Why 'Roseanne,' 'Will & Grace' and other TV reboots are walking back major story lines
By TRAVIS M. ANDREWS | The Washington Post | Published: August 8, 2017
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.
"I don’t want to talk too specifically, but I wouldn’t say we’ll ignore the events of the finale," Dungey told reporters at a news conference in Beverly Hills, California, according to Entertainment Weekly. "Dan is definitely still alive."
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 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," for example, will return to NBC on Sept. 24 stateside. 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 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-and-run 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."