Maggie ran during the 1998-1999 season on the Lifetime Cable Network.
Maggie ( Ann Cusack), age 39 was in the midst of a mid-life crisis. She had been married for 18 years, and lived in a beautiful home in suburban Portland, Oregon. But husband Art ( John Getz), a successful cardiologist was totally absorbed in his career and oblivious to her needs; rebellious daughter Amanda ( Morgan Nagler) dressed like a slut and ignored her; and Maggie's dreams of a career of her own seemed to be fading fast as the big 4-0 approached. So she began studying to become a veterinarian signing on as an intern at Dr. Myer's ( John Slattery's) clinic. But her " crisis" only escalated as she developed an instant crush on the goofy, prectical-joking vet. Richard who was divorced, was just the man she had been looking for, and unbeknownst to her, he had a secret crush on her as well.
What to do? See a shrink of course. Dr. Kimberly ( Francesca Roberts) tried to help Maggie work through her feelings, but the attraction between Maggie and Richard just grew, leading to one agonizing crisis after another for the guilt-ridden mom. Amy ( Melissa Samuels) was Richard's dippy receptionist and Maggie's confidante at the veterinarian office, annd Reg ( Todd Giebenhain) was Amanda's nutty boyfriend who pretended to be gay because he wanted to be an artist and " all the best artists are gay!" By the end of the season Maggie had received her veterinarian's degree and she and Richard had acknowledged their mutual attraction , but a true relationship still seemed distant.
A Review from Variety
Posted: Mon., Aug. 17, 1998, 11:00pm PT
(Comedy Series -- Lifetime; Tues. Aug. 18, 10 p.m.)
By Ray Richmond
Filmed in Los Angeles by Paramount TV in association with Lifetime TV. Executive producer, Dan O'Shannon; producer, David Menteer; director, Pamela Fryman.
Maggie Day - Ann Cusack Arthur Day - John Getz Amanda Day - Morgan Nagler Richard - John Slattery Reg - Todd Giebenhain Amy - Melissa Samuels Kimberly - Francesca Roberts Jack Wagner
The message "Maggie" seems to impart to women is that if it sucks being married forever, it sucks more to lust in one's heart and feel guilty about it all the time. And if there's anything worse than boredom, it's guilt.
"Maggie" is a lively but ultimately superficial new comedy about a woman on the verge of a midlife crisis as she hits 40 and the men in her life who are only too happy to make it worse.
Actually, there is a lot for women to embrace about "Maggie" even if they don't necessarily take a cotton to its morality lessons or to its stilted, buffoonish depiction of family life. Opening script from executive producer Dan O'Shannon is astute in the way it taps into women's fantasies and frustrations that tend to erupt as symptoms of middle age begin to surface.
It also helps to have the effervescent Ann Cusack anchoring things as our heroine Maggie Day, a feisty housewife trapped in a stable but stale 19 year marriage to a terminally chipper cardiologist named Arthur (John Getz). Their only child, colorless 17 year old Amanda (Morgan Nagler), hangs with a budding cartoonist named Reg (Todd Giebenhain) who aspires to be gay because that's what all the cool artists are.
Determined not to be denied a life of her own, Maggie goes back to school to become a veterinarian and starts working part time at an animal clinic where oddballs bring in fish who seem depressed. It's there that Maggie meets Richard (a terrific perf by John Slattery), your basic goofy, funny, sexy vet filling in temporarily at the clinic and on whom Maggie develops an instant crush. It briefly quells her fantasy of being swept off her feet by "Melrose Place's" Jack Wagner, who shows up in the pilot as himself in an inspired piece of business.
Now Maggie decides that she needs to see a therapist (Francesca Roberts) to deal with all of this. In a tepid device, Maggie parenthetically addresses the shrink during key moments of her life, as if narrating her story in reverse. The therapist convinces her that fantasizing ain't nearly the same as acting on it, even if Maggie believes her marriage has devolved from a grape to a raisin (don't ask).
