EPs Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan break down the latest ups and downs for the family.
In the season 4 finale of The Conners, “A Judge and a Priest Walk Into a Living Room,” several key family members got married during a mega wedding. But given that this is The Conners, there’s always some setbacks. “It’s actually two steps forward and 15 steps back,” executive producer Bruce Helford jokes.
And in this case, that meant one of the three couples, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Ben (Jay R. Ferguson), Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Neville (Nat Faxon) or Harris (Emma Kenney) and Aldo (Tony Cavalero), did not get to say “I do.”
In a conversation with ET, Helford and Dave Caplan break down those two weddings and that breakup and how these events will set things up for season 5. [Warning: Spoilers for the season 4 finale.]
After spending most of the episode trying to agree on details for a joint wedding, from who was officiating to the venue, it seemed that Jackie and Neville might not make it down the aisle after so many omens suggested their union wasn’t meant to be. But in the end, it was Harris and Aldo who pumped the brakes on their wedding plans after Harris made it clear that she wasn’t ready to have a baby.
When it comes to Harris and Aldo specifically, it was a chance to show how much Harris has actually grown and taken responsibility for herself and her future. And what went from a rebellious act, with Harris first bringing Aldo as her date to Dan (John Goodman) and Louise’s (Katey Sagal) wedding, became a real relationship with real consequences.
“We had an opportunity to show a lot of growth for Harris,” Caplan says. “Harris steps up in the relationship, which was with an older guy, and says, ‘No. This is not what I want for my life. And what you want for your life is important, but it’s not everything.'"
Ultimately, “It made sense that she would say, ‘No. Not now,’” Helford adds.
As for what this means for the character moving forward, “It would be easier to be done with all Aldo if we didn’t love Tony Cavalero so much,” Caplan quips. “That’s for sure.”
“Aldo is not going to give up that easy,” Helford teases.
Meanwhile, Jackie turned what could have been “never” into “happily ever after” with Neville, especially after so many years of ups and downs in her personal life. “The thing with Jackie is we could never find anybody who was the right match for her. It was really tough to couple up Laurie with someone who can keep pace,” Helford says.
But then Neville came along in season 3. Though, the producers admit he wasn’t necessarily supposed to be the one. “In the beginning, it wasn’t the intention, I don’t think, to go the long distance with them,” Helford says, before explaining that aside from Dan, somebody else in the family needed some success. And for them, that was Jackie. “Jackie really needed to find some happiness.”
And just like Harris, this was a big step forward for Jackie. “This was a moment of growth for her,” Caplan says, explaining that the whole episode “would have been an opportunity for her to spin out and ruin things… [Instead] she holds it together and sees the bigger picture. That’s kind of a big step for Jackie.”
While Neville is expected to return in season 5, the producers joke that how much depends on how busy Faxon is. “If he doesn't take seven more series,” Helford quips, referring to the fact that the actor had a recurring role on HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death and is starring in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Loot. “If we had more available, we would have a lot more of him. But he’s definitely coming back.”
As for the biggest “will they or won’t they” of the series, Darlene and Ben finally made things official after so many ups and downs in the relationship, including a breakup and strained attempt at being friends. And in the end, “It was the only place left to go for them,” Caplan says.
“It was wish fulfillment for us. I think we all kind of optimistically hoped that people would eventually get perspective in their lives and see what’s important. And [for Ben and Darlene] it took an accident for both of them to realize that all the other little stuff be damned, they wanted to be together,” he continues. “I really thought that was kind of romantic.”
But now that all the adult characters are married doesn’t mean everything will be blissful moving forward, especially considering the new living arrangements that have to be sorted out. And that is Becky (Lecy Goranson) and her daughter moving in with Ben, Darlene and Mark (Ames McNamara) into their new house while Harris stays behind to live with Dan and Louise.
“That’s going to be interesting,” Helford says, before adding that “there’s just a lot of things coming” in season 5.
And when it comes to getting renewed, the producers admit that they’re not surprised to see fans continue to embrace the ABC sitcom. “The Conners, for us, has always been not only the wonderful characters that have such a long life in the American imagination, but also because their story is so relevant,” Caplan says. “So, in a way, I’m not surprised that we’re still here because the stories we’re telling about this family are the stories of most people in America trying to figure out a way when the odds are stacked against you economically and to find some sliver of happiness.”
He adds, “In America, now more than ever, that’s a story that’s worth telling."