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Love & War aired from September 1992 until February 1995 on CBS.
It was certainly true that opposites attracted in this comedy-but twice in a row? Jack ( Jay Thomas) was a cynical, rather insecure columnist for the New York Post. Opinionated and aggressive, he was a regular at the seedy Blue Shamrock, a restaurant/bar where he hung out with his buddies and let off steam. Into his life, and The Blue Shamrock, walked Wally ( Susan Dey), recently divorced from egocentric, would-be actor Kip ( Michael Nouri). She was a classy uptown woman with champaign tastes. After exchanging heated words with Jack and downing one too many vodkas, Wally impulsively bought a share of the bar from Ike ( John Hancock), its bartender and owner, and declared she would turn the " joint" into a chic restaurant. Jack was both aghast and excited. He loved the grubby familiarity of the Shamrock and hated what Wally was doing to it, but, at the same time, he was falling madly in lust with her. The other regulars, similarly disturbed by the proposed conversion were Ray ( Joel Murray), a shy sanitation worker, and Meg ( Suzie Plakson),an outspoken sports reporter.
Needing a waitress, Wally hired Nadine ( Joanna Gleason), a suburban housewife with two kids in college and a husband in jail for stock fraud, who needed the job to make ends meet while she worked on a degree of her own. After Ike died from a heart attack ( as had actor John Hancock), his surely brother Abe ( Charlie Robinson), an out of work auto worker from Detroit, showed up to claim his inheritance-Ike's share of The Blue Shamrock. He stayed on and took over as bartender, mellowing ever so slightly over time. As the love affair between Jack and Wally got more serious ( " Your condom or mine?"), they kept questioning what was developing between them, musing directly to the viewing audience.
As the 1993-1994 season opened Jack was moping over being dumped by Wally, who had left for Paris ( Susan Dey had been fired by the producers because there was " no chemistry" between her and co-star Jay Thomas). Into The Blue Shamrock, and his life, walked his new love. Dana ( Annie Potts) was a gourmet chef who had quit her job at a fancy French restaurant when the executive chef position had been given to a man. She became the new chef at the Shamrock, and, more outspoken and less tolerant than Wally, became Jack's new verbal sparring partner. Although there was an undercurrent of sexual tension, it was a full year before they ended up in bed together. Having been burned by Wally, Jack took everything much more slowly the second time around.
On August 18, 1995, more than six months after the show had left the air, a single original episode was telecast.
An Article from Time Magazine on TV's Generation Gap
TV's Generation Gap
Monday, Sep. 14, 1992
By RICHARD ZOGLIN
Woman walks into a bar. The regulars instantly size her up: "Uptown, East Side, college educated. Probably reuses her grocery bags. Charter subscriber to Working Woman magazine. Saw The Big Chill three times. Plays Trivial Pursuit on the weekends with friends. What's she doing here on a Monday? It's Murphy Brown night."
Man makes a lewd comment. Woman instantly sizes him up: "Is there a brain up there, or just one long episode of Studs?"
SCENES FROM BOTH SIDES OF TV's generational divide: the first, from Diane English's much anticipated new CBS sitcom Love and War, is hip, sophisticated, full of knowing media references (including one to English's own show -- and current cause celebre -- Murphy Brown). The second, from a less heralded new NBC sitcom called Out All Night, is brassy and in-your-face; its TV reference, appropriately, is to a salacious game show. Love and War is one of a potful of ( upscale, thirtysomething sitcoms served up by the networks this fall. Out All Night gives a good idea of what TV thinks of the younger generation.
Thirtysomething, ABC's trendsetting drama series, has been off the air for more than a year, but the show's angst-ridden spirit will be all over the dial this fall. In Love and War, a roughhewn Manhattan journalist (Jay Thomas) falls for a prickly, recently divorced restaurateur (Susan Dey). In Hearts Afire, two aides to a U.S. Senator (John Ritter and Markie Post) get together despite clashing political views. NBC's Mad About You focuses on neurotic newlyweds living in Manhattan, while ABC's Laurie Hill adds a five-year-old child to the trials of a busy two-career couple.
It's no surprise that thirtysomething shows are growing in popularity. They reflect, to a large degree, the experiences and life-styles of the people who create them. They attract the audience demographics that advertisers crave. They usually get applause from the critics -- or at least approving nods for trying to bring "quality" to a medium dominated by escapist drivel.
The escapist drivel, meanwhile, is going after a younger crowd. TV's hottest new genre is the twentysomething ensemble show. Melrose Place (a spinoff of Beverly Hills 90210), The Heights (about a group of blue-collar New Jersey youths trying to launch a rock band) and 2000 Malibu Road, a soap opera set in a California beach house, all drew strong ratings this summer. Coming this fall are NBC's The Round Table (young professionals in Washington), Fox's Class of '96 (students at a small Northeastern college) and a slew of youth- oriented sitcoms.
A generation gap could hardly be more clearly defined. TV's under-30s are, for the most part, shallow, fun loving, upbeat. They tend to live in communal groups and spend a lot of time in the sun. They are still young enough to be entranced with the idea of being on their own. One of the two bachelors who room together (while working at Patti LaBelle's nightclub) in Out All Night raves about their new apartment: "It's what we've always talked about. A place of our own, with no parents, no dorm directors -- just freedom!"
After the age of 30, however, life gets more complicated and troubling. TV's thirtysomethings are tense, introspective, concerned about relationships. They have pressure-filled jobs, and they usually live in big cities, where just getting to work can be a problem. "If we're not on the subway by eight, all the nonsticky seats are taken," says the husband rushing for work in Mad About You. They worry a lot about their future, and no wonder: if they're not careful, they could end up like one of the midlife losers of Middle Ages, CBS's downer drama that just opened for a five-week run. Take Peter Riegert, for instance, who plays a salesman trying to peddle computers to small-town Midwesterners, many of them old people who are still mystified by the little holes in steam irons. Willy Loman never had it so drab.
