On ‘The Conners,’ a Packers fan tests the tolerance of a Bears-loving family
Evanston-born actress Alicia “Lecy” Goranson tackles a football-themed episode to celebrate one of her favorite aspects of being from the Midwest.
It’s a Saturday during the regular football season, but the Conners already are ready to support the Bears the next day. It turns out the working-class residents of fictional Lanford, Illinois, make it through the week by cheering on their favorite football team.
Things become tense when Becky Conner brings her family a harrowing surprise: her new boyfriend, a devout but hypocritical Christian determined to criticize their Bears pride and look down on their Sunday ritual.
He is also a Packers fan.
The story for this week’s episode of ABC’s “The Conners” (7 p.m. Tuesday on WLS-Channel 7) comes from Evanston-born actress Alicia “Lecy” Goranson, who has played Becky off and on since she was cast for the original “Roseanne” in 1988. She wanted the series’ writers to show just how important the Bears are to Midwestern culture by highlighting one of her favorite things about being from Illinois.
Goranson and her family followed football as she grew up. She said it gave them something to talk about. She learned she could share a laugh or excitement about the Bears with fellow Midwesterners outside of Chicago.
“One thing I really missed being in New York for years and years was not having a community to watch the games with,” said Goranson. “I started watching the games with this community, and I realized how important it was to me to feel that community and watch the games with people.”
She’ll also be viewing this episode with people, during a watch party Tuesday at Joe’s on Weed Street, 940 W. Weed. The admission fee of $10 includes a drink ticket, and Goranson will be raising money for the Chicago Fire Department’s Widows & Children’s Fund (EMWQ). Doors open at 6 p.m. (Reservations: www.LecyBearsDown.Eventbrite.com).
The boyfriend on the episode is played by Tim Baltz, a Joliet native and Second City alum. She said he agreed to do the show without reading the script and was horrified to learn he’d play a cheesehead.
“He told me he is never going to be able to go back home in the same way once the photos get out,” Goranson laughed.
The two performers built off one another on and off set. Goranson ordered Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s pizza to build Midwestern culture rapport on set.
John Goodman’s character, Dan Conner, mirrors similar sentiments by preparing the Sunday game meal on Saturday night. Dan spends the entirety of the episode encouraging his family to share in excitement and sorrow watching the game. He also works on teaching young Mark Conner-Healy (Ames McNamara) the family’s diehard loyalty to the Bears, and bestows on him the cap he received from his grandfather at a game where Gale Sayers played.
“I know what a big deal sports are in our culture and community, and I felt that the show wasn’t touching upon that,” said Goranson. “To me, it was this glaring hole in our show because it’s such a big part of our community.”
The Conners cannot afford to watch a Bears game at Soldier Field, Goranson said, but they can watch on television and cheer and cry alongside their loved ones.
As Dan says, “It is like church. Because when the Bears are collapsing at the end of the game, we ask the Almighty for a swift and merciful end.”