Show clearly has spunk straight out of the gate, with helmer Pamela Fryman guiding the action capably. And Cusack and Slattery enjoy a quirky chemistry. The suspicion, however, is that "Maggie" will grow tiresome as the audience begins to ask itself why a woman with so much to be thankful for continues to look her gift horse in the mouth.
Indeed, this show takes great pains to assure Lifetime's legion of female viewers that it is perfectly natural -- indeed, even necessary -- for it to always be about me, me, me. Because if women don't look out for their own happiness, heck, then who will? Tech credits are sharp.
Writer, O'Shannon; camera, Frank Raymond; editor, Tim Mozer; music, Starr Parodi, Jeff Eden Fair, Chip Swanson; production designer, Wendall Johnson; sound, Michael Ballin; casting, Helen Mossler. 30 MIN.
A Review From The New York Times
Lifetime, tonight at 10
By ANITA GATES
Published: August 18, 1998
It's easy to sympathize with Maggie Day, wife, mother and would-be veterinarian. Maggie (Ann Cusack) is ignored by her husband, who is too busy being thrilled with having been declared a ''leading'' cardiologist in a news magazine. For Maggie's 40th birthday, her teen-age daughter gives her a book called ''You're Over the Hill When . . . '' No wonder Maggie regularly fantasizes about being ravished in her kitchen by a hunky actor from ''Melrose Place.''
And no wonder she's drawn to Richard (John Slattery), her boss at the animal clinic. He's handsome, he takes her seriously, and he's funny. When a man brings in his pet rabbit, who has been bitten by a pet duck, Richard explains that this is clearly a case of Warner syndrome, the belief that ducks and rabbits hang out together.
Back home, the teen-age daughter's best male friend, an aspiring artist, has decided to become gay because so many great artists have been. This puzzles Maggie. ''Are you attracted to men?'' she asks. The young man answers hopefully, ''Not yet.''
''Maggie'' has a lot going for it: an appealing heroine played by the fabulous Ms. Cusack, a great supporting cast and jokes that are actually funny. What a concept!
An Article from Variety
Posted: Mon., Sep. 7, 1998, 11:00pm PT
New Lifetime series on target with demos
More women in tune with sked
By John Dempsey
Lifetime has nailed down one of its main objectives in scheduling three expensive, original primetime series back-to-back on Tuesday: It's harvesting almost 50% more women 18-49 in the time period.
The downside is that the three weekly series -- the drama "Any Day Now" at 9 and the sitcoms "Maggie" at 10 and "Oh Baby" at 10:30, all of which premiered Tuesday, Aug. 18 -- are flat in the household numbers compared to the rerun TV movies that played in the two-hour time period for the comparable three weeks in August 1997.
"But not one of our deals with advertisers gets sold on household ratings," says Doug McCormick, president and CEO of Lifetime.
The best Nielsen performer of the three series is "Any Day Now," an Aaron Spelling production starring Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint as former childhood friends in Alabama who get together again when Toussaint returns to Birmingham after a number of years as a Washington, D.C., attorney. "Day" is averaging a 2.0 rating in cable homes for its first three weekly cablecasts. A total of 57% of those viewers -- 832,000 -- are women 18- 49, compared to Lifetime's average of 42%.
Paramount TV's "Maggie," starring Ann Cusack as a 40-year-old wife and mother going through a midlife crisis, has averaged a 1.2 rating in cable homes over the three weeks, 56% of whom -- 490,560 -- are women 18-49.
Columbia TriStar TV's "Oh Baby," with Cynthia Stevenson as a thirtysomething career woman who decides to have a child through artificial insemination, also averaged a 1.2 rating, 66% of whom -- 578,000 -- are women 18-49.
McCormick said he's not depressed over the relatively low household numbers being delivered by the three shows because fewer and fewer men are watching the channel as Lifetime's schedule pushes even more in the direction of women-oriented programming. The network will think twice about buying any more off-network series with equal appeal to men and women, such as "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Homicide: Life on the Street."
The young-women focus has also caused Lifetime to drop out of the bidding for the cable rights to the second cycle of "Seinfeld," whose audience makeup includes a high proportion of males.
