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Cybill aired from January 1995 until July 1998 on CBS.

Cybill ( Cybill Shepherd)was a wisecracking actress in Las Angeles whose professional and personal life was in constant turmoil. At fourtysomething, the roles she was offered were mostly small parts for older women-each episode opened with her filming a scene from a movie or tv show in which she had a small part-not the glamorous roles she had been offered when she was a young beauty. She wasn't unattractive, she was just starting to show her age. Then there were the leftovers from her 2 failed marriages. Her first hubby was Jeff ( Tom Wopat), a handsome stuntman currently living on the couch in Cybill's living room. Their married daughter Rachel ( Dedee Pfeiffer), had recently announced that mom was going to be a grandmother. Zoey ( Alicia Witt), the moody 16 year old from her second marriage, was also living with her. Zoey's father Ira ( Alan Rosenberg), a successful but incredibly neurotic novelist, still had strong feelings for Cybill and was hoping to rekindle their romance. Fat Chance. Cybill's best friend was Maryann( Christine Baranski), a cynical divorcee whose ex-husband had left her quite well off. Maryann had been to the Betty Ford Clinic to cure her drinking problem but desperately needed a booster shot. The 2 of them dished the dirt, which included their respective dating problems, at the trendy reastaurant where they lunched in almost every episode.

Maryann's obsession with making life miserable for her ex, the notorious Dr. Dick, continued to get her and Cybill into precarious situations in slapstick adventures reminiscent of I Love Lucy. In the fall of 1995 Rachel gave birth to a son, and 2 years later to a daughter. Jeff moved out of Cybill's home in late 1995 and was seen only occasionally from 1996 on. In the spring of 1996, Ira and Maryann started dating ( it didn't last )and Zoey broke up with Sean ( Jay Paulson ), the busboy.

That fall Rachel and her family moved in with Cybill, while Kevin ( Peter Krause), looked for a new job, and Zoey got her own apartment. Cybill starred for a time in a new science-fiction series and when Jeff's career got hot, he gave Rachel and Kevin money for a down payment on a new home. Early in 1997, Maryann started dating a nice veterinarian who-ugh-was another Dr. Dick.

In the spring of 1998, Maryann's son Justin (Danny Masterson), who had been friendly with Zoey moved to San Francisco for a new job. In the series finale Maryann was left broke after Dr. Dick bribed her business manager into having her sign a form giving him power of attorney. He cleaned her out and at the episode's end, she and Cybill were arrested for murdering Dr. Dick. He had apparently been in the Chris-Craft boat that among other things, they had gleefully blown up on his property. As they were led off, " to be continued" flashed on the screen, but since Cybill had been canceled, there was no resolution.

Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner were the Executive Producers of this series.

An Article from The LA Times


If fall is the time for networks to learn their lessons, winter is the season to make a few repairs.

That may involve a production company abandoning ship ("Blue Skies") for "A Whole New Ballgame" on ABC, keeping some of the cast intact and bringing on a star name. Or starting over from scratch, banking on familiar faces: There's Delta Burke on CBS reviving an old character in a new city ("Women of the House") and Cybill Shepherd on the same network trying something fresh and personal in "Cybill." And look, isn't that Eldin from "Murphy Brown" mixing it up with Generation X'ers as the owner of a bike messenger service in Manhattan ("Double Rush")?

If you're the adventurous Fox network, though, you go beyond retro for a refigured Sunday night and introduce "Get Smart"--with the same Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 playing their real age.

Over the next three pages is a look at three shows that arose from the midseason shuffle.

It's been a long day for Cybill Shepherd on the set of her new CBS comedy series, aptly titled "Cybill," which bowed last Monday after "Murphy Brown."

Shepherd, 44, is lying down in her trailer, stifling several yawns. She's been rehearsing as well as filming for the better part of the day. And, in less than three hours, she'll be filming in front of a studio audience.

"Last time we did a show we went until 2 in the morning," she says, with yet another yawn.

It's been 10 years since Shepherd, who is executive producer of "Cybill," teamed with then-newcomer Bruce Willis in the innovative ABC detective series "Moonlighting."

