This Tuesday night, as the results of the New Hampshire primary for this year’s presidential election trickle in, The Conners will react to the news in real-time, in live episodes taped and broadcast for each coast.
In “Live from Lanford” (airing Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC), Mark for a school report will be watching the results of the New Hampshire primary with Harris, who is apathetic to the electoral process and believes money’s influence in politics means real change is impossible. The rest of the Conners will in turn share their differing takes on why they think everyone should vote, offering the working-class perspective that you may have to vote for a candidate you don’t love but one that will “screw you the least.”
(All of this happens against the backdrop of romance when Louise, played by guest star Katey Sagal, gets an opportunity that might send her away from Lanford, prompting the family to interfere in Dan’s complicated relationship with her by throwing his lady friend a surprise going-away party.)
The idea for not just a live episode but one that reacted, in real time, to ABC News coverage on the Conners’ TV screen, came from series creator Bruce Helford. “So whatever happens, you can blame me!” he told TVLine with a laugh last month at the TCA press tour.
Explaining the decision to add a breaking news twist to the live twist, he said, “I always felt like if you just do a show live, so what? Everybody’s waiting for someone to make a mistake, that’s all it is. We did live on The Drew Carey Show (which Helford also created), but we added an improv element so that things were happening that could go any way and be interesting. And with The Conners, no matter what we do, we’re a little bit supercharged when it comes to politics. Also, they’re working class families and they’re most affected by what’s going on in this country. They’re really getting hit.”
So, as characters stream in and out of the living room where Mark and Harris are watching the primary returns get reported, “They’re going to comment on it, and we’ll see what happens.”
In fact, they will see what happens two times, since the live episode will tape a second time for the West Coast, and thus find the characters responding to different news coverage than they did the first go-round.
“The first time we do it [for the East Coast], it will be early returns. And then later on, it will be more about the results,” Helford noted. “It’s nice, because it gives us a chance to say something meaningful about the process, and say it in a unique, Conners way.”