TV's younger generation, of course, has its troubles too, but they are usually overblown soap-opera cliches, and they seem to catch everybody by surprise. In Melrose Place, a naive young secretary is sexually attacked by her new boss, but only after warning signs that not even Senator Arlen Specter could have missed. In The Heights, a band member's girlfriend announces that she is pregnant. "I guess we'll get married. It's the right thing to do," says the boyfriend, who has apparently never seen an episode of Oprah or Donahue. The knottiest problems in The Heights are not personal but group related. The sole black member of the band gets razzed by his neighborhood pals for playing with a bunch of whites. "It's not a color thing," he replies. "It's a people thing." A blond waif complains that the band won't let her sing her own soulful music. "If you don't start taking me seriously, I'm going to quit the band!" she cries. Who said anything about taking people seriously?
Not all of TV's under-30s appear brain damaged. Beverly Hills 90210, the high school drama whose success launched the current spate of twentysomething ensembles, has always borne more resemblance to a thirtysomething show, with its brooding characters and relatively forthright treatment of teen problems. Going to Extremes, the new series from John Falsey and Joshua Brand (I'll Fly Away, Northern Exposure) and set in a Caribbean medical school, is a surprisingly bland concoction from that creative team. But at least it revolves around characters with minimum scores on the SATs and some awareness of the real world.
Nor are the older-targeted shows, for all their introspective angst, necessarily profound or truthful. Laurie Hill sets up a familiar problem: a two-career couple (she's a doctor, he's a freelance writer) trying to find time for each other and for their five-year-old son. But the day-to-day conflicts are too overbaked. Laurie's husband gets pouty when their evening at ) home is interrupted by her beeper. "You have a kid at home who's gonna be in college by the time the three of us get to have a meal together!" he snaps later. And what is the crisis that has called her away? A sick young boy whose test results show he is HIV-positive. So much for marital sensitivity.
Love and War is shrewder and funnier, but its therapy-session psychologizing tends to run amuck. Wally and Jack, the couple from opposite sides of the tracks, dissect their relationship in first-person comments to the camera. (He: "I have this feeling about her. It's like the first time I rode the Cyclone at Coney Island. I was strangely excited, and a little nauseous at the same time." She: "I've always found his type very attractive, but I'm in a dangerously vulnerable place right now.") Conversing with each other, however, they revert to adolescent stammering. Jack tries to ask Wally for a date: "Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? O.K., O.K., that was too much, too formal, too crazy. Want to eat with me tonight? I mean, I have to eat, you have to eat . . ."
The one subject in which conversation is blunt and unambiguous is sex. On their first date, Jack and Wally kiss briefly, then she suddenly blurts out, "Would you like to have sex?" They proceed to debate the possibility with all the emotional involvement of a discussion of tax policy on Wall Street Week. There are gag lines that must have had the show's writers in stitches ("Your condom or mine?"), but the whole encounter is contrived and phony, like too much of the show.
Love and War seems even more artificial when compared with Mad About You, the season's best new sitcom. Paul and Jamie (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) are Manhattan newlyweds with no cute eccentricities, no clashing political views, no comical disparities in social background. Their problems are the little ones that occur when even compatible people are tossed into the same house together for the first time. Just getting out of the apartment in the morning is a Feydeau farce: she rushes back to open the window (the dog needs air), he rushes back to close it (a burglar might get in).
Mad About You, like Love and War, is too self-consciously verbal on the subject of sex, but it has more self-deprecating wit. She: "It doesn't bother you that we haven't had sex in five days? What's going on with us?" He: "What's going on is that we're married five months and the sexual part . . . is over. I thought you understood that."
% Reiser, a former stand-up comic, has knife-edge timing and a full repertoire of nervous tics, and Hunt manages to be both charming and exasperating at the same time. One sign of a sitcom that cares more about its characters than its gag lines: when Paul and Jamie start to fight, they ask their dinner guests to leave the room -- carrying their potential wisecracks with them. Privacy is one concept that becomes more precious with age.
A Review from The New York Times
Review/Television; Diane English's New Baby Is as Flinty as the Old
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 21, 1992
Year of the woman? Could be. But there's already no doubt that, as far as CBS is concerned, Monday is the night of the woman. Two women, actually: Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Diane English.
In the evening's new lineup, "Evening Shade" at 8 and the new "Hearts Afire" at 8:30 were created by Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason (her "Designing Women" was moved to a Friday slot). Ms. English will be able to claim "Murphy Brown" at 9 and a new series called "Love and War" at 9:30.
Tonight, with "Northern Exposure" pre-empted, both English shows, produced by Shukovsky English Entertainment, are being presented as one-hour specials. The beneficiary of a whopping tactical miscalculation by a prominent politician, "Murphy Brown," with Candice Bergen, returns at 9 with its ad rates soaring to record levels. Murphy's fussing over her newborn son, yet to be named, is sure to be spiked with some trenchant remarks about family values. CBS is keeping the show under tight wraps, obviously figuring there's no topping the publicity avalanche provided by Vice President Dan Quayle's criticism of the show's depiction of single motherhood.
At 10, the premiere of "Love and War" wastes little time demonstrating that Ms. English has no intention of smoothing out her distinctively flinty sense of humor. The new series is a romantic comedy offering still another variation on the threadbare theory that opposites attract.
He (Jay Thomas) is Jack Stein, a 42-year-old dese-and-dose newspaper columnist, never married and a survivor of one live-in relationship that, he says, "lasted slightly longer than Hanukkah." She (Susan Dey) is Wallis (Wally) Porter, 35, sophisticated and just coming off a divorce in which she lost control of her trendy restaurant, Chez Wally. After drowning her resentments in double vodkas, Wally unexpectedly ends up the owner of a seedy Manhattan bar called the Blue Shamrock, which just happens to be the favorite hangout for Jack and several offbeat friends. The premise of "Love and War" doesn't pretend to be subtle.