'Cybill" creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre ("Grace Under Fire") hopes Shepherd's new series also will push the conventions of the genre.

"I am hoping to create a show that is appointment television, something I would want to run home and see and hope the audience agrees," he says.

The slightly naughty, bawdy comedy finds Shepherd playing 40ish Cybill Sheridan, a working actress in Los Angeles. She's been divorced twice and is the mother of two daughters. Tom Wopat plays hubby No. 1, professional stuntman Jeff Robbins. Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle's younger sister), is oldest daughter Rachel, who is conservative, married and pregnant.

Alan Rosenberg ("Civil Wars," "L.A. Law") plays ex-spouse Ira Woodbine, a neurotic novelist; Alicia Witt plays their brooding 16-year-old daughter, Zoey. Christine Baranski rounds out the cast as Cybill's best friend, Maryann, a rich divorcee and alumna of the Betty Ford Clinic. Several popular movie and TV stars also will be making cameos in the show.

Executive producer Jay Daniel, who worked with Shepherd for four years on "Moonlighting" and with Roseanne for five years on "Roseanne," contacted Shepherd about returning to series TV.

"I saw Candice Bergen accepting an Emmy and thought, 'Why isn't Cybill back on TV in a series? She should be.' " So he called her and pitched the twice-divorced mother of three the idea of doing a sitcom based somewhat on her own life. "Because a 40ish career woman, two ex-husbands, a teen-age daughter who is heading down the road to womanhood, there is gold to be mined there," Daniel says.

Shepherd says she had been approached by CBS about four years ago to do a series, but wasn't ready to return to a weekly show. Daniel's concept, though, interested her.

"The idea of trying to do something that hasn't been seen before and dealing with issues of aging and a woman being in her prime, feeling really that you are at your peak and the best in your life," Shepherd says. "But in our culture women are not treated like this.

The two worked on the concept and took the idea to ABC, CBS and NBC. "We actually got a commitment from all three networks for 13 episodes," Daniel says. They ended up with Carsey-Warner Company ("The Cosby Show," "Roseanne," "Grace Under Fire").

Once Shepherd and Daniel hooked up with executive producers Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach, Chuck Lorre came on aboard to create the show.

Lorre was intrigued with making Cybill an actress but not a star. "I thought Los Angeles would be a great place to put it because it is an incredibly exciting city," Lorre says. "I thought it would be a character in the show. The city could peak through the curtain every once in awhile. I didn't want to make fun of L.A."

Nor did he want to make the series too "Hollywood" for audiences. "I tried to reassure everybody that the show would not be about show business," Lorre says. "It is about a woman who is in show business, but it is about her friends and her husbands and her love affairs and raising her children. The universal theme is 'Oh, God. I am going to be a grandmother.' Not, 'I am having trouble finding an agent.' "

Lorre's main job was to make sure he captured Shepherd's own voice for Cybill. "She is an incredible lady," he says. "She's vibrant, exciting and she has her own mind. She let me spend time with her during the summer. I just tried to write a character that would really fit her like a glove."

Shepherd feels a real kinship with the small-screen Cybill. "I've had a great good fortune," she says. "I don't want to diminish the fact I've worked very hard and tried my utmost to be ready for the opportunities when they came knocking. But two things happened in my career that didn't happen to my character: one is 'The Last Picture Show' and the other is 'Moonlighting.'

"I know what it is like to be Cybill Sheridan. I did the second guest-starring role on a 'Fantasy Island'. There was a period in my life before 'Moonlighting' that the only job I could get was regional theater. I know what the rejection is like because you never stop being rejected in this business."

Lorre believes "the audience is going to fall in love with her all over again just like they did in 'Moonlighting.' It is easy to fall in love with Cybill Shepherd. She is a nice lady."

"Cybill" airs Mondays at 9:30 p.m on CBS.

