|Anything But Love: Season One (1989)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Richard Lewis, Richard Frank, Ann Magnuson, Joseph Maher, Holly Fulger
When “Anything But Love” premiered in 1989, Jamie Lee Curtis was just coming off the success of “A Fish Called Wanda” and Richard Lewis was one of the hottest stand-up comedians in the business. So why was their sitcom such an uninspired affair?
The premise of the show finds Hannah Miller (Curtis), a school teacher, coming to the offices of a magazine in search of a new career in journalism; unsurprisingly, she’s hired as a researcher, thanks to a push from one of the magazine’s more prominent writers, Marty Gold (Lewis). We know this is going to happen, of course, because there’s already been a meet-cute between Marty and Hannah at the beginning of the episode. The problem, unfortunately, is that virtually all of the supporting characters are paper thin clichés and sitcom archetypes, like the stuffy female columnist who exists only to look down her nose at Hannah and Marty, or the gruff editor with the heart of gold. C’mon, people, we’ve seen these people before: they were called Sue Ann Nivens and Lou Grant, and they were both a hell of a lot funnier when they were on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
This might well explain why “Anything But Love” returned for its second season wrapped in a paper sash bearing the words, “Retooled for your viewing enjoyment.”
Season Two begins with the magazine suddenly in possession of a brand new editor, Catherine Hughes. Played to eccentric perfection by Ann Magnuson, Catherine added a less predictable comedic element to the show. Her first editorial moves, after firing half the staff of course (including the aforementioned stuffy female columnist), were to make Hannah a full-time writer and to bring on a stuffy male columnist (Joseph Maher). But, y’know, he was British, so that automatically made him funnier. Meanwhile, Hannah’s dad – who she’d been living with in Season One – vanished from the series, never to be seen again; and Hannah suddenly had her own place, as well as a new best friend named Robin (Holly Fulger), who lived in her apartment building.
Lewis is always a goldmine of laughs, no matter what dialogue he’s given. The same, unfortunately, can’t always be said for Curtis, who often comes across as trying too hard. Thankfully, after the initial six episodes comprising the first season, she does at least manage to ease into a slightly more comfortable groove, thanks to the producers’ decision to get the ball rolling on trying to get Hannah and Marty together. Fulger doesn’t offer a great deal to the series except the necessary dialogue to keep Hannah in pursuit of Marty, but Magnuson and Maher both add laughs on a regular basis, as does Richard Frank as Catherine’s assistant, Jules. (Frank, by the way, was the only holdover from Season One in addition to Lewis and Curtis.) There are also enjoyable guest appearances by Corbin Bernsen and Andy Dick, the latter playing a sci-fi geek who’s brandishing a laser gun when he bursts into the magazine’s offices.
Unfortunately, however, “Anything But Love” never really manages to rise above an ordinary romantic sitcom. It has its funny moments, certainly, but it was never a tremendous success when it was originally on the air and, truth be told, it’d probably remain lost in the mists of time forever if it wasn’t for its two leads.
Special Features: The good news is that Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis remembered their experiences on the show fondly enough to return and do audio commentary for the pilot episode, as well as to contribute to two featurettes: “All About ‘Anything But Love’” and “Stories from the Set.” Director Robert Berlinger does commentary on one episode as well. The bad news (okay, well, it’s not so much bad as disappointing) is that the first of those featurettes makes reference to and shows clips from the show’s original pilot, but for whatever reason, the decision was made to not include that original pilot for fans to see. It’s also a little unfortunate that there are lots of extremely funny clips from John Ritter’s multiple appearances on the show, none of which occurred until the third season, but you can tolerate that a bit more because there’s no guarantees that this collection of first and second season episodes will sell well enough to warrant the release of seasons three and four.