Jack is the kind of activist columnist who courts belligerent readers. He admits that he takes a few shots to the head now and then, adding that "fortunately, I clot very quickly." In the bar, Jack ponders the world's ills with a bartender (John Hancock) always eager to announce that he doesn't like people, a garbage collector (Joel Murray) who does daily battle with Lean Cuisine boxes, and a protective neighborhood woman (Suzie Plakson) who warns that the last thing New York needs right now is another fern bar.
Having just gone through a marriage with a megalomaniacal actor named Kip (Michael Nouri), Wally could very well be ready to get serious about a man who prepares, without blinking, a dinner consisting of baked ziti, guacamole and Belgian waffles. Noting that she is now "the proud owner of a place where all flies come to die," Wally takes a closer, not uninterested look at Jack's rough edges, though she says she doesn't want to "wind up on the Court channel with a big blue dot over my face."
"Love and War" has rough edges of its own, especially when the principals turn to the camera to talk directly with viewers. That device wears thin quickly. But Ms. English clearly knows her over-30 urban contemporaries, the kind who, after the woman makes the first move, talk breezily about condoms. Thoroughly hip, they can be reduced to mush by a drink served in an old Flintstones jelly jar. Circling each other warily, Jack and Wally are the new season's most promising couple. Start of a great relationship? She: "I give it a week." He: "Fifty years." A few solid seasons are not out of the question. Love and War CBS, tonight at 10. (Channel 2 in New York.) Produced by Shukovsky English Entertainment; written by Diane English; directed by Lee Shallat; music by Jonathan Tunick; Augustine Melendez, producer; Tony Yarlett, director of photography; Roy Christopher, production designer; Debe Hale, art director; Tucker Wiard, editor; Thom Wilson, sound mixer; Diane English and Joel Shukovsky, executive producers. Wally Porter . . . Susan Dey Jack Stein . . . Jay Thomas Ike . . . John Hancock Ray Litvak . . . Joel Murray Kip . . . Michael Nouri Meg Tynan . . . Suzie Plakson
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Love and War
B-By Ken Tucker
If you like Murphy Brown, the same sensibility guides Love and War, the new show that now airs right after it. Murphy creator Diane English has come up with this romantic comedy starring Jay Thomas (Murphy's loudmouth boyfriend Jerry Gold) and L.A. Law's Susan Dey. Thomas plays rough-and-tumble New York newspaper columnist Jack Stein; right away, I don't believe a tough guy like this would call his column ''The Stein Way'' it's an indication of how annoyingly whimsical this show can get. And the actors speak directly to the camera a lot, which is also too cutesy.
But pretty quickly, Love and War defeats these weaknesses. Dey plays Wallis ''Wally'' Porter, a restaurateur who has just divorced her actor husband, played by Michael Nouri. Wally lost her eatery in the divorce settlement, and in the premiere she buys the seedy bar in which Jack hangs out. That's how they meet; by the end of the episode Jack is asking, ''Your condom or mine?'' Like the new show on the other side of Murphy, the John Ritter-Markie Post comedy, Hearts Afire, Love and War treats us like grown-ups, but silly grown-ups. From the tootling clarinet music and Manhattan scenes in the opening credits to the pungent one-liners scattered throughout (Wally: ''I'm now the owner of a place where old flies come to die''), it's clear that English wants to do a weekly Woody Allen comedy for TV, and darned if every scene in this debut doesn't have at least a couple of solid laughs. More power to English if she can sustain that level of quality.
But with its cliched title, nothing-new premise, and the flat monotones that characterize the voices of both of our otherwise charming stars, Love and War could quickly become a cleverly written bore. I'm assuming the amiable oddballs who populate the bar in the opener like Ray (Joel Murray), a garbageman whose philosophy of life always seems to reduce to a metaphor involving maggots will become strong supporting players. And that's good, because Love and War looks like the kind of show that will rise or fall on the strength of its ensemble. B-
John Hancock's Obituary from The New York Times
John Hancock; Actor, 51
Published: October 15, 1992
John Hancock, an actor in the new CBS television comedy "Love and War" who occasionally appeared on NBC's "L.A. Law" as a tough-minded judge, was found dead on Tuesday in his home. He was 51 years old and lived in Los Angeles.
He died of a heart attack, a CBS spokeswoman said.
Mr. Hancock played an acerbic bartender named Ike Johnson on "Love and War," which stars Susan Dey and Jay Thomas. Production on the series has been temporarily halted and the set will remain closed for at least one week. Four completed episodes featuring Mr. Hancock will be shown at later dates.
He also appeared in the feature films "A Soldier's Story" and "Foul Play."
He is survived by his parents.
An Article from The New York Times
Hit Series' Producers Must Scramble to Fill A Dead Actor's Role
By BERNARD WEINRAUB,
Published: October 20, 1992
One week after the sudden death of an actor with a central role in CBS's comedy hit series "Love and War," the creators of the program are shaken and puzzled about how to proceed.
The actor, John Hancock, died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles last Monday. He was 51 years old.
The series was created by Diane English and Joel Shukovsky, the creators and former producers of "Murphy Brown." Set in New York, it involves a woman named Wally Porter, played by Susan Dey, who loses her yuppie restaurant in a messy divorce and buys a shabby bar frequented by a tough-talking newspaper columnist named Jack Stein, who is played by Jay Thomas. Mr. Hancock played the owner of the bar, Ike Johnson, whom Wally keeps on as the bartender. A Success in Jeopardy
The series is one of the few successful new shows of the television season. Mr. Hancock completed nine episodes of the sitcom, six of which have been broadcast.
A CBS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "The whole thing was just devastating. They were working together since April, every day. On a purely business level, the balance of the show is completely upset. Diane English has to react as a human being, but also as a businesswoman. What do you do? How do you do it?"
Ms. English, in a telephone interview, said: "There are no rules for this sort of thing. It completely blindsides and devastates you."
