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Roseanne is gone, but her voice remains on 'The Conners'

In order to preview two episodes of “The Conners,” the ABC series featuring all the cast members of “Roseanne” except for Roseanne Barr, television critics had to agree “not to discuss, imply or in any way reveal what happens to the character of Roseanne Conner.”

So I agreed.

The episode that premieres at 8 tonight on WKBW-TV (Channel 7) quickly answers the question and does so in a skillful and believable way. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Of course, people know Barr has been dropped from the series after posting a racist tweet. The reboot of the show last spring that dealt with the economic issues of the working class and other relatable topics was so successful that ABC decided to bring a version of it back without her. A viewer's love of the show without her may depend on whether they loved Roseanne and her acerbic character.

Naturally, Roseanne’s absence means more time for the other cast members, including John Goodman as Roseanne’s husband, Laurie Metcalf as her sister and Sara Gilbert and Lecy Goranson as her sparring daughters.

It’s a good thing for any episode to give more time to Goodman and Metcalf, who always were my two favorite actors in the ensemble. Roseanne’s absence means their characters must take on additional family responsibilities.

In a way, Roseanne’s voice remains. The insults the family members hurl at each other that belie their love of family remain and score with laughs on a few occasions.

It isn’t easy for writers to deal with what happened to Roseanne at the same time they serve up laughs, but I chuckled more in the two episodes made available for review than I did for most of the episodes of the critically acclaimed series last spring. The episodes contain a good mix of sweet and sour moments.

The second episode made available for review benefits from not having to explain Roseanne’s absence. The episode, which features a guest appearance by Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”) as the separated husband of Darlene (Gilbert), is the stronger one previewed and provides promise that the show can live on without Roseanne.

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