[11 February 2007]
Ultimately, Anything But Love was treated by both its network and its production companies with, well, anything but love.
The intelligent sitcom starring Jamie Leigh Curtis and Richard Lewis as best friends and co-workers at a Chicago magazine was bounced around in different evenings and time slots by ABC during its three-year run (March 1989 to June 1992), disappearing completely for months only to return later to the network schedule.
And while the production companies behind the sitcom—Adam Productions and 20th Century Fox Television—stayed with it through several changes in focus, format, cast and crew, they ultimately pulled the plug on the series abruptly, without any advance word to Curtis, Lewis or other key figures on the show.
Nevertheless, as can be seen from the just-released DVD box of the series’ first 28 episodes, Anything But Love was a first-rate sitcom marked by sparkling adult humor and an excellent cast. Anything but Love, like many previous romantic comedies in the movies and on TV, was built around a “Will they or won’t they?” premise, with a bit of an “Of course they will, but when?” subsidiary premise thrown in for good measure.
From the very first episode, it is established that Lewis’ Marty Gold, an award-winning journalist, and Curtis’ Hannah Miller, an aspiring writer, like each other very much and have terrific chemistry. But despite repeated misgivings and second thoughts, they decide, at least for the first season and a half, to try to keep their friendship platonic.
One episode included here, “Thirty ... Something”, from 28 March 1990, even found Lewis making a tongue-in-cheek reference to this by mocking another ABC series, “Moonlighting”, over that show’s “Will they or won’t they” story line. And on the DVD documentary, “All About Anything but Love”, Lewis jokes: “It was the longest foreplay ... except (for) yaks, where I hear it takes five years.”
It is surprising, consequently, to learn from the DVD documentary that while the series was always conceived as a vehicle for Curtis, who was just coming off a great success in the comedy movie A Fish Called Wanda, the show originally was built around a romantic triangle. Lewis was in the original pilot made in 1988, which is not included on the DVD, but he was joined by another lead actor, D.W. Moffett. After the network rejected that pilot, but discovered that Curtis and Lewis tested well with focus group audiences, they convinced creator Wendy Kout to give it another shot.
The pilot episode in the revised format, “Fear of Flying”, which aired on ABC on 7 March 1989, and is on the DVD, shows Hannah and Marty meeting cute on an airplane, with Marty displaying many of the trademark neuroses from Lewis’ standup act—nobody does angst like Richard Lewis—and helping get Hannah a job as a researcher at his Chicago Monthly magazine.
On the DVD, Curtis and Lewis contribute an audio commentary on this episode in which they display the warmth and camaraderie they shared while making the series and obviously still share. Lewis still has the ability to make Curtis laugh, as he apparently did throughout the years they made the show together.
After six episodes aired during spring 1989, it was decided—by whom is not made clear on the DVD—to rejuggle the series again, and Peter Noah replaced Kout as the major creative force. When the series resumed in September 1989, it had new opening credits (beginning each episode with some Marty-Hannah repartee at a lunch counter), a largely new supporting cast (with Ann Magnuson adding a witty additional character as new editor Catherine Hughes), and gave Hannah a new job (as a full-fledged reporter) and a new home (no longer living with dad, she now had an apartment in a house owned by her best friend).
But what remained intact was the marvelous connection between Hannah and Marty. Their observations and actions while pursuing a unique friendship at the same time as they were dating other people made Anything But Love the type of mature comedy that captured a more sophisticated audience than most. That it blended its humor with more serious treatments of contemporary issues such as abortion only made it stand out more from the bulk of TV sitcoms.