"We had to deal with Colleen Dewhurst's death on 'Murphy Brown,' " she continued (Ms. Dewhurst had a recurring role as Murphy's mother), "but she wasn't a regular character. When it is a regular character, like John, you have to address it in a way that's apropos. We decided to quickly write an episode that's respectful, but in keeping with a comedy series." The episode is being filmed this week and will be on the air on Nov. 16. Played Judge on 'L.A. Law'
Mr. Hancock was an actor of considerable experience. He appeared as a judge in the NBC series "L.A. Law," where he worked with Ms. Dey; in "Roots: The Next Generation"; the films "A Soldier's Story" and "Bonfire of the Vanities," and onstage in "Fences," "Othello" and an all-black production of "Death of a Salesman."
"When John died," said Ms. English, "we shut the show down for a week. We gathered together on the stage and sat in a circle. We did a lot of crying. I asked everyone to talk about what this episode might be. Each cast member was able to provide some wonderful little piece of business and some way the character would approach this great bartender that they all loved. By the end of a couple of hours, I had a yellow pad with a lot of great ideas. We all felt better. It was very cathartic for us. I wrote the episode in three days." The episode involves the principal characters reminiscing about the bartender.
There have been precedents on television, when actors in series have died, but nothing quite like the situation involving "Love and War." A Death That Closed a Show
For example, when the comedian Redd Foxx died last year, his CBS series, "The Royal Family," was put on hiatus, tinkered with, put back on the air with a new character, and ultimately canceled because Foxx had been central to the show.
During the third season of "Cheers," in 1985, Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach (also a bartender), died after a long illness. But the series was already established as a hit, and Mr. Colasanto had been unable to appear in the role for several weeks before his death. As a result, there were several episodes in which characters made jokes about Coach, who was supposed to be on vacation. Mr. Colasanto's death, at the end of the season, gave the creators of the show time to recast the bartender role and give it to Woody Harrelson. In Mr. Harrelson's first episode, the characters discussed the death of Coach.
On the NBC police series "Hill Street Blues," the actor Michael Conrad, who played Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, died of cancer in 1983. Mr. Conrad's death was handled in the irreverent style of "Hill Street Blues." In the series, which featured an ensemble cast, the police sergeant was having a torrid affair with a character named Grace, played by Barbara Babcock. The show's writers created an episode in which the officers at the station house discussed the sergeant, who died in the throes of love making. Hard Presence to Replace
The sergeant's cremation, the scattering of his ashes on the city's streets, and a street cleaner sweeping up the ashes at the episode's finale marked the sergeant's death.
As for the future of "Love and War," Ms. English said she was still uncertain how precisely to replace Mr. Hancock. "He provided a certain voice and he was an African-American," she said. "It's downtown New York, and it's important for me to have that representation. He provided a certain history. He was older. He didn't suffer fools gladly. I would love to get a character who would be like his brother or sister or son, somebody cut from the same cloth."
In the next few episodes, the characters in the series will step in as bartender until Ms. English decides how to proceed.
Over the weekend, she interviewed a number of black actors and actresses. "Right now we are reluctant to commit," she said. "We want things to settle down emotionally. We don't want to rush into anything."
An Article from The New York Times
Review/Television; When the Actor Goes, Whither the Character?
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: November 18, 1992
Cast changes on successful television series have their reasons. Some stem from the sudden death or lingering illness of an actor. Or, more rarely, an actor may simply decide that a steady and usually substantial weekly paycheck is not enough to justify a nagging feeling of career rut. Whatever the reason, one fact of television life quickly becomes clear: The show, the series, the concept must go on. We're talking big bucks here.
At the moment, no fewer than three network series are undergoing major cast adjustments:
*Monday's episode of CBS's "Love and War" revolved around a memorial service at the Blue Shamrock bar for Ike the bartender, the character played by John Hancock, who died a month or so ago.
*Tonight's 10 o'clock installment of "Law and Order" on NBC sets up the situation whereby Paul Sorvino, who plays Detective Cerreta, can make his requested departure from the show.
*And NBC's "Empty Nest," Saturdays at 9, coping with the departure of Kristy McNichol for health reasons, is busy working Lisa Rieffel ("Trials of Rosie O'Neill") into the series for a December debut as the McNichol character's younger sister.
Television's handling of such changes has been a traditional source of wonderment for students of pop lunacy. Daytime soaps have few qualms about keeping the character and simply replacing one actor with another in midstream, sometimes permanently, sometimes just for a few weeks. One of the wackier ploys, used later on prime time's "Dynasty," had a character severely burned and swathed in bandages; removal of the bandages revealed an entirely different actor underneath, presumably making the character the beneficiary of miraculous plastic surgery.
The producers of "Love and War," juggling grief for a colleague and panic for a new series still feeling its way, decided to confront Mr. Hancock's death within the context of their sitcom. There was the typical hard-bitten urban humor recalling Ike's ostensibly sour view of life ("One more friend you make is just one more person who'll ask you for a ride to the airport")and hatred of chardonnay.
On the other, longer side of the ledger, there was sentimentality. A surprisingly large crowd turned up to say goodbye to a good friend. And Kip (Michael Nouri), former husband of Wally (Susan Dey), managed to slip in the closing monologue from Robert Anderson's play "I Never Sang for My Father." With "Where or When" playing on the jukebox, a photo of Mr. Hancock filled the screen and Wally, getting rid of a yuppie customer ordering chardonnay, offered the final toast: "That one was for you, my friend." A bit soppy, but bittersweet enough to let viewers make an important transition gracefully.
On "Law and Order," the imminent departure of Mr. Sorvino has been planned for months. It was simply a matter of figuring out how. The character of Lieutenant Cerreta is partner to Detective Logan (Christopher Noth) who, oddly enough, lost his previous partner when the actor George Dzunda decided to leave the show after only one season. The Dzunda character was killed off. Cerreta is luckier, being gunned down and injured just enough to get off the detective grind and take a higher-paying desk job with the Police Department.
