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Roseanne had always been known as a series that managed to tackle a number of social issues in a way that was able to resonate with fans, while also still injecting a sense of humor into each subject it touched. Luckily, The Conners has picked up that mantle since its beginning last season, and the series shows no signs of slowing down. In a little over one season, the series has dealt with the opioid crisis, single motherhood, infertility, alcoholism, immigration and moving on after loss, and that's just the tip of the family comedy iceberg!
During a recent set visit, CinemaBlend's Jeff McCobb had the chance to speak with Michael Fishman, who plays DJ Conner, and asked if the writers make a concentrated effort to discuss social issues, or if this is just what happens when you write stories for a big family of characters. Fishman said that it's definitely on purpose, and believes he knows how The Conners can bring up so many important issues so successfully.
I think our writing staff, in particular, but also all of our executives and all of us as a cast have always had a real awareness. This show was started with an awareness and I think that’s important. We’ve never had anything be off limits or out of bounds, and I think what we try [to do] is deal with the things people are dealing with every single day. Take a really authentic look and then find the humor in that, because that’s kind of how you cope in real life.
According to Michael Fishman, the key, for The Conners, has always been the fact that everyone involved in the show has a deep awareness of what's going on in the real world and what families like the Conners are going through in many areas of their lives. No topic has ever been off limits when it comes to storytelling, mainly because they want to be able to have the show reflect real life and find the funny in the (frequently) deep topics that they discuss. This helps connect them to the audience, because it's often how people deal with difficulties in their own lives.
And, if you're wondering how the patented Conner sarcasm and pointed barbs at each other come into play there, Michael Fishman simply says that it all works to show how families deal with hard times and each other while in those hard times:
We have to find that way of coping, dealing and supporting each other. And, sometimes, that’s biting, sarcastic humor, and sometimes it’s putting your arm around your loved one and supporting them through things that you wished didn’t occur in the world in the social realm around you. I think we do a really great job of diving into that head first and always playing in the deep end and not skimming across the top of the water.
While the Conners of Lanford, Illinois have mostly been known for giving each other the business more often than not, they do also have many moments where they let their sarcastic shields down and simply comfort one another when times are tough...and times are always tough for the Conners.
Sure, they get mad at each other and make fun of each other's poor decisions or lack of action, but they will also go to the end of the Earth to stick their necks out for everyone in their family. In Season 1, Dan was very upset when Becky announced she was pregnant with, for a time, no clear idea who the father was and no desire to try to figure it out and let him know. Not only did the firm talking-to from her dad get her to change her mind, but everyone (even with all of their own problems) has rallied around her and offered support in a number of ways.
This is all while poking a bit of fun at Becky's "geriatric" pregnancy. So, you know, they're Connering this could-have-been-catastrophic situation up real good.