The First Season
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All photos © Paramount
Reviewed by Josh Mahler
hile “Caroline in the City” will never be regarded as one of NBC’s classic sitcoms of the 1990s, it remains one of the better offerings from the second tier of comedies that ran throughout the week in between the “Seinfelds,” “Frasiers” and “Friends” on the network’s Must See TV lineup. Now, with the first season of “Caroline” available on DVD, the series actually provides a perfect time-capsule embodiment of the overall style and topics featured in the majority of NBC sitcoms from the ‘90s (it was one of many shows showcasing single life in New York City). With the advantage of hindsight, “Caroline” is also somewhat of a stylistic predecessor to another Peacock hit, “Will & Grace,” in that it focused more on the punchline than the plot.
Living up to its name, the series revolved around Caroline (Lea Thompson, who played Michael J. Fox’s mother in the “Back to the Future” films) and her adventures in New York City. She is a successful cartoonist that pens a syndicated comic strip (also titled “Caroline in the City”) and the series begins as Caroline hires a new colorist, the wry and sardonic Richard (Malcolm Getzs), who quickly tires of hearing about her on-again, off-again relationship with Del (Eric Lutes). Throw in the quirky, man-hungry neighbor Annie (Amy Pietz) and you’ve got yourself all the ingredients necessary for a quintessential mid ‘90s sitcom on NBC.
The one thing that jumps out in the first season of “Caroline” is the guest stars. From classic TV actors like Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”), Jean Stapleton (“All in the Family”), and Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie (“The Dick Van Dyke”), to future famous faces including Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) and Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”), this collection of 24 episodes offers a who’s who of TV personalities for even the casual fan of the series. And in keeping with NBC’s crossover trend of that era, there are also appearances by Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) from “Frasier,” and Matthew Perry’s Chandler Bing from “Friends.”
Caroline is certainly more progressive and self-confident than Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards from the 1970s, but she’s not quite Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon of today as she seemingly lets her failure in relationships keep her from contentment. With his wit and cutting one-liners, Malcom Getz’s performance as Richard often steals the show, but it’s Thompson’s Caroline that leaves a lasting impression.
Special Features: The original episode promos. That’s all, folks.