Next week, Jerry Orbach joins the cast as Logan's new partner, Lennie Briscoe, in a league with Ike the bartender when it comes to misanthropy, New York-style. Briscoe doesn't talk; he snarls. Disdaining to pay a restaurant bill, he explains that the owner is his "snitch" and "he thinks I'm corrupt, so he trusts me." It's rumored that Briscoe's two former wives are hoping that Logan's jinx with partners hits the jackpot this time so they can collect his insurance. Mr. Noth is beginning to look understandably uneasy. Mr. Orbach couldn't seem to care less. Mr. Sorvino looks genuinely relieved.
An Article from The New York Times
LAUGHING OFF THE RECESSION
By HILARY DE VRIES;
Published: January 3, 1993
"We're trying to get a better joke on page 11."
"And we've been trying for 20 minutes."
"So we're all in really bad moods."
So goes a rewrite session with Diane English and her team of writers --- three men and two women -- gathered on a Tuesday evening in the Shukovsky English offices on the Studio City lot at CBS to edit an episode of English's latest comedy, "Love and War." On this warm autumn evening, the corner conference room offers expansive views of the San Gabriel Mountains bathed in a gold-and-black sunset -- a not-uninteresting vista to which English, seated at the head of the table, has firmly turned her back.
This is only one of several editing sessions that she will hold during the week, overseeing an almost continuous process of writing, rehearsing and rewriting an episode prior to its final taping before a studio audience. Unlike a feature film, a television show has a writing team as its brain trust. And English, a former high-school teacher who once cherished ambitions of becoming a playwright, firmly believes "that writers are only as good as they are as a group."
A few moments of observing the team reveals a decided pecking order. English, meticulously turned out in a black-and-white Chanel ensemble, sits armed with her usual cup of decaffeinated coffee and another mug of sharp pencils, directing the ebb and flow of jokes.
Marc Flanagan, the supervising producer of "Love and War," and the obvious second-in-command, paces the room like some preppy-attired mad scientist, fiddling with the window blinds, clutching the air as he riffs on the joke at hand -- finding a suitably side-splitting reference for the setup line, "We've been friends for 12 years and the only thing Jack ever got me was. . . ." The rest of the team -- Shannon Gaughan, Elaine Pope, Stephen Nathan and Matt Goldman -- serve as a sort of Greek chorus engaged in a game of can-you-top-this?
"O.K.," says English after a few moments. "We've got 'a tool set,' 'the Popeil pocket fishing reel' and the 'Lady Gillette hot-wax set.' "
Although she laughs appreciatively at each item, it is clear that, as the show's creator and executive producer, English is not satisfied. "Love and War," which stars Susan Dey and Jay Thomas as a mismatched pair of lovers, is English's first series since she created the Emmy Award-winning comedy "Murphy Brown" more than four years ago. Although "Love and War" was one of the few successes of the new fall season, English knows that much is riding on her show's continued performance.
"It's recession-era comedy examining the differences between men and women," says English, who wants the show's humor to be derived from character observations, not one-liners.
"What else is insulting besides a personal hygiene appliance?" she muses aloud. "I'm thinking of a boxed set of something -- Cher's albums? Pia Zadora songs?" And the writers set off on another verbal search that will, as the vicissitudes of comedy writing go, result in the line conjured by Flanagan: "A pair of tickets to see Willard Scott in 'Give 'Em Hell Harry' at Radio City Music Hall."
Communal script doctoring, hardly unique in television comedy, is a perfect medium for English's preferred technique -- seeking the spontaneous within an organized, tightly controlled environment in which her taste is the final arbiter.
"I do go by my own taste," says English, who defines her brand of humor as " a little less dependent on punch lines and more on putting people in funny situations and observing their behavior." Because "Love and War" is a romantic comedy, English says, "it needs to be a little more reflective, a little more talky. There is no question that you need jokes, but I sit at the table with the other writers and I laugh at something or I don't. It either feels forced or it feels right -- and if it's right, it goes into the script."
Says Pope: "So much of this business is complete and utter chaos. I thought Diane's approach to running a show was really appealing. She comes in those Chanel outfits and high heels and her door is open and the phone is ringing but she is just calmly writing."
AND ENGLISH KNOWS FROM DISTRACTION. AS CREATOR of "Murphy Brown," the producer had been thrust into the front ranks of an election-year controversy this past summer when Vice President Quayle attacked the main character, played by Candice Bergen, on the series for "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it 'just another life-style choice.' "
That controversy eventually faded, but it did bring to public attention what was already well known within entertainment industry circles -- that English is one of the most influential television producers working and a leading architect of television comedy in a post-"Mary Tyler Moore" era.
Her two series, "Murphy Brown" and "Love and War," are consistently among the week's top 15 shows, according to Nielsen ratings, and "Murphy Brown" commands advertising rates -- averaging $310,000 per 30 seconds -- that are among the highest of any network program. English's handiwork is also credited with helping lift CBS from the ratings basement to its current lead position and resuscitating it, to some degree, on Wall Street.
English now holds a lucrative, multiseries contract, said to be worth about $40 million, with the network. Already CBS has requested a third Shukovsky English show for the fall '93 season. It is an enviable position that she has sought to solidify with some programming moves of her own. Earlier this year, she severed ties with "Murphy Brown" to form her own independent production company, Shukovsky English Entertainment, in partnership with her husband, Joel Shukovsky. The reason? That CBS contract and the enormous profits generated by the syndication sale of "Murphy Brown," approximately $1 million per episode, which is divided between English and Warner Brothers, the studio that owns the series.
At 44, English is venturing to go where few women have ever gone -- creating her own television empire, which could become the 90's equivalent of M.T.M. Enterprises. That fabled production company, source of the hit series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Rhoda," "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Lou Grant," virtually defined quality television in the 70's.
Already English is considered a leader in the small but growing ranks of female writers and producers -- a list that also includes Linda Bloodworth-Thomason ("Designing Women"), Marcy Carsey ("Roseanne") and Susan Harris ("The Golden Girls") -- who are credited with helping break down what Larry Gelbart, the creator of the hit 70's series "M.A.S.H.," calls "the old Boys' Club of TV comedy writers."