Lifetime has paid big bucks for "Party of Five," "Ellen" and "Chicago Hope," all of which joined the network schedule last month, and has bought for future use "Suddenly Susan" and "Caroline in the City."
All five of these series appeal predominantly to women.
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION/RADIO; Not Even Trying to Appeal to the Masses
By ANDY MEISLER
Published: October 4, 1998
THREE years ago, a successful comedy writer named Dan O'Shannon (''Newhart,'' ''Cheers,'' ''It's a Living'') sat down to write the pilot of a new sitcom. His central character, Maggie Day, was a 40-year-old woman going through a midlife crisis. He sprinkled laughs on every page as Maggie coped with an inattentive husband, a couple of self-centered teen-agers and an unrequited crush on her boss, the local veterinarian.
Mr. O'Shannon thought he'd written a network sitcom. The major broadcast networks thought otherwise. One programming executive told him to make Maggie 10 years younger and unmarried. Another told him, ''The demographic is all wrong'' and that because his lead character contemplated adultery, ''no one'' would like her. Exit Mr. O'Shannon, to a two-year writing and producing stint on NBC's ''Suddenly Susan,'' a sitcom about, you guessed it, a 20-something single woman.
But enter, in August 1998, Lifetime Television for Women, a basic cable channel known hitherto mainly for documentaries and reruns of women-in-crisis television movies. The channel made ''Maggie'' one of three new women-oriented series on its Tuesday night lineup. So now Mr. O'Shannon, 36, has a 13-episode order, a new office on the Paramount Studios lot, a stripped-down three-person writing staff, a good measure of creative freedom and the certainty that no matter how well his series does, it will be absolutely unknown to the great bulk of the American viewing public.
On an average night, Lifetime gets a 1.7 rating and is watched in 1.5 million households, approximately one-sixth the number tuned into the average fairly successful broadcast network series.
''If we were to get a 3 rating,'' says Mr. O'Shannon, wryly, ''Lifetime would treat me like a god.''
What Mr. O'Shannon has created, it seems, is a new and rather stealthy weapon in the current broadcast-cable power struggle. Let's call ''Maggie'' and other cable comedies like it ''nichecoms'' -- series that are outwardly sisters to the mass-appeal shows on NBC, ABC and CBS but are actually cleverly targeted arrows to the heart of narrowly focused audiences. Along with their close relation, the niche drama, these shows make up an increasing percentage of cable programming.
This may come as a shock to those who have believed that weekly comedy and drama series -- the foundation of broadcast programming for 50 years -- will be yesterday's format when and if the long-awaited television revolution arrives.
''The most widely watched thing on our network is 'Stargate SG-1'; it outperforms every theatrical movie on our air,'' says Jerry Offsay, president for programming of Showtime Networks, referring to a second-season drama that receives almost no media mention outside hard-core science fiction circles.
Showtime also recently added ''Linc's,'' an African-American-oriented comedy of the kind that no longer appears on the major networks, and ''Rude Awakenings,'' an ''adult'' comedy about a recovering alcoholic.
Showtime's main premium-cable rival, HBO, has ''Oz,'' a weekly men-in-prison drama conceived and run by Tom Fontana, the co-creator of ''Homicide''; ''Sex and the City,'' a comedy exploring the ''dating and mating habits'' of single New Yorkers by Darren Star (''Melrose Place''), and ''Arliss,'' a comedy about a rapacious sports agent.
''Maggie's'' Tuesday night companions on Lifetime are ''Oh Baby,'' a comedy about a single woman who opts for artificial insemination, and ''Any Day Now,'' a drama about an interracial friendship in the Deep South. The USA Network, amid its aggressive slate of original series, runs adventure dramas like ''The Net'' and ''La Femme Nikita,'' series almost indistinguishable from broadcast competitors. Even American Movie Classics, primarily a cable outlet for vintage films, has for four years been producing ''Remember WENN,'' a comedy set in a dysfunctional radio station in the 1940's. And most of these cable channels are actively developing additional series.
