The future story of “Roseanne” is literally yet to be written, but executive producer Bruce Helford told reporters Friday morning that there’s still a place for the Conner’s next-door Muslim neighbors.
On a media call Friday morning, Helford explained that the Al-Harazi family featured in the reboot’s “Go Cubs” episode is in the show’s plans for next season.
“We haven’t started breaking stories or anything else. We want to bring the Al-Harazis back. We definitely want them to return. They’re their neighbors. They live right next door, so we definitely want to see more of them,” Helford said.
In response to news from upfronts this past week that the show might de-emphasize its political strains, Helford explained that “Roseanne” had no immediate plans to avoid social issues.
“We don’t want to be preachy,” Helford said. “We’re not doing issue-of-the-week. But at the same time, we will definitely be handling issues that are political hot buttons. The show will continue to get this dialogue going. What I’ve said to everyone is, ‘Whether people agree with the show or don’t agree with the show, I love the level of discussion that’s going on about this show in America.’ It’s a really intense and educated discussion between the bloggers and the critics and the reviewers, the lovers and the haters. It really has been, I think, really healthy.”
As far as additional changes in the series, Helford said that he wanted “Roseanne” to reflect more of the changing demographics in the area outside Chicago where the show takes place. Drawing on the city of Elgin as a model, this next season will bring more Hispanic characters into the Conners’ story.
“Lanford is a fictitious place, but it does represent that area of Illinois outside Chicago,” Helford said. “We definitely will be seeing more Hispanic characters in the show and we’ll be dealing with aspects of that. Hopefully, as well-done as we can, we’re going to be socially relevant and talk about all the issues that are facing working class people in America.”
Helford was unsure whether EP Whitney Cummings will be returning to the writing staff, but he conceded that he would be the series’ sole showrunner going forward. Helford unveiled some of the show’s new additions to the writers room, which he says will be convening for the first time at the end of the month.
“We have added voices. Some of the new writers coming on: Ali Liebegott, who was on ‘Transparent’ is joining us…Wanda Sykes is coming back, Norm MacDonald is coming back,” Helford said. Jena Friedman will also be joining the room, per Helford.
Addressing the show’s controversial “They’re just like us” joke from earlier in the season, Helford reiterated that the joke was not meant to cause offense.
“It was not intended to be dismissive or reductive or anything like that. It was simply a nod to the other shows. For me, it was about how we all try to find a commonality to make any show that’s about a specific ethnicity inclusive to all ethnicities so that we do our jobs as broadcasters and reach a wide number of people. So, whether the show is about an Asian family or an African-American family or about a white family, we all try to make these shows inclusive,” Helford said.
With production on the upcoming season beginning soon, Helford said that the attention to the show is something that he is now very much aware of, especially on the joke-by-joke level.
“How people interpret things, it’s like a Beatles song. People find 25 different meanings that weren’t there or maybe were there. I can’t try to anticipate everything that everyone will say,” Helford said. “We are very much under a microscope, more so probably than any show right now. So I do believe people will be looking carefully and that there probably will be controversy in the future.”