s a shaky venture, at best.
CAPLAN | I get the sense that Darlene is at a crossroads right now where she is [either] going to decide what she is going to do for a career, or whether she is just going to have jobs. I think this is the last stop on that road, and there’s not a lot of time left to make that decision. This is it for her. She has to know if she is going to do something the rest of her life that is meaningful to her, or whether it is going to be something that pays the bills.
HELFORD | Everything along the way has been an adjustment to compensate for the financial problems that Dan was having, then with the kids [and helping Mark through school]. Now she’s at the second act of her life, and she has to make a decision.

TVLINE | A theme throughout this run has been just how enmeshed the Conners are. Ben, Louise, Neville… everyone who has married into the Conner family has acknowledged it, and it has led to issues in Darlene, Dan and Jackie’s respective relationships. Do you think this enmeshment is a good thing? Or do you think that it has been holding everyone back?
CAPLAN | I think you have identified the push-pull of having the support net of family. It was survival for them to band together and circle the wagons, but we try to get comedy from the fact that there’s a yin and a yang to it; there’s a balance, and people have resentments, and they grow and they change. This enmeshment that you’re talking about can be a burden at times, just as it is a support [system] at other times.
HELFORD | We came to a point where, finally, Darlene had to move out [in Season 5]. Of course, the family just migrated over to her house, so the enmeshment continues. [Laughs] It’s a tricky thing. They love and need each other, and on occasion they just get completely under each other’s skin.
CAPLAN | We have certain episodes, like that Thanksgiving episode a few seasons back, where Darlene controlled the fate of the Lunch Box. Jackie desperately wanted it, and it ended with Jackie slapping Darlene in this very startling moment. That’s the height of it, this moment where they’re all kind of dependent on each other. There’s a cost to that.

TVLINE | Dan and Jackie don’t know what to do with themselves now that they’re retired, so they offer to get odd jobs to support Mark. Watching this, I was torn, because as wonderful as it is to see them do what they can to support Darlene’s son, you also want to see them enjoy their well-earned retirement. How are you planning to approach this new phase of their lives in Season 7?
HELFORD | Dan and Jackie are both suffering that malaise that people get when they first retire and don’t have something to do. Right now, it’s a stop-gap measure, and maybe they’re even a little happy about the fact that they’ve got to get jobs now to help Mark because it gives them an excuse to do something, but they’re definitely changing. I mean, gosh, it was Dan’s dream to ultimately own the house, be able to stop, and not drop on the job. For Jackie, her [retirement] came a little bit unexpectedly. She thought she was going to get more time with Neville than she is getting. That’s got to be dealt with.
CAPLAN | We don’t want to say too much about what’s going to happen, but generally, the last thing any of the Conners expected to do was retire. They’re a little thrown by it.
HELFORD | Dan didn’t think he’d live long enough to get his social security!

TVLINE | Darlene gives Becky the go-ahead to invite Tyler to come live with them… but isn’t that something Darlene should run by Ben?
HELFORD | That’s the nature of their relationship. Darlene tends to make decisions. I think it’s going to come up. Ben and Tyler have formed a friendship, so it’s a little bit in the wind that he would probably be OK with it. But the idea is that she makes the decision while Ben is gone, and she can go and say that he made the decision to [buy] a magazine.

TVLINE | As someone who works in journalism in the year 2024, I was surprised that Ben would go and invest the insurance money he got for the hardware store to invest in print media. Isn’t that a terrible idea?
HELFORD | [Laughs] He truly believes that he can make a combination trade magazine that is also a short story magazine like The New Yorker. I think he really believes there’s something in that. The safety in that is that it’s a trade magazine, and trade magazines still thrive pretty much.
CAPLAN | It felt very Conners to us that what Ben really wants is to write long-form pieces for The Atlantic, but what he’s going to get is a hardware industry trade magazine, and try to turn it into something he likes.

TVLINE | Before you were renewed for a final season, we’d been hearing that you prepared an alternate tag scene in case this had been your series finale. Can you confirm whether something was filmed, and what audiences would have seen?
HELFORD | At one point, we were going to film something which we decided not to film. We decided to wait because the signals from ABC were that we didn’t need to end this now. Everybody always wanted to continue and give the show a proper ending. The original idea behind the Roseanne [revival] was to do one season, reclaim the legacy and stop, and then something went wrong. And then we did another season as The Conners to reclaim the legacy and stop. Honestly, none of us thought this would ever go 100+ episodes. But it kept being fun, and every year we all got together and agreed that we all wanted to continue. We feel the quality is there, and everybody is enjoying themselves.