A Review from The New York Times

Published: January 9, 1995

The makers of "Cybill," which is laden with five executive producers, clearly get a kick out of the BBC sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous" and its off-the-wall portrait of two women boozing their way through New Age lunacies. Cybill is an actress, mostly in bit parts on soaps. ("There are no small parts, only small checks," she says.) She has two former husbands: Jeff (Tom Wopat), a stunt man ("I call all my ex-wives Pumpkin"), and Ira (Alan Rosenberg), a novelist whose midlife crisis includes dating very young women and buying German sports cars. She also has two daughters, and the older one is pregnant, raising the specter of grandmotherhood.

Cybill's dearest friend and confidante is Maryann (Christine Baranski), a multi-martini divorcee who insists that her son is "standing in a mesa in New Mexico with a suitcase and a flashlight trying to hitch a ride off this planet." Meanwhile, Cybill and Maryann do their best to survive in a California in which coyotes eat cats and earth tremors come with lunch. Maryanne is convinced a woman's life has only three stages: virgin, mother and crone.

"Cybill" tries hard -- sometimes too hard -- to be outrageous. Breast jokes abound, and at one point George Hamilton pops up for a doggie-poop routine. "Absolutely Fabulous" is grandly bawdy and uninhibited; "Cybill," more restrained for American sensibilities, ends up too often being only vulgar. Still, Ms. Shepherd and Ms. Baranski have their delightful moments. And the series appears to be getting stronger. Next week's episode, with Morgan Fairchild providing competition for Cybill on the soap scene, is hilarious.

An Article from The New York Times

TELEVISION; Through Thick and Thin (Thin? I Could Kill Her)

