The fall 2020 TV season finally kicks off with The Conners Season 3 Episode 1, and as thrilled as I am to see a new episode, nothing seems quite as funny as it used to be -- not even the reference to the Laverne and Shirley theme song, but we'll get back to that in a bit.
The Conner family has always been able to find the humor in struggling to get by, but the stakes have never seemed higher, and it's difficult to laugh at their all-too-real desperation.
Because if there's one thing that Covid-19 has done successfully, it's made the poor even poorer.
That Dan and the family somehow believed that the bank wouldn't continue foreclosure proceedings because of the pandemic was both understandable and laughable.
Let's face it, banks are not known for their sympathy, and if you're not lucky enough to live somewhere that has suspended evictions, lenders won't hesitate to kick you out if you haven't paid your bills.
That the eviction notice was delivered by Dan's neighbor, Tito, made it all the sadder. That Tito pretended to ask Dan for help, which Dan would have gladly given, in order to put the paperwork in Dan's hands was depressing. That he chose to take the job to try and pay for his kid's medical expenses made it even more miserable.
But I was confused about why everyone was living under Dan's roof if they weren't already paying rent. Is Louise only there to be close to Dan because it sounded like she still has her own place, even though she's cooking for the family and letting them steal her wine?
Wasn't being able to help Dan keep the house the whole point of Ben and Darlene forgoing their own apartment? So why are they living there and not helping with the bills?
Darlene: Because if you get evicted, Dad, we get evicted. Now, we’re wasting time and we need money. Right now, Becky could be out there selling her body out on the street.
Becky: Thanks, it’s tough to keep in hooker shape.
I suppose the easy answer is that everyone is broke.
When we last saw the family during The Conners Season 2 Episode 20, Ben and Darlene had enough money to put down on a new apartment and were planning to launch the magazine, which would have been a long shot during the best of times.
With no businesses having the money to advertise, the magazine is done before it even got started, leaving Darlene feeling like a failure once again.
Becky: Why aren’t you trying to get another writing job?
Darlene: Because I’ve got 25 years of failure telling me that’s the wrong direction. When I moved back in with Mom and Dad, I didn’t think that I could go any lower, and then I chased this stupid magazine into the ground. I mean like, what is wrong with me? No one wants me to be a writer. Take a hint? You know, it’s like, if I’d done anything else I wouldn’t be standing on this line starting over.
It's difficult not to feel for Darlene. She just wrote what she considers one of her best articles, but the odds are that no one will ever read it. Her dreams are crushed over and over and over again, and there's nothing funny about that.
I don't understand why Ben and Darlene insist on making it a print magazine in a digital world. Why not get a domain name and start it as a website? They might not make much at first, but it would be a great way to get their project off the ground.
But The Conners need paychecks rolling in now, which leads us to Wellman Plastics.
The reopening of the Wellman factory was, for longtime fans who began watching the original Roseanne, a highlight. Roseanne and Jackie worked the line at the factory for years, and Becky's recollection was spot on.
I remember visiting you guys at work and watching you robotically doing the same job over and over and thinking, “Wow, it must really suck to be an adult.” And it does.Becky
Factory work isn't fun; it's a paycheck with health benefits, if you're lucky.
Way back when, Jackie had the pleasure of one particular benefit in George Clooney. Before Clooney found fame as Dr. Ross on ER and in the movies, he played Booker, the Wellman foreman, and one-time love interest for Jackie.
It's taken way too long to work Clooney flashbacks into the series, even if I am more partial to an older George than the younger version.
But Jackie's assessment was pretty spot on in this The Conners quote:
The supervisor, Booker, he looked just like George Clooney…. I should have hit that until I broke it.Jackie
Darlene and Becky taking jobs at the factory is ripe for dark humor this season. I couldn't help but laugh when they launched into the Laverne and Shirley theme, and then I wondered how many in the audience actually remember that show.
However, it was a kick in the gut when Becky pointed out Laverne and Shirley were in their early 20s when they working the line in the bottling factory.
At 22, it's a lot easier to have a positive, "We're gonna make it," attitude. Becky and Darlene are in their 40s and know they're realistically closer to ending up homeless or on a food line than finding financial success.
Becky: Mom worked here. Maybe it will be okay.
Darlene: We’re supposed to do better than our parents. We’re not supposed to be going backward. We’re going to end up as immigrants on a ship back to Ireland.
And that's just it; no matter how hard they work, Becky and Darlene are sliding backward.
Which begs the question, where is DJ and his family? Are they doing their own version of quarantine somewhere else?
Has David disappeared once again? Does he have any contact with his kids? Does he pay any kind of child support, or is everything still left to Darlene as David continues to try and find himself?
Emilio has turned out to be a better father, and he's in the country illegally, for which I almost couldn't blame him.
If he stays in Mexico for the next two years, our government could change the rules yet again, not allowing him a chance to see his daughter. But if he's caught here, he'll be deported and may never have that chance again.
It really is an unwinnable situation. Either way, he's losing time with the child he loves that he'll never get back. At least for now, Beverly Rose has her Daddy who loves her and is helping take care of her, and that's huge.
Not to mention that with Jackie cycling all over town delivering food and Becky now working at the factory to keep a roof over the Conner's heads, someone has to watch the baby and make the food at the restaurant.
There was no mention of Emilio's tias, who were helping watch Beverly Rose during The Conners Season 2. They could certainly use their help right about now.
No one can say this family doesn't have fortitude. No matter the loss, they get up and try to move forward, even if the effort only gets them knocked down once again.
Jackie won't give up on The Lunch Box. This restaurant is her dream, a connection to her sister, and perhaps her last chance at making something in her life a success. She'll work herself into the ground trying to save it.
And her chances of success are probably better than Dan's. He's not a young man anymore, and running a drywall business completely on his own isn't realistic. He will literally kill himself trying, and as we learned from the final season of the original Roseanne, there's very little humor in that.
Which brings me to my love/hate reaction to this episode. I'm glad they addressed the pandemic because not doing so would have been odd and inauthentic, yet finding the humor in it felt forced.
I know there are those who scoff or think it's a hoax, but for the many who haven't seen their loved ones in months, have struggled with illness, or lost friends and family to this virus, finding the humor in our current reality isn't easy.
But dark humor is a specialty of The Conners, and I'm hoping as this season progresses, we'll have more laughs and less stark desperation, even though the world has changed in ways we never expected.
Becky: At least Laverne and Shirley worked in a brewery and got to chug a beer every once in a while.
Darlene: Well, we get free travel size bottles which will come in handy if any other country ever lets Americans in again.
What did you think of The Conners Season 3 premiere? Hit that BIG, BLUE, SHOW COMMENTS button down below, and let us know.
And don't forget that you can watch The Conners online here at TV Fanatic.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.