Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Conners season 5, episode 15.While The Conners season 5 had a huge chance with the story of Harris’ pregnancy, the Roseanne spinoff failed to capitalize on this opportunity. The Conners uses its status as a sitcom about a working-class American family to comment on a range of social, cultural, and political issues, as did its predecessor, Roseanne. It can be tough for The Conners to balance comedy and social commentary at times, but Roseanne struggled with this balance and still maintained a comedic tone.

However, while The Conners season 5 addressed a story most family sitcoms avoid when the spinoff delved into Darlene’s unemployment, the series also misses promising story opportunities. While Darlene’s son Mark came out early in the spinoff, The Conners season 5 has largely ignored his existence as the Roseanne follow-up focuses on other characters. Worse than this, however, was The Conners season 5, episode 15, “Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy,” which fundamentally failed its main character to avoid a tricky topic.

Related: The Conners Proves Roseanne’s Influence Can Be Problematic

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 counsel from her family, and Darlene proves she’s the new Roseanne by instantly fighting with Harris over her life decisions. However, the episode doesn’t mention the word “abortion,” even though Harris has stated that she does not want to become a mother in recent episodes. In an attempt to sidestep a divisive issue, The Conners season 5 effectively rewrites Harris’s entire persona.

There are almost no instances of sitcom characters accessing abortions in TV history, save for Maude season 1, episodes 9 and 10, “Maude’s Dilemma.” This prescient outing aired in 1972, while Maude creator Norman Lear’s series The Facts of Life later featured a high school student revealing she had terminated a pregnancy offscreen sometime earlier. Since Maude‘s groundbreaking episode, sitcoms have almost always avoided the subject of abortion. Even in socially conscious sitcoms like The Conners and Roseanne (which touched on the subject twice), the option of abortion is ruled out or goes unmentioned.

The Conners Season 5 Let Down Harris’s Story

Harris argues with Darlene's neighbor in The Conners

Recent TV episodes have addressed abortion, but none of these have been major network sitcoms. With “Possums, Pregnancy and Patriarchy,” The Conners had the chance to change this. Harris isn’t a character who ever expressed any interest in parenthood before, and only six months earlier, she broke off her engagement to Aldo specifically because he expected a child from their marriage. As such, Harris’s choice to avoid abortion didn’t fit her persona and felt more like an attempt to avoid angering viewers than a decision that honored her character.

As Jackie’s tragic season 5 arc proves, The Conners isn’t averse to discussing heavy, challenging subjects. Over its last two seasons alone, the series has addressed alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, unemployment, poverty, the lack of access to medical insurance and adequate care, LGBTQ+ bullying, mass shootings, and parental abuse. As such, the choice to bring up the issue of abortion by making Harris’s character pregnant was an understandable decision. However, Harris’s choice not to terminate the pregnancy did not gel with her established character. It flew in the face of everything viewers know about her (regardless of a given viewer’s opinion on abortion).

Related: The Conners Season 5 Episode 13 Release Date (And Hiatus Explained)

Roseanne Makes This Conners Mistake Worse

the conners Darlene Roseanne

Surprisingly, Roseanne handled the subject of abortion better than The Conners season 5 back in the ‘90s. In the two-part episode of Roseanne season 7, episodes 10 and 11, “Thanksgiving ’94/Maybe Baby,” Dan and Roseanne’s first scan suggested fetal abnormalities. While Roseanne supporting character, DJ, offered to help the pair raise this child, Dan and Roseanne still had a candid discussion as a couple over whether they could afford to raise another child, let alone one with special needs. While the episode’s ending conveniently revealed the scan was wrong, the Roseanne story at least acknowledged the existence of abortion, which is more than The Conners managed in season 5.

More: The Conners Season 5 Proves It Doesn’t Need Roseanne Cameos

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