TVLINE | But you did script something, just in case?
HELFORD | We did script something. We had written a possible ending, because we didn’t want to end the show just on a note of business as usual. We didn’t know for sure, and it was a huge thing to Sara [Gilbert], and to all of us, that we go out on our terms. The message we were getting from the network was basically that you don’t have to go out now. So we didn’t film that…. We didn’t want to manifest our fate. There was a kind of video goodbye that [the cast] shot, just in case, and that didn’t become necessary [to use, either].
CAPLAN | The actors are so invested in the show, and have been for so long, that they were very adamant that we have the right kind of goodbye. Everybody knew that what we wanted was a run of episodes to wrap this up with the dignity the show deserves. But it all worked out. We have a set of episodes to bring the saga to a proper conclusion.
HELFORD | We didn’t need more than six episodes, to be honest. We weren’t cancelled; this was [always the plan], so that worked out the way we wanted it to. So now we have, as [Disney Television Group president] Craig [Erwich] announced us, “one of the major TV events of 2025.” So it’s going to be a big thing.

TVLINE | Do you intend to approach these last six episodes as you would any other season? Or are you looking at this short order as something of an epilogue, and building toward a big finish?
HELFORD | This will be a six-episode event.

TVLINE | Beyond Becky finishing school and potentially settling down with Tyler, and Darlene finding a job where she feels content, are there any other boxes you want to check off in these final six episodes? It does seem like everyone else is settled.
We don’t want to give anything away, but there are no shortage of surprises in the Conners’ lives. What’s that line in Fiddler on the Roof? “We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” [Laughs] I think that there is much to happen that is not expected. I mean, we’ve got Bev out there, basically hopping trains and stealing pies off of windowsills. There are a lot of things that are in play, that are in motion, and a lot of things that will come in that aren’t in motion yet.

TVLINE | I already brought this up to Lecy Goranson a couple of weeks ago, but I need confirmation. There was a scene in Episode 9 where Dan told the family to come into the living room to watch the Illinois State Lottery drawing. I was watching live that night, and for a brief moment I thought, “Is the show about to double down? Are we about to repeat history?” That’s not where the story went, but it sure felt like a tease to me.
HELFORD | That was an Easter egg, just for fun.
CAPLAN | That was fun for us.

TVLINE | But it got me thinking bigger picture, and about a word you already used, which is legacy. Roseanne’s 1997 series finale retconned the lottery win… then the 2018 revival season retconned the original series finale. As you approach The Conners’ series finale, are you taking that all into account — that you’re not just wrapping this seven-season run, but a combined 17-season run that started in 1988?
HELFORD | We carry the weight of the Roseanne legacy. It’s a big, big deal. I can promise you this: They will never win the lottery, and they will never be rich.
CAPLAN | The whole time that we’ve been doing The Conners, we’ve never stopped feeling the pressure of the legacy of the entire run. We owe it to these characters because they’re the same characters. That is at the forefront of our minds with all of the stories that we’ve broken for The Conners, and it will be on our minds for the last six.
HELFORD | There are some doors we closed because we really felt that it would inhibit the characters and make it more difficult [to write stories for them]. I saw there was a big article, someone talking about the mysteries of disappearing characters from the original run of Roseanne. Certain things are still up in the air a little bit, and we’ve asked ourselves if these things can be reintroduced, and if there’s a way to do it realistically. The lottery was something we won’t ever be bringing back, and we pretty much decided that Jackie’s first marriage was part of “the dream.” We had to decide when the dream started, and at the point we decided the dream started, everything from that point on was not [canon].
CAPLAN | It’s no secret that there were some chaotic seasons in the early days of the Roseanne show, with leadership and such, so we really wanted the things that were most impactful to the audience, and most meaningful to the arcs of the characters in the long run. That guided our decisions.

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The Conners will return for Season 7 in 2025. In the meantime, grade the Season 6 finale, then hit the comments with your hopes for the final six episodes.

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