Published: April 30, 1995

Where would Cybill Shepherd's character on "Cybill" be without her best friend? Drink in hand, Maryann is always there to share wit and wisdom about Cybill's daughters and ex-husbands. And Cybill is there for Maryann, who has been known to telephone her friend from her walkin closet, nervous that she is seconds from going to bed with a new man. Cybill and Maryann lunch together, work out at the gym together, stalk Maryann's ex-husband together and commiserate on the trials of life after 40. They're part of a long line of sitcom female best friends. But oh, how those twosomes have evolved! They've always been women of their times. ANITA GATES Lucy and Ethel, 1951-57 Era -- Life revolved around home and husbands when Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) were pals on "I Love Lucy" (CBS). The girls always wanted to go to a nightclub; the boys always wanted to go to the fights. Living Arrangements -- The same New York Apartment building. Specialty -- Silly capers. Balance of Power -- The Mertzes own the building, but Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel are round and middle-aged while Ricky (Desi Arnaz) and Lucy have youth and beauty on their side. Lucy is a little nuts, but Ethel almost always goes along with her schemes, from dressing up as Martians to sneaking into Richard Widmark's backyard. Lucy returns the favor at least once, posing as the Mertzes' maid to impress a visiting friend of Fred's. Togetherness -- The couples go everywhere together (Hollywood, Europe), and when the Ricardos move to Connecticut, the Mertzes soon follow. Loyalty -- Stong, but when Lucy loses her bit part in an Italian movie by soaking up local color literally (during a fight with a fellow grape stomper), Ethel accepts the movie part herself. Gleefully. Mary and Rhoda, 1970-74 Era -- In the 70's, when Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore, right) and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) were best friends on CBS's "Mary Tyler Moore Show," working women who were over 30 and single had to stick together. Living Arrangements -- Apartments in the same Minneapolis house. Specialty -- Moral support. Balance of Power -- Mary is prettier and thinner and has a better job (television news producer; Rhoda is a window dresser) and a nicer apartment. Even Rhoda's mother likes Mary better. But Rhoda is braver (she even calls Mary's boss by his first name). Togetherness -- Largely home-base, although Rhoda does turn up at Mary's office now and then. Loyalty -- Strong. Mary takes in Mrs. Morgenstern when Rhoda decides she can't deal with one more maternal visit. Rhoda stays up all night helping Mary meet a deadline for writing obituaries. Still, after four seasons, Rhoda dumps her and leaves town faster than you can say "spinoff." Laverne and Shirley, 1976-82 Era -- ABC's "Laverne and Shirley" was set in the 1950's (as seen nostalgically from the feminist 70's), when single women shared a single goal: as Shirley says just after Laverne has gone face-down into a chopped-liver sculpture, "I just thought that we might meet a couple of rich guys." Living Arrangements -- Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) share a modest apartment in Milwaukee. Specialty -- Silly man-hunting capers. Laverne gets her hand stuck in a crematory urn while trying to impress a handsome mortician. Balance of Power -- Shirley is naive. Laverne is manipulative. Togetherness -- They work together at a brewery and double-date a lot. When Shirley really, really wants to attend a cocktail party at the Pfister Hotel to meet businessmen, Laverne accompanies her, even though she has just completed a sleep-deprivation experiment and keeps sliding to the floor. Loyalty -- After the characters relocate to California, Shirley marries and moves overseas, leaving Laverne to face cancellation alone. Kate and Allie, 1984-89 Era -- On CBS's "Kate and Allie," 1980's women had problems that Lucy and Ethel could barely have imagined. Living Arrangements -- Kate McArdle (Susan Saint James, right) and Allie Lowell (Jane Curtin), both divorced, live with their total of three children in a big New York apartment. At one point, they pretend to be lesbians so the landlady won't throw them out for being a two-family household. Specialties -- Hugs and late-night talks about love, children and life. Balance of Power -- Kate is cooler, more worldly; Allie is old-fashioned and keeps tranquilizers in the spice rack. Togetherness -- Allie stays home to cold-shower Kate out of an accidental sedative overdose. Kate rushes home from work when Allie calls, panicked about her 17-year-old daughter's intentions to have sex. Eventually the two women open a catering business. Loyalty -- Even after Allie remarries, Kate moves in with her. Patsy and Edina, 1992- Era -- The 90's, but the dissolute, self-indulgent heroines of "Absolutely Fabulous" (BBC; shown here on Comedy Central since 1994) refuse to leave the 60's. Living Arrangements -- No one understands Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders, left), who lives in a chic London house. Thank God for Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), who lives somewhere within taxicab distance and keeps moving in. Specialties -- Drinking (Bollinger is a favorite), drug use (Patsy smuggles marijuana into Morocco in her Ivana Trump hairdo), shopping, belittling Eddy's annoyingly sensbile teen-age daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), and complaining in spoken italics ("Why can't life just be made a little easier?" Eddy asks a traffic court judge). Balance of Power -- Patsy, a magazine fashion director who often can't find her office, has the more glamorous job and looks. But Eddy, a publicist, holds all the cards, as her daughter and her best friend fight for her love. Togetherness -- Absolute. When Eddy was hospitalized for foot surgery (a lost acupuncture needle), Patsy checked in for moral support -- and a face-lift. Loyalty -- Total. Who but Patsy would call Saffron pretending to be the Betty Ford Clinic confirming Edina's reservation? Hope and Gloria, 1995- Era -- Here and now (NBC's "Hope and Gloria"). Living Arrangements -- The same apartment building in Pittsburgh. Specialty -- Too soon to tell. Balance of Power -- Mixed. Hope Davidson (Cynthia Stevenson), recently dumped by her unfaithful husband, is a television producer so meek she accepts applying cream cheese to her boss's bagel as part of her job. Gloria Utz (Jessica Luncy) is a twice-divorced hairdresser and mother of one who carries a tote bag the size of a coffee table and talks back to just about anyone. Togetherness -- Growing. They do visit each other's apartments constantly. Loyalty -- Promising, but Hope could have been alittle more supportive when she hired Gloria at the television station, then pretty much took the job offer back.

An Article from The New York Times

TELEVISION; Bantering and Lolling Her Way to the Top

Published: April 30, 1995

WRAPPED IN SPANDEX AND midlife neuroses, swilling a martini and tossing off tart one-liners, Christine Baranski sparkles in the role of Maryann Thorpe, the madcap, shriekingly chic best friend on "Cybill," a sitcom that is delighting its supporters at CBS.

Ms. Baranski's zesty banter with Cybill Shepherd, who plays a twice-divorced, almost-over-the-hill actress, recalls the repartee dished up by wisecracking dames in Hollywood's vintage screwball comedies.