To be sure, women still comprise a minority of the Hollywood writing pool -- about 25 percent, according to Writers Guild of America statistics. But as Gelbart explains, "that time when white men wrote for everyone -- men, women, blacks -- has clearly been corrected, and Diane is among those chief correctors." Indeed, "Murphy Brown" and "Love and War" are at the forefront of what many industry observers and social critics consider a pop-cultural redefinition of women that takes the television roles played by the actresses Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Beatrice Arthur to new post-feminist limits. "Murphy Brown" and "Love and War" are among several comedies that feature independent, politically savvy, outspoken women -- characters who reflect both their creators' personalities and shifts within the nation's social fabric.
"I'm reluctant to say that only women can write these kinds of characters," says English. "But if you want to generalize, TV is an intimate medium, and women are often more interested in smaller, more human stories, which is what TV lends itself to well."
Like many of the most renowned comedy producers, English can credit much of her success to her finger-in-the-wind sensibilities -- an awareness of contemporary social issues as well as more personal changes in her own life.
"After 'Murphy Brown,' I felt like I had kind of exhausted the single-woman thing," she says. "I just felt that right now, particularly after the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, sexual politics was the more interesting frontier. I was in a solid relationship where the balance of power was constantly shifting and required attention, and it seemed like a lot of women were trying to figure out how to take everything we had gained in the last decade and maintain that in a relationship."
The result: "Love and War," which English also characterizes as "a requiem for the 80's." " 'Murphy Brown' was a show where people had whatever they wanted -- it was a sort of cautionary tale about getting what you wished for," she says. "But 'Love and War' is a show where people don't have a lot of money and probably never will."
Jeff Sagansky, president of CBS Entertainment, suggests that English's talents are ideally positioned: "Women have never had as much influence and power within network television as they do today. English," he adds, "will be one of the producers who will define television in the 90's the way 'The Cosby Show' and 'Cheers' defined the 80's."
Whether Shukovsky English Entertainment (its acronym spells SEE) can live up to its billing in an era when network television wrestles with declining viewership, falling ad revenues and budget cutbacks remains to be seen. And "Love and War," while considered a hit, has not been the unqualified success that CBS and English hoped for. English has also earned a mixed reputation for what is perceived as an antiunion stance at her company -- surprising, say several observers, given her standing as an outspoken Hollywood liberal.
ALTHOUGH FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES INVARIABLY ASCRIBE English's success to her talents as "a brilliant writer" and "an equally brilliant producer," the word one hears most often used in relation to her is "control." Whether it is her impeccable appearance, her serene demeanor or her scripts, which Shukovsky describes as "machined like bullets," English seems very much as actress Candice Bergen describes her, only partly tongue-in-cheek: "a woman in such control that she takes feminism to another level."
Says Susan Dey, who plays Wallis (Wally) Porter on "Love and War," a woman colleagues say has a lot of English in her: "I asked her to give me a hint about my character. And Diane said 'control, a woman who likes and needs to be in control.' "
Gary Dontzig and Steve Peterman, the executive producers of "Murphy Brown," recall only "one incident" in four years "when Diane got angry," says Dontzig. Even the rewrite session that was interrupted by an earthquake did not faze English, who calmly called the meeting to order once the shaking had stopped. More recently, when John Hancock, an actor on "Love and War," unexpectedly died this fall after filming only nine episodes, English gathered the actors on the set and used the group's outpouring of shock and grief as an ad hoc story conference. "Diane's unflappable because she's talented and she also knows it," adds Peterman.
And in person, English does have much of the smooth opacity that she exhibited in a recent Hanes hosiery ad. Although she is warmer and her face is more finely chiseled than photographs or her appearance on the Emmy Awards telecasts might suggest, English still maintains something of the schoolteacher's manner she developed teaching high school in her hometown of Buffalo.
"I use a lot of my teaching skills with my writers," she says, seated now in her spare office, which is furnished with a desk, a pair of Le Corbusier-style chairs and a pony-skin upholstered chaise and has a wall covered with framed awards. "It's like grading papers," she continues. "In fact, I even have a pointer over there. On all of my shows, it was only a matter of weeks before someone was calling me Teach."
Barnet Kellman, a "Murphy Brown" director for three seasons, suggests that, while "the public image of Diane from the 'Murphy Brown' controversy is that she is a rigid, agenda-driven person, she is also hilariously funny, someone who is very warm and very capable of letting her hair down and getting very bawdy." But even Kellman adds, "Diane is never really out of control because she knows her own mind and she always has a plan."
Or as English says: "I am a very disciplined person. I am also very competitive."
"WHAT ABOUT THAT SEVERED-FINGER JOKE?" "It needs more of a setup."
"The Tipper Gore reference?"
"Too many political references already. That seems plunked in."
What about the ending? The joke about how much they each paid for their gifts and then they kiss?"
"We end too many of the shows with them kissing, but these actors can't ad-lib -- so we'll have to go out on that line, but only if it gets a laugh."
Despite the late hour, English is still deep in the evening's editing session, coolly fielding questions from her writing staff, running interference on any problem like a major-league slugger warming up with a ball machine. Little seems to ruffle English, at least in public. And even a casual check of her behind-the-scenes shows her bringing the same decisive talent she uses in editing a script to bear on her own life. English's best creation may, in fact, be herself.
Today she is well known as an exceptionally tough customer in an industry where ruthless business dealings are considered the norm. She refused to leave the office of Kim LeMasters, the former CBS Entertainment president, until he capitulated to her wish to cast Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown. She and Shukovsky spent a year hammering out her CBS contract, unwilling to give up the freedom of a nonexclusive deal. Earlier this year, English walked away from "Murphy Brown" "because the show had done everything possible for me -- I had won every kind of award and we had pretty much got all the money out of it that we were going to."
Most recently, English earned headlines as well as charges of exploitation when her company replaced the union crew hired to shoot the pilot of "Love and War." That move was ostensibly due to a disagreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union over benefits and working conditions that included health insurance and camera staffing requirements.
