In the short seven weeks that it’s been on the air, ABC’s revival of Roseanne has courted its fair share of controversy. And tonight’s episode is no different.
In “Go Cubs!,” the revival’s seventh episode to air, Roseanne Conner was forced to confront her bias against people of Muslim faith when she needed to befriend her new neighbors in order to use their Wi-Fi so granddaughter Mary could Skype for her mother Geena, who’s stationed over in Afghanistan. It was an episode that allowed for the series to play Roseanne’s Islamaphobia for laughs before delivering something of a heartwarming “we’re more alike than we are different” message. And it was an idea that came from Roseanne Barr herself.
“Roseanne said ‘What if a Muslim family lives next door?’ And all of the writers looked at each other for about five seconds and went ‘Yeah, we’re doing that,'” co-executive producer Dave Caplan explained in a featurette released by the network.
“She starts from being very fearful from this family that moved in next door that she doesn’t know and once she gets to know them she realizes there’s probably more similarities than differences,” he continued. “And she was pretty clear about that she wanted to get a comeuppance for her own bias. That was her idea.”
While Roseanne does get a comeuppance, she also gets to undergo a Very Special Episode-sort of transformation, coming to her neighbor Fatima’s (Anne Bedian) defense in the grocery story with a full-throated rebuke of a cashier’s ignorant comments.
“I want people to laugh. That’s my main focus, is that it’s funny. And in the funny, it’s kind of heartwarming,” Barr explained. “I don’t think about how can I break territory? I just thought it would be really relevant for a show about immigrants and prejudice. So we find a way to cut to the humanity of each other. And I like that for, you know, my show.”
Roseanne airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.