CYBILL: I lost a great part in a movie. Hooker with a heart of gold.

MARYANN: Oh, that's novel.

CYBILL: They thought it would be more of a family film if they cast a younger, perkier whore. Apparently, middle-aged prostitutes are depressing.

MARYANN: So much for my plans to re-enter the work force.

At a time when many of television's yummiest female parts are those of blue-collar moms or single careerists, Maryann is the unexpected petit four: a rich Brentwood divorcee who lolls away her days getting apricot facials and harassing her ex-husband, a plastic surgeon. "She's audacious," sums up Ms. Baranski, who can be seen in the role on Mondays at 9:30 P.M., right after "Murphy Brown."

Arriving for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel, Ms. Baranski, makes a Maryann-like entrance in dark sunglasses and a snug bubble-gum-pink suit, with a publicity agent and a makeup artist in tow.

She has been up since 6:30 A.M. getting "fluffed and glossed" in her Litchfield, Conn., farmhouse for an appearance on ABC's "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee." "I have to uphold my image," she explains, after ordering a cold Heineken in a wine glass. "Why be my everyday self when I can be the witty, haute couture Maryann?"

With her chiseled cheekbones, retrousse nose and wide, pointy grin, the bone-thin actress calls to mind Kay Kendall, the British comedian. A lively conversationalist, she speaks in a grand, throaty voice with the clipped diction of someone more accustomed to Shakespeare than to sitcoms.

Ms. Baranski says she is learning to talk more quietly in restaurants because "in Hollywood, you never know who in the business is sitting behind you."

Eavesdropping on deals hatched over caffe latte is new to Ms. Baranski, a theater actress whose professional roots are firmly planted in New York. A Juilliard graduate who appeared in the American Shakespeare Festival and regional theater before landing on Broadway, she has won two Tony Awards for featured actress (in 1984, as Jeremy Irons's discarded first wife in Tom Stoppard's "Real Thing," and in 1989, as an agitated nouveau riche party guest in Neil Simon's farce "Rumors").

For years, she endured a three-hour commute between New York theaters and her Connecticut home , where she lives with her husband, the actor Matthew Cowles, and two young daughters. Her unwillingness to give up her East Coast life style kept her from accepting television parts in Hollywood. She says she even declined to audition for "Grace Under Fire," Brett Butler's ABC sitcom hit.

"It's only been this specific character, this show and this writing that has gotten me to make the jump to sitcom land," she said. "I'm still ambivalent about having a life on both coasts, but the show was such a great opportunity. And the visibility television gives you is pretty wonderful."

Indeed, Ms. Baranski's flamboyant alter ego has not only touched off a media flurry; it has also attracted hordes of new fans, one of whom wrote: "Who are you? Where did you come from?" Ms. Baranski marvels: "It's as if I'm being discovered at the age of 42."

She has a disconcerting habit of gazing around the room as she speaks, leaving her interviewer to communicate with one of her jeweled pink earrings.

"In the theater I was used to playing immensely challenging roles, and I feared that on television I'd be playing the same one-note character over and over," she said, staring at the opposite table. "But to my delight, Maryann is turning out to be a three-octave role. She doesn't just wallow in her martinis."

Chuck Lorre, the show's creator, said: "Christine brings a vulnerability and intelligence to the character that isn't on the page. She has terrific instincts about Maryann."

Still, the role of a lonely, divorced dropout from the Betty Ford Center is perhaps more poignant than comedic. Has Ms. Baranski been criticized for pushing the boundaries of good taste?

"I haven't received a single letter saying, 'How can you set such a bad example?' " she replies. "This is a sophisticated adult comedy, not educational television."

Ms. Baranski said the onscreen chemistry between Cybill and Maryann exists in real life too.

"I don't think the characters would work if we didn't get along so well," she said. "And considering that Maryann is such a scene-stealing part, I think Cybill has been exceptionally generous and supportive." (Ms. Shepherd declined to discuss the relationship for this article.)

