Retro : Anything but Gone
“One thing about television,” muses producer Peter Noah, “is it is the only business in the world where you can be deemed a failure by delivering 15 million people every week!”
Case in point is the beleaguered 1989-92 ABC comedy series “Anything but Love,” which begins repeats Monday on Lifetime. Noah was executive producer of the romantic sitcom that starred Jamie Lee Curtis as effervescent Hannah Miller, an up-and-coming writer on a Chicago magazine, and stand-up comic Richard Lewis as the magazine’s star writer, the neurotic Marty Gold. Hannah and Marty were opposites, but there was always a mutual attraction. Over the show’s three seasons, their friendship deepened into love.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Mar. 14, 1993 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 14, 1993 Home Edition TV Times Page 7 Television Desk 1 inches; 15 words Type of Material: Correction
Twentieth Century Fox stopped production of “Anything but Love,” not ABC, as stated in TV Times on Feb. 28.
“Anything but Love” had a devoted following but was never a huge ratings hit. Part of the reason behind its rating problems was that ABC kept yanking it off the schedule. Last year, ABC finally pulled the plug on the series because the network didn’t think it would recoup its cost in syndication.
Noah is pleased that Lifetime has given “Anything but Love” another chance. “It is one of the things I suspected would happen--that it would continue to have some sort of afterlife,” he says. “I think with the proliferation of channels, the star power of Jamie and Richard and the fact that the show was generally well-regarded, I thought there was a fair chance that these episodes would not disappear.”
After ABC canceled the series, Noah says, the producers briefly thought about doing the show for cable or syndication. “The economics of the thing became tricky,” he says. “What it would require would be a show for substantially less money than you can do it for the network. The other question that we never really explored is to what extent everybody wanted to do that. Everybody loved the show, but it was such a struggle during the time we were on, I think there was a sense it would be best to just let it go.”
Noah found it extremely frustrating when ABC kept putting the series on hiatus. “We were always put (back) in the same time period or right back on Wednesday night,” he says.
When the show was canceled, it was airing Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., following “Doogie Howser, M.D.” This season, ABC has scored a huge success in those time periods with the sitcoms “Home Improvement” and “Coach.”
“Everybody knew (“Doogie”) was not the right lead-in for us,” he says. “It just is not a compatible kind of show. The ratings on “Anything but Love” weren’t bad; they just were not great. My argument was, ‘Why not try us behind another half-hour comedy?’ I mean, if we would have had the chance to follow ‘Home Improvement.’ ”
Noah finds its somewhat ironic that several sitcoms this season seem to be influenced by “Anything but Love.”
“The two big trends in television are Jewish leading men and romantic comedies,” Noah says. “It’s kind of amazing between ‘Mad About You,’ ‘Love and War’ and ‘Hearts Afire’ ... It looks to me as if ‘Anything but Love’ is the most imitated show on television this year, and we are no longer on. You can imagine from my point of view, it is frustrating.”
“Anything but Love” airs weekdays at 4 and 4:30 p.m. on Lifetime.