Conners season 5 missed opportunity with Harris pregnancy

The Conners lost their chance to make sitcom history in Season 5 when the Roseanne spinoff mishandled the shocking story of Harris' pregnancy.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Conners season 5, episode 15.

While "The Conners" season 5 had a big opportunity in the story of Harris' pregnancy, the Roseanne spinoff failed to capitalize on that opportunity. The Conners leveraged its status as a sitcom about working-class American families to comment on a range of social, cultural and political issues, as did its predecessor Roseanne. The Conners have a hard time balancing comedy and social commentary at times, but Roseanne struggles with that balance and still maintains a comedic tone.

However, while Season 5 of "The Conners" told the story most family sitcoms avoided when the spinoffs delved into Darlene's unemployment, the series also missed promising story opportunities. While Darlene's son Mark made an appearance early in the spinoff, Conners season 5 largely ignored his presence as Roseanne's follow-up focused on other characters. Worse than that, however, was "The Conners," season 5, episode 15, "Possums, Pregnancy, and Patriarchy," which essentially left the protagonists unable to avoid tough topics.

Harris’s Conners Season 5 Story Could Have Made Sitcom History

At the beginning of "Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy", Harris reveals that she is pregnant. This leads her to seek advice from her family, and Darlene proves she's the new Roseanne by immediately sparring with Harris Decide. However, the episode doesn't mention the word "abortion," even though Harris has stated in recent episodes that she doesn't want to be a mother. To sidestep a divisive issue, Season 5 of the Conners effectively rewrote Harris' entire character.

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With the exception of Maude's season 1 episodes 9 and 10, "Maude's Dilemma", there are few instances in television history of sitcom characters having abortions. The prescient short aired in 1972, while Maud creator Norman Lear's series "The Facts of Life" later featured a high school student who revealed that she had earlier The pregnancy was terminated off-screen. Since Maud's groundbreaking episode, sitcoms have almost always avoided the topic of abortion. Even in socially conscious sitcoms like The Conners and Roseanne (which touch on the subject twice), the choice of abortion is either excluded or not mentioned.

The Conners Season 5 Let Down Harris’s Story

Recent TV episodes have touched on abortion, but none of these are major network sitcoms. With "Possums, Pregnancy, and Patriarchy," the Conners have a chance to change that. Harris isn't a character who's ever expressed interest in parenthood, and just six months ago she broke off her engagement to Aldo, especially since he wanted a child from their marriage. As a result, Harris' choice to avoid an abortion is out of character and feels more like a decision to avoid angering viewers than to respect her character.

As evidenced by Jackie's tragic episode in season 5, the Conners are not averse to discussing heavy, challenging topics. In the past two seasons alone, the series has tackled alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to health insurance and proper care, LGBTQ+ bullying, mass shootings, and parental abuse. So bringing up the issue of abortion by getting Harris' character pregnant is an understandable decision. However, Harris' choice not to terminate the pregnancy was out of character for her. It flies in the face of what the audience knows about her (regardless of how that particular audience feels about abortion).

Roseanne Makes This Conners Mistake Worse

Surprisingly, Roseanne handles abortion better than The Conners season 5 in the '90s. In two episodes of Roseanne's season 7, episodes 10 and 11, "Thanksgiving '94/Maybe Baby," Dan and Roseanne's first scan reveals abnormalities in the fetus. While Roseanne co-star DJ offers to help the couple raise the baby, Dan and Roseanne remain as a couple struggling with whether or not they To be able to support another child, let alone a child with special needs. While the end of the episode conveniently reveals that the scan was wrong, Roseanne's story at least acknowledges that abortion exists, more than Conners managed in season 5.

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