‘The Conners’ may not last without Roseanne

Lukewarm critical reviews and low fan expectations are raising questions about the viability of “The Conners,” the “Roseanne” spinoff set to premiere Tuesday night on ABC. The network’s June firing of star Roseanne Barr may make survival tough for one of TV’s most beloved families.

In a TV Insider poll last month, 75 percent of viewers said they would not watch “The Conners” spinoff without Barr, whose namesake sitcom reboot was axed after Barr drew widespread outrage concerning a racist tweet about the physical appearance of former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, a person of color.

Like fans, critics aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the spinoff series, either. After viewing two sample episodes, Deadline Hollywood critic Dominic Patten describes the show as an “adequate offering” that’s “packed with jokes and one-liners you can see coming long before they land and full of scenarios you’ve seen a million times before on the small screen.”

Daniel Fienberg of the Hollywood Reporter writes that “The Conners” is “nothing if not proficient and comfortably in the rhythms of the original show — though rest assured that a certain percentage of right-leaning viewers will rage against Barr’s departure and absence.”

Last year’s “Roseanne” premiere — a continuation of the hit sitcom that ran from 1988 to 1997 — drew 18 million viewers. Barr’s firing, just before the season concluded, was a public-relations nightmare, with ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey describing Barr’s tweet as “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”

Nevertheless, the show’s season finale drew more than 10 million viewers, convincing at least a few insiders at ABC that Barr should have kept her job.

“What Roseanne did was wrong but we shouldn’t have rushed to fire her,” an unnamed exec reportedly told Breitbart last week. “It was almost a knee-jerk reaction by Ben [Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group] and Channing, who should have launched an investigation. This would have given them more time to listen to the public, advertisers and cast members to determine the best decision.”

Earlier this month, Barr’s co-stars spoke of missing the controversial comedian and said that playing the Conner family is “awkward” without her.

“The Conners” premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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