In fact, as far as weekly cable series are concerned, only one question really remains: will these venerable formats be reinvented and reinvigorated or simply spread, like pop-cultural kudzu, to higher and higher channel numbers?
The cable series' creators, most of whom got their start working on network series, tend to emphasize their liberation from the strictures of broadcast television-like censorship, the rigidity of the commercial format, and the tyranny of ratings and demographics.
''I just feel I have the opportunity to write my show with a focus and a viewpoint, without trying to appeal to everyone in the world,'' says Susan Beavers, the creator of ''Oh Baby.''
Mr. Fontana of ''Oz'' agrees that cable offers more creative freedom. ''When you don't have to bring people back from a commercial, you don't have to manufacture an 'out,' '' he explains. ''You can make your episode at a length and with a rhythm that's true to the story you want to tell.'' (Of course that's true only on premium cable channels.)
On cable series, unlike network shows, ''the emphasis is on quality and originality,'' says Mr. Star of ''Sex and the City.'' Some broadcast executives might not agree.
Sometimes cable-series producers go so far as to deny the connections with their broadcast counterparts.
''This is not a sitcom,'' says Robert Wuhl, the star and executive producer of ''Arliss.'' ''All sitcoms look exactly the same. The same setups, the same lenses, the same transitions, the same everything.''
''What we do isn't at all like that,'' he continues. ''We don't have to worry about subject matter. We don't have to be politically correct. What we do is make a little comedy movie every week.''
Such declarations of distinctiveness, of course, delight executives and publicity agents at the cable channels. Dig a little deeper, however, and the conversation has a somewhat less idealistic ring.
Cable executives mention that weekly series help target a core audience and attract subscribers.
Chris Albrecht, HBO's president for original programming, says: ''We see series as a retention device, a reason to buy HBO. After all, if you hear about something good on TV, you can't tune into it unless it's going to be on for a while.''
But premium cable series aren't geared to attract the great bulk of broadcast television fans. In fact, just the opposite.
''The kind of people we want to attract are people who don't watch a lot of television,'' says Mr. Albrecht. ''These are usually better-educated, slightly older men and women age 35 to 55, who can probably more easily afford to keep our service.''
Talk like this would no doubt astound television executives of past decades. They made large fortunes by broadcasting sitcoms and dramas that were kept within well-researched parameters to attract the widest audiences possible. These series were relatively easy to create, produce and, most important, rerun.
INDEED, in the 1950's, series like ''I Love Lucy'' and ''Gun smoke'' helped drive somewhat edgier fare (like live drama, satirical sketch comedy and anthology series) out of prime time. In the 1980's, cable, with its slate of unedited movies and music and comedy specials, was seen as the antithesis to its broadcast competition.
But even in their formative years, the cable networks occasionally experimented with series: Showtime introduced a mildly risque sitcom called ''Brothers'' in 1984; Garry Shandling's innovative ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' had its premiere on Showtime in 1986.
HBO started ''First and 10,'' a football sitcom (starring O. J. Simpson and Delta Burke), in 1984 and ''Dream On'' (from the team that later created ''Friends'') in 1990.
In 1989, Lifetime commissioned and began running new episodes of ''The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd,'' a critically acclaimed but painfully low-rated sitcom that had been canceled by NBC.
Most agree, however, that the turning point came in 1992, when ''The Larry Sanders Show'' had its premiere on HBO. A darling of the critics, the sitcom-within-a-talk-show was widely presumed to be too ''inside'' for the vast majority of non-media-savvy viewers but perfect for attracting subscribers to a premium service.
'' 'Larry Sanders' was not a mass appeal hit, which is only bad if you're in the business of having a mass appeal hit,'' says Mr. Albrecht of HBO. ''But the show gave us tremendous credibility. And when you're selling a product, perception becomes important.''
Mr. Albrecht admits that he is desperately seeking new series with the cachet of ''Larry Sanders.'' That may be bad news for the firebrands who predict a clean break from the television of the past but good news for people like Mr. O'Shannon, who is attached to the series form.
''I think I can say everything I want in a sitcom,'' he says. ''I just think it's time the form grew up a little.''
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