When The Conners premieres on ABC this week, it will be one of the biggest television events of the season. That’s the opinion of some ABC execs who are banking on a super-sized turnout for the pilot episode, “Keep On Truckin’.” The unexpected new series will follow the familiar Conner clan without their matriarch, Roseanne.
In an interview with Vulture, Andy Kubitz — ABC’s executive VP for programming strategy and scheduling — predicts that the new show will be a blockbuster, even if some of Roseanne’s still-miffed audience refuses to get on board and tune in.
“If we can capture even half of Roseanne’s audience from last year, we’ll be the number one new show for the season.”
After Roseanne Barr’s firing from ABC earlier this year, producers had to make some tough decisions about the future of the sitcom family. While the original series was built around Barr’s character, in the 20 years between the original show and the revival both John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf logged impressive acting credits that were Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony award worthy. Even with Barr out, ABC knew that the show had to go on.
“I mean, who wouldn’t want to put a show like that on the air?” Kubitz said.
Still, The Conners will have some big shoes to fill. According to Business Insider, a whopping 18.2 million viewers tuned in for the premiere episode of the Roseanne revival in March. The show captured 23.2 million average viewers for the whole season, putting it in a category with CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and well above ratings for the Will & Grace revival. The latter of which — while it was the fourth most popular sitcom of the 2107-18 season and was considered a hit — averaged 5. 5 million viewers during its first season.
ABC’s biggest comedy, Modern Family, premiered its 10th season last month and accrued just short of five million viewers. If The Conners can attract six to seven million viewers each week, it would be considered a great success for the network, Vulture notes.
While Kubitz knows that some of the viewers who watched Roseanne last season plan to boycott The Conners out of support for Barr, he says that the network is not worried.
“There’s gonna be people who straight up will not even give it a shot. Does it worry us? I don’t think so, because I think it’s a great TV show that has a great message, and talks to a certain part of our audience. I’m hoping people give it a chance.”
The Conners stars John Goodman and Sara Gilbert hope that people will give the spin-off series a chance.
“It don’t cost a thing,” Goodman told ABC News, while Gilbert added, “Just give it a shot, see what you think. I think you’ll find that we’re still trying to tell the same, honest stories.”
The Conners premieres October 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.