To get their "vibrations" in sync before a scene, Ms. Baranski and Ms. Shepherd bark at each other. But it's all in fun, not like the bickering on the set of "Moonlighting," the 1985-89 series that starred Ms. Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

Ms. Baranski was born in Buffalo, where her father was the editor of a Polish newspaper. She displayed a theatrical flair as a teen-ager, starring in "Auntie Mame" in high school.

Her theater credits include Terrence McNally's 1991 Off Broadway comedy "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" (as a neurotic suburbanite who can't stop talking) and, in the same year, the ill-fated Broadway musical "Nick and Nora" (as an egomaniacal movie queen). She has also popped up in such films as "Reversal of Fortune" and "Addams Family Values."

This summer, Ms. Baranski will film "Birds of a Feather," Mike Nichols's screen adaptation of the French farce "La Cage aux Folles." She describes her character as "very chic, sophisticated, a bit like Maryann," a description that may also be said of the socialite she portrays in the film "Jeffrey," based on Paul Rudnick's comedy, due in August.

Does she worry about being typecast as a smart-mouthed fashion plate? No, she said. "I spent so many years doing theater in New York that when I want to, I know I can come back and do any number of things."

Not that she'll be on Broadway any time soon. With "Cybill" often placing in the top 20 of the Nielsen ratings, it looks as if Ms. Baranski will be accruing hundreds of thousands of frequent-flier miles.

"I always thought of television as a Faustian bargain," she said. "But so far I'm having a ball."

An Article from The Washington Post

By Harriet Winslow October 15, 1995

She's saucy, a snappy dresser, sharp-tongued and a big drinker. And she's the best friend "Cybill" could have. She's Maryann Thorpe, played by Emmy-winner Christine Baranski, who is relishing a role people love to talk about. "People seem to really dig this character," said Baranski. "Men find her exceedingly funny and women seem to want to be her. She's a wonderful creation." Since the 43-year-old actress took the role of the jaunty Maryann on the CBS series "Cybill," she has nearly upstaged the show's star. Yet Baranski is modest about being a scene stealer. "I lucked into fabulous writing and a wonderful producing team, and I hit it off with my star," she said. That star would be Cybill Shepherd, whose show, now in its second season, is competing Sundays at 8 against "Mad About You" on NBC, "The Simpsons" on Fox and "Lois & Clark" on ABC. The new time slot is proving a greater challenge than its former home on Monday night. At the end of its first season, "Cybill" was the sixth highest-rated new series, but Sunday nights have caused the series to slip, at least initially, from being the 22nd most-watched show to 49th now. Still, Baranski's rich-by-divorce Maryann should continue to attract viewers the same way that "Absolutely Fabulous" does. Baranski pointed out that the "Cybill" role was created long before the arrival of the successful British import, now seen on cable's Comedy Central. Regardless, she enjoys playing the number-two role on the show. "I think sidekicks are a great position to be in. You don't always have to be likable. You can veer off the track. Maryann is there, drinking and making her bitchy remarks, and she is embraced anyway," she said. "To play sophisticated and to play irreverent is just so much fun, and I've done it so many times in the theater that I've rarely played anything else." Indeed, before "Cybill," the Juilliard-trained actress's career was centered in New York, with an occasional movie role. "I always resisted sitcoms and thought, maybe someday if the situation was exactly right," she said. It helped that "Cybill" came to her. The show was cast in New York, where Baranski's stage credits have earned her two Tony Awards (for Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing" in 1984 and Neil Simon's "Rumors" in '89). She has had roles in the films "9 1/2 Weeks," "Legal Eagles," "Life With Mikey" and "Addams Family Values," and played Claus von Bulow's mistress in "Reversal of Fortune." She was in the recently released "Jeffrey," and has made a movie version of "La Cage aux Folles" with Robin Williams, due out this spring. "It is a serendipitous thing that {Cybill'} has worked so well," she said. "It's really as though I'm being discovered, because theater doesn't seem to make it into the mainstream {press}." Between episodes of "Cybill," Baranski calls home an 18th-century farmhouse in Litchfield, Conn. There her two daughters stay with Dad, actor Matthew Cowles, formerly of "All My Children" and soon of the film "The Juror" with Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin. Cowles inherited the farmhouse, fully paid for. "Anybody who knows this area knows why I'm so firmly grounded here," she said. "We're surrounded by trees. I've lived here since my children were babies. We're just very lucky." And in Litchfield, she added, "I stop thinking about ratings and what my skin is like. I get very centered." Baranski said she misses her children, aged 7 and 10, as she works in Los Angeles, but is proud to say she has never interrupted their schooling for her career. Her daughters know their mother is an actress, but it is hard for them to see her without a TV. Wait a minute. Both Mom and Dad have made their living on television and there isn't a box in the house? "We just don't have it in our home," she said. "It's a decision we made a long time ago." Doesn't sound at all like Maryann. Well, she doesn't forbid her daughters to watch television -- they love "The Simpsons," which they see at friends'. Also, Baranski firmly believes that "it's important for children not to be overshadowed by their famous parents." And last month's Emmy ceremony helped Baranski become more famous. She said she was dazzled by the glitz of the televised event, which she attended with her husband. But their daughters were back in Connecticut, where they would start school the next day. "The Emmys are just one step short of the Oscars with the press gantlet that you go through as you enter the auditorium," she said. "We were sort of late, as the limousines were backed up, so I just took in the scene from my chair. I looked around and saw Barbra Streisand and Donald Sutherland and thought, This is really big time.' " Although she had been told she had a good chance of winning the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series, she said she was stunned when she heard her name. "Frasier's" Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, both of whom she has worked with on stage, presented her award, and she said she was glad to see them there at the podium. "When people afterwards were saying, When we heard your name, we were just screaming and jumping and crying,' I thought I felt this surge of energy from the audience," she said. "I'm from Buffalo and have worked in regional theaters all over the country. Maybe this surge that I felt was from this singular moment." Backstage, reporters were trying to get her reaction, but she said she had to ask for a moment to collect herself. "I did find the Hollywood recognition factor to be pretty wonderful," she said, "to be recognized in this town as well as New York." So, the only award not on her shelf is an Oscar? "Actually I'm working on my singing." Oh, yes. There are still the Grammys. CAPTION: Christine Baranski plays best pal to Cybill Shepherd, an actress and divorced mother in "Cybill." CAPTION: Connecticut-based Baranski plays brazen Maryann Thorpe.

