Click on image to view larger image
Poster: Mr. Television
(see this users gallery)
Hearts Afire ran from September 1992 until February 1995 on CBS.
When Hearts Afire premiered in 1992 it was described by CBS as a " politically topical comedy series." Set in Washington, D.C., Hearts Afire focused on the professional and personal relationship of John Hartman ( John Ritter) , the legislative assistant to aging, conservative Southern senator Strobe Smithers ( George Gaines) , and Georgie Anne Lahti ( Markie Post), the once globe-trotting but now out