“The Conners” is one of the first TV series — and the first multi-camera sitcom — to get back into production amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wednesday brought a first look at what fans of the “Roseanne” spinoff can expect to see in the third season.
Naturally, the pandemic is front and centre in the storyline. With both Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) out of work, they’ve gone full circle by taking jobs at Wellman plastics, where both their aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and late mom (Roseanne Barr) worked in the early seasons of “Roseanne” (alongside George Clooney, no less!).
So how will the Conners persevere through the pandemic? The way they always have, quips patriarch Dan (John Goodman): “We’re gonna watch TV, we’re gonna drink beer and we’re gonna blame all our troubles on the government.”
The cast and crew spoke with TV critics Wednesday in a virtual Q&A session, and showrunner Bruce Helford shared his take on how the family will be handling the coronavirus crisis.
“The characters were built for disaster,” said Helford. “We’ve been following their life and their trials through all the things going on since the 1980s. I know there are a lot of shows that aren’t going to be reflecting what’s really going on, but we felt that it was an obligation to our viewers and to stay relevant and to show them how it’s like for a family that knows how to get through hard times but is thrown a curve like never before.”
One thing viewers will notice is that when the family is gathered together, there are no masks or PPE. “Obviously we have rigid protocols on the stage — and those are maintained throughout,” said Helford, explaining the Conner family “doesn’t wear masks or social distance amongst themselves because they are in quarantine together when they are in the house.”
However, he insisted there were strict protocols in place during filming the show.
“We have zones where you have to wear a certain amount of PPE; we have testing before you come on to the stage and we are being extremely careful with everyone’s health. We have never been in the business of keeping everyone healthy before but we take it damn seriously,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gilbert — who’s also an exec producer — also confirming that, for the first time ever, the show is filming without a studio audience. “We’ve talked about it and we felt that the risks aren’t worth the benefit even if we’re testing people,” she said. “We’re just dealing with safety issues.”
The new season of “The Conners” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 21.