An Article from the Chicago Tribune

Cybill' Is Just Another Job For Baranski
April 07, 1996|By Hilary DeVries. Special to the Tribune.

`What is that great quote of Euripides?" Christine Baranski asks, sounding very much like Maryanne Thorpe, the throaty, wit-as-dry-as-her-martinis divorcee she plays on "Cybill." "Every beginning is lovely"?

To say the least. After two decades playing arch, brittle dames on New York stages--and winning a couple of Tony Awards for her efforts--Baranski has, most unexpectedly, found the breakout role of her career playing one of the archest dames ever seen on TV. That she has earned almost every award in town--including the Emmy--after a single season as Cybill Shepherd's scene-stealing best friend, belies the fact that for most of her career, Baranski was a virtual unknown in Hollywood.

"It's as though at 42," she has said, sounding as startled as everyone, "I'm making my debut."

In fact, with her razor-sharp timing and drop-dead delivery, Baranski is in very good company these days, another Broadway expatriate cropping up on a top-rated sitcom, a list that includes John Lithgow ("Third Rock From the Sun"), David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier"), Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") and Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne"). "The Emmy Awards was like old home week," marvels Baranski, "all those theater people who've spent years honing their craft, when they bring it to TV it's pure gold."

Gold among the dross, if you ask Baranski, who found plenty of reasons to avoid Hollywood's siren call. "Year after year, I just cringed at pilot season," says the veteran of such Broadway hits as Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing," Neil Simon's "Rumors" and Terence McNally's "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," a play written specifically for her. "I prayed, `Don't let me be tempted by anything that would constitute a significant life change.' "

Tempted she was not, despite overtures from several studios and producers, including Leslie Moonves, then the head of Warner Bros. TV, and Jim Brooks, who noted not only Baranski's theater career but also her roles in such disparate films as "Reversal of Fortune" and "Addams Family Values." It wasn't until Carsey-Werner handed her the pilot for "Cybill" did Baranski take the plunge.