"I'm not antiunion, but I'm also not a socialist," says Shukovsky. "You don't need four guys to run a camera. You can do it with one person with the right equipment -- and do you know how much coffee and paper cups you can save that way?"
But charges against their company have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, fueling the perception in Hollywood that English "is a hypocrite," says Terry Harkin, one of the union camera operators who was replaced on the show.
Although English dismisses most of the complaints with "that's Joel, he's the brilliant businessman," others say that the couple's tightfistedness is a shared trait, one that has hurt them in past and present dealings with artistic personnel, a chief reason why no staff members from "Murphy Brown" moved with them to "Love and War."
"You like them so much as people," says Jay Thomas, "and Diane has taken my career to a new level, but they are very, very tough negotiators -- and that is the only unfortunate part of working with them."
English maintains that her ability to unsentimentally assess a situation, be it a comedy line, a casting choice or a contract, is simple pragmatism. "I have good instincts," she says.
SHE WAS A WRITER of TV movies in 1985 when the suggestion came from CBS programming executives that English take on a weekly series. The network was looking for someone to create-write-produce"Foley Square," a somewhat unlikely new comedy about a female assistant district attorney, and English, who had nine TV movies to her credit, had a reputation as an up-and-coming comedy writer. Her first inclination, however, was to refuse.
"She wasn't sure about it because at that time half-hour sitcoms were the bad stuff," says Shukovsky. "I told her she should give it a shot because the same amount of effort goes into writing a movie that airs for one night as goes into developing a series, and theoretically you could be on the air for years. And back then the syndication revenues were very, very lucrative."
English reluctantly signed on. Although "Foley Square" was canceled after 14 episodes, English was offered a series by Warner Brothers. English agreed to produce "My Sister Sam," a comedy about two sisters living in San Francisco, with one proviso -- that Warner Brothers bankroll her own series.
Although "My Sister Sam" lasted only a season and a half longer than "Foley Square," English came away from the show "having learned a great deal about story writing, because the show was about two women who worked at home." She also had Warner Brothers promise of her own series. When the studio rejected her first suggestion, prophetically a "Love and War"-style romantic comedy, as "too low concept," English proposed a comedy "about a female newscaster who had fallen from grace" -- "Murphy Brown."
There was little about English's own experience or her series proposal to suggest that "Murphy Brown" would become the juggernaut that it did. Indeed "Murphy Brown," which was first broadcast in 1988, like most new series, was not an immediate hit. Although CBS paired the show with Bloodworth-Thomason's "Designing Women," which was becoming a cult hit with female viewers, the series were no match for the powerful "Monday Night Football" on ABC.
"That first season, we finished in 36th place," says English. It took four seasons and 15 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for English, before "Murphy Brown" became the country's third most popular series.
Like that of any comedy series that captures an era -- "I Love Lucy" in the 50's, "All in the Family" in the 70's, "Cheers" in the 80's -- the success of "Murphy Brown" can be traced to an alchemy of individual creativity and larger social trends.
Norman Lear, creator of "All in the Family," suggests that it is not a writer's gender or race that determines a show's success, but an ability to accurately depict the nation's changing interests -- be it the growth of feminism, as seen in such shows as "Roseanne" and "Designing Women," or the increasing popularity of black characters, like those on "In Living Color" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Lear points to "Maude," his hit 70's comedy starring Bea Arthur as a brassy suburban housewife, as a popular show that was nonetheless ahead of the nation's social curve. "While many women liked and identified with her, we discovered that men were not responding to her abrasiveness," says Lear. "Now, Murphy Brown, who is independent to the point of dislikable, appeals to men."
But others suggest that the success of "Murphy Brown" can be traced to the show's personal nature. It is the first hit series that English created, and she is thought by many to be the model for the character. "Diane was writing from her gut," says Kellman, "about a woman wanting to achieve the things that she wanted and the obstacles that were in her way."
"PEOPLE ALWAYS THINK I was born on the back of a horse with a silver spoon in my mouth," says English when asked to describe her background. "But I come from this really Felliniesque blue-collar family."
English was born in 1948 into a Catholic, working-class family in Buffalo. Her father, Richard English, worked as a technician at a local power plant, and her mother, Anne, was a housewife who became an amateur supper-club singer.
English is blunt about her parents' limited economic circumstances -- "we had no money" -- and her Italian mother's large extended family. "We used to sit around and crack jokes with all my uncles as sort of a competition," English recalls. She also speaks about her competitiveness -- "I was captain of the volleyball team, editor of the school paper" -- and her early interest in television comedy. What English does not mention, however, is her father's drinking problem.
"Our father was an alcoholic and we were a dysfunctional family," explains her brother Rick, a minister at the West Somerset Baptist Church in western New York. He recalls Diane as a bright, ambitious girl, "who was really into writing," but who was also shy and self-conscious because of a teen-age acne problem. "Diane worked hard for everything, she never had anything handed to her," he recalls. "One time I asked her if she wanted to grow up rich. She said she would rather be famous."
She wrote parodies of literary classics in high school and, like any teenager in the 60's, loved the music of the Beatles and Motown, a trait that would reappear as a taste of Murphy Brown's. She graduated with straight A's from Nardin Academy, a local girls' school, and entered Buffalo State College, where she became intent on a career as a playwright.
Diane was never one much for boys and she didn't really come into her own until she discovered theater," recalls her mother, who remarried after divorcing English's father in the mid-70's, and today sings at a Buffalo supper club under the name Anne English. "Because of my interest in performing, I always encouraged her to have a career in show business."
After graduation English spent a year teaching at an inner-city high school in Buffalo. But after one too many winter days of trying to start her aging red Volkswagen bug, breaking up student fights and earning virtually nothing for her efforts, English told her mother she had a job in New York and drove to Manhattan with visions of becoming a professional playwright.
