‘The Conners’ EPs Say Season 6 Finale Sets the Stage for ‘Dignified’ Goodbye

Note: The following story contains spoilers from “The Conners” Season 6 finale.

“The Conners” Season 6 finale brought some big changes and promising developments for the titular working class family — setting the stage for a “very big” event to say goodbye when the show returns in 2025.

The finale, titled “Less Money, More Problems,” followed the aftermath of Mark (Ames McNamara) learning he’d been accepted into the University of Chicago after Becky (Lecy Goranson) sent in an application without his knowledge. Though at first it seemed like he would have to reject the acceptance due to the family’s financial situation, he decided to go for it on his own and do what he could to get himself through school.

The finale saw him attempt to work repossessing cars — a job that proved too difficult even with the help of Dan (John Goodman) and his Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). After consulting with some friends, Mark ended up securing a questionable job as an illegal hacker — and lied to Darlene (Sara Gilbert) about having a stable job, leaving that potential twist on hold until the show returns next year.

With Mark’s school business in his hands, Darlene started to make moves to quit her cafeteria job at his old college and also agreed to help Harris (Emma Kenney) land a lease at a new apartment. And while Becky threatened to also move out in the finale, she instead decided to have Tyler (Sean Astin) move in with her and Darlene, setting up fun dynamics for next season.

Season 7, set to consist of six episodes, will return midseason on ABC. After the “Roseanne” spin-off series reached its 100th episode earlier this year, producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan told TheWrap that while they would have loved to keep the series going for more seasons, they would be happy with a shorter order to conclude the show should the time come for the comedy to say goodbye.

“How often on TV do you get a chance to walk away while you’re still strong. We’re still the most-watched show on the network, so to go out on top is pretty appealing,” Caplan said.

Below, the show’s executive producers talk about the Conner family’s growth in Season 6 and tease their plans for a “dignified” ending to the “Roseanne” franchise — at least for now.

TheWrap: All of the Conners celebrated or kicked off major milestones with the Season 6 finale, many of which have been gearing up all season. What has been the best part of crafting these characters’ growth with Season 6?

Dave Caplan: I think Season 6 really shows that all of the struggle [that’s come before] has really meant something. They’re all on really interesting journeys. And despite the odds against them, especially the economic odds, they’re finally starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Bruce Helford: We’ve been through a lot of really tough times with them. And there’s still a bit of tragedy before getting to that light, with the burning down of the hardware store, and that leading to some interesting openings for people. But we really feel like there was a lot of great evolution within the characters in Season 6, which is probably the toughest thing to do with any series.

This is the 16th or 17th season of these characters, not consecutively. But the show’s been on now for 16 years. So, whenever we feel they’ve come to a new level, it’s very rewarding.

Mark gets into the University of Chicago and starts to work on making his ambitions come true on his own, all while holding on to the pressures of carrying his family and their future with him. Where will this new opportunity lead him and the family from here?

Helford: Well, he’s hacking illegally, so we know that that’s going to have interesting consequences. He definitely doesn’t like carrying the weight of being the person who ends the cycle of poverty for the Conners. He never asked for that, but he is accepting it and he also wants it for himself… Nothing can be more frustrating than knowing there’s an opportunity there for you that you can’t take advantage of. So as is consistent with his character, he’ll do things that are sometimes untoward to get him where he needs to go. This is another step in that direction.

He wants this and doesn’t want to put the burden on the family, so he’s willing to put the burden on himself and even put himself in some jeopardy to achieve it.

Caplan: Mark’s journey is definitely not done. A lot of times he’s been a stoic guy. Whatever kind of unfairness that has befallen him, he mostly grins and bears it with a couple of exceptions over the years. But he’s getting to the point now where he’s really feeling the unfairness the Conners’ economic situation. He’s coming to grips with that, and that forced him into the hacking place where we left him, which he knows, morally, is not what he should be doing. But he’s angry at the world for putting him in the situation. So he still has to figure out how to reconcile what he wants and how to get it.

Ames McNamara in “The Conners.” (Disney/Eric McCandless)

Harris is moving out and Becky has invited Tyler to move in with her and Darlene. What are you excited to explore with the family from here?

Helford: Harris is definitely going off on her own and Darlene now — because she thinks that Mark has a great job that he lied about — can change her direction and get out of the cafeteria. So that’s going to be interesting because it’s built on sand.

And of course, Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) is starting a magazine, and you know what a great idea that is. So I think we have a lot of movement, some up some down some sideways. It’s going to be interesting with the last six episodes — which we had always planned to do a final group of episodes. We now have the pleasure and burden of creating a great ending to this opus. Very few shows have gone with the original cast for 16 years. So we take that as a great responsibility.

As you mentioned, the Season 6 finale marks this last episode before the show goes into this shortened Season 7, six episodes to wrap things up. Why end the show now?

Helford: The “Roseanne” reboot was planned to be a one-year thing to reclaim the legacy [of the show], to end it better than we felt the original ended. Then something happened at the end of that season that made us have to do “The Conners” to, again, try and get the legacy back. We didn’t ever imagine we’d go 100 episodes, but it’s such an incredible cast and we gelled as a writing staff, cast and crew. Every year we had to agree to come back, all of us the cast and everything else. And every year it was like “we’re still having fun” and the quality is still there, this is worthy.

But there comes a point at which things must end. We feel the time has come, we’ve hit a lot of highs…. We want to go on a high note.

Caplan: How often on TV do you get a chance to walk away while you’re still strong. We’re still the most watched show on the network, so to go out on top is pretty appealing.

Lecy Goranson, Laurie Metcalf, Jay R. Ferguson, Sara Gilbert and John Goodman. (Disney/Chris Willard)

The original “Roseanne” notoriously went all out for its final season, which had its polarizing moments and essentially set the stage for the reboot and “The Conners.” What do you hope to do now that you get to end the show on your terms?

Helford: Well, we can’t tell you what we’re going to do specifically…

Caplan: But I think we’d like to give a really honest, and I’ll say dignified end to the arcs of all these characters, and the journey that they’ve all been on. We’ve always treated the show with a feeling that there’s a sense of nobility in working hard to try to get ahead. The Conners may have looked for a shortcut here and there, but they never stopped working really hard to try to make their lives better. We feel like we really owe it to these characters to pay that off in a way that is honest, and that says something about what their journeys have amounted to.

Helford: And as always, we’re not afraid of people having success and we’re not afraid of people having failure… We’ve always tried to make the show as realistic as possible. A lot of comedies are fun and that’s great, there’s a place for that. But this show has always been about the bond we’ve had with the audience, and that we will present these things in an honest way… So anything can happen, and will, in the last six episodes.

Lecy Goranson said she’d love to keep the team together with a spin-off show or some other way should the show come to an end. Could the Conners’ story move forward beyond this show?

Helford: Well, you know, we brought people back from the dead, we’ve killed people, so never say neve. We make a joke always that we’ll end it, and then someone else can pick it up again 20 years from now. The plan under our watch is to end it in a great way. And then we’ll see what happens beyond that.

Why wait til midseason for Season 7?

Caplan: These last six episodes are a very big event for ABC. I think they want to use it to also launch some other shows. A lot of people are going to be interested in seeing the saga of the Conners wind down to its end for now.

Helford: We’re also happy to have a little extra time to put this all together and not have to rush it into the fall schedule. That’s a benefit for us to do this properly, because it’s going to take some time… We’ll be back in July writing and probably won’t be shooting until August.

Episodes of “The Conners” are now streaming on Hulu. The show will return for its seventh and final season in 2025.

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