"This was a voice I hadn't heard on TV," she says. "Maryanne wasn't the sympathetic mom or, worse, the supportive foil to the funny guy. She was extremely sharp, ascerbic, very complicated but also vulnerable. I thought this was something that would really use my talents."

Also contributing to her decision was a New York theater scene that was becoming, as she puts it, "difficult." "My last paycheck at the Manhattan Theater Club was $325 a week and I thought, `What the hell?' This will be a first-class trip, I'll sit by the pool, drink champagne and eat hot fudge," she recalls about coming to Los Angeles to read for "Cybill." "Look at me now," she laughs, gesturing dramatically at her dressing room cluttered with Barney's bags, stacks of fan mail and a week's worth of clothes hanging in the shower stall.

To meet Baranski, willowy and soigne and given to great bursts of laughter, is to recognize the force behind Maryanne's asp-like charisma and the devotion she commands. Although her background is a continent apart from the bejeweled Beverly Hills divorcee--Baranski was raised in Buffalo, the daughter of a Polish-American newspaperman, and she later attended Juilliard--like Maryanne, Baranski seems to have sprung full-blown from the mind of Oscar Wilde or Paul Rudnick, with a fondness for cocktails and couture and a flair for the bitchy bon mot.

"Although I have not lived a life like Maryanne," Baranski says demurely, "I definitely have her essence, her wit and her irreverence."

This season, the actress was determined that audiences would see more than the "Ab-Fab" label with which critics greeted the series last year. "She is politically incorrect and how great--a hard-drinking lady, bitter towards her ex-husband, stalking him out of revenge--wonderful," says Baranski. "But you have to move on, you can't just play that one joke for 30 episodes."

Moving on has meant more screen time for Baranski as well as a blossoming relationship between Maryanne and Cybil's daughter Zoey (Alicia Witt) and a budding romance with Cybill's ex-husband Ira (Alan Rosenberg). "She's a highly imaginative, flamboyant, neurotic woman with great vulnerability," says Baranski, who along with Rosenberg lobbied the series' writers for the change. "I've always maintained there are all kinds of things to explore with her."

Artistically restless she may be, Baranski has not brought the same spirit of adventure to her personal life, preferring to treat her foray into Hollywood as if it were another job down on West 42nd Street. Spurning an apartment or a suite at the Four Seasons, Baranski spends her work weeks at a residence hotel in West Hollywood and drives a rented car. During the show's hiatus, she commutes home to Connecticut, the 18th Century farmhouse she shares with her husband, actor Matthew Cowles ("All My Children"), and her two daughters.

Despite her growing profile--Baranski has a role in "The Birdcage" and film offers are beginning to pour in--she remains cautious about her career, more interested in a cabaret act at New York's Carlyle Hotel or possibly another TV series ("but only if it's shot in New York") than in becoming a full-fledged star.

"I think Hollywood is a very Faustian bargain," she says. "I have no doubt I will always be a working actor, but with this kind of visibility and money? I don't think you should count on it. While I was determined to enjoy it while it happened, had fabulous dresses made and attended all of the award ceremonies and drank champagne, I am still the daughter of a woman raised in the Depression. I still go `OK, now this will be paid off.' In fact, by the end of next year, my kids' college will be paid for. I mean, if I'm going to be away from home so much, at least I'm bringing home something for their future."

To read some articles from Cybil go to and and

To watch some clips from Cybill go to

For CBS's Official Site for Cybill go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For a Website dedicated to Dee Dee Pfeiffer go to

For the Official Website of Alicia Witt go to

For some Cybill-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For a great review of Cybill go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Thu March 25, 2004 � Filesize: 90.4kb � Dimensions: 450 x 319 �
Keywords: Cybill


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