For two months, she lived off her meager savings, unable to afford even a telephone; then she landed a job as a secretary at WNET, the local PBS station. She moved up quickly to become an administrator for the Television Laboratory, the station's unit for experimental work. WNET soon gave her her first big assignment: to edit -- and eventually rewrite -- a film adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's novel "The Lathe of Heaven," which won English a nomination for a Writers Guild prize . That experience, plus her growing perception of the New York theater scene as "a long, long struggle where you could wind up the toast of the town and still not be able to pay the rent," led English to commit herself to television.
She was hired by Vogue magazine as its first television columnist in 1977. The same year, she married Joel Shukovsky, a graphic designer and owner of a small advertising agency, whom English had met at WNET. By all accounts, their relationship was something of an attraction of opposites. She was half-Italian, he was Jewish; she was from Buffalo, he was from Long Island. However, "I was the black sheep in my family and so was Joel," adds English.
By 1981, the couple had moved to Los Angeles after Shukovsky convinced English the future lay in Hollywood. Within four years, English was producing "Foley Square."
Like many television production teams, English and Shukovksy today are a tight pair. Even friends describe them as "very private." The couple have no children and lead a fairly reclusive life on a modest 2,200-square-foot "starter ranch" house in Malibu Canyon. Aside from a shared penchant for clothes shopping, their interests outside their company are few. On weekends, English rides her American paint horse while Shukovsky restores a vintage 50's pickup or takes off on his motorcycle. Because of the syndication sale of "Murphy Brown," Shukovsky says, "we don't ever have to work again."
That scenario, however, seems unlikely. Shukovsky is laying the groundwork for a hundred-acre-plus studio to be built adjacent to their Malibu property. And English, who is outspoken about how the networks could be more efficiently run, has been discussed as one of the few independent producers -- and the first woman -- capable of running a network's entertainment division.
English dismisses any talk of such a move. What she likes, she says, is running her own company, "where I can get other people's shows on the air and supervise them." And writing, she insists, will remain her first love.
IT IS MORE THAN AN hour and a half later, and the evening's rewrite session is closing in on the script's final pages. The writers are slumped at the conference table, which is now littered with empty water bottles, apple cores, crumpled wads of paper. There is one final, ornery joke to iron out, something to do with the difference between male and female sexual fantasies. But English, who is discreetly chewing gum, seems more energized than ever.
"This is a long speech and it's not funny enough," she says tapping her script with a pencil. "Male fantasies and women's perceptions of male fantasies," she continues, rising from her chair to snap on the overhead light, blinking a little in the brightness.
"Observations about men and women, we need a great perception here," says English, who might be speaking as much about her own career as the task at hand. "It's a great opportunity."
AN Article from USA TODAY
Published on April 8, 1993
Susan Dey, 'Love & War' part ways
By Peter Johnson
Susan Dey is leaving CBS' top-20 comedy Love & War, citing " creative differences" between her and producers.
Dey wasn't commenting Wednesday but a statement by producers Diane English and Joel Shukovsky said that after " lengthy discussions...the outcome has been an amicable parting of the ways."
Since the show premiered last fall, word at CBS has been that execs there were less than pleased with Dey's performance and wanted changes.
CBS had no comment on Dey's departure, and neither the network nor the producers would comment on the show's future. The show has wrapped for the season, but original episodes with Dey will air through May.
Daily Variety reported Wednesday that War's focus will shift from romance between Dey's restauranteur and the feisty newspaperman played by Jay Thomas to the characters in the restaurant-bar.
The trade paper also said that Dey-known best for her roles on NBC's L.A. Law and ABC's The Partridge Family -had differences with producers about how her character should be handled " as well as terms of her deal."
War is the first sitcom under a four-series deal that English and Shukovsky have with CBS. The network has great expectations for the show, airing Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT between English's hit Murphy Brown and Northern Exposure.
A Review from Variety
Love & War
((Mon. (20), 9:30-10 p.m., CBS-TV))
By TODD EVERETT
Filmed in Los Angeles by Shukovsky English Entertainment for CBS. Executive producers, Diane English, Joel Shukovsky; producer, Shannon Gaughan; supervising producer, Marc Flanagan; co-supervising producers, Elaine Pope, Stephen Nathan; director, Michael Lembeck; script, Diane English.
Cast: Annie Potts, Jay Thomas, Joanna Gleason, Joel Murray, Michael Nouri, Suzie Plakston, Charlie Robinson, Adam Goldberg, Sally Champlin, Loren Freeman, Nikki Tyler.
Dana Palladino (Annie Potts) comes bursting on the scene early in the second-season premiere of "Love & War," and -- no offense to the departed Susan Dey -- the suddenly missing Wally Porter becomes a rapidly fading memory. Episode, written by series creator Diane English and brightly directed by Michael Lembeck, gets the show off the ground like a guided missile; series' future has never seemed more secure.
Porter, owner of the Blue Shamrock restaurant and bar, has moved without warning to Paris, leaving the eatery to bartender Abe Johnson (Charlie Robinson) and ex-fiance Jack Stein (Jay Thomas) to the Fates. Without a cook, the restaurant is in turmoil until the door opens and Palladino virtually bursts in, quickly taking over the kitchen.
She's as sour on men (having been passed over for promotion from sous-chef at another restaurant in favor of a less-qualified male) as Jack now is on women. The only question is how long English can stave off their doing the Wild Thing; best bet is, a ratings period.
English and Potts have created a real character in Palladino. Far removed from Southerner Mary Jo Shively on "Designing Women," Potts speaks with a New York accent that's a softened-down combination of Cyndi Lauper and Amy Fisher.
The rest of the cast remains intact: Robinson, now management, suddenly hates Bill Clinton ("Tax and spend, tax and spend ... I like that nice Bob Dole; why doesn't anybody listen to him?") There's also Joanna Gleason as ditzy waitress Nadine Berkus; Michael Nouri as Porter's ex-hubby, a self-involved actor; and Joel Murray and Suzie Plaxton as a couple of Blue Shamrock regulars
For more on Love & War go to https://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/showphoto.php?photo=34874&nocache=1
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Keywords: Love & War Cast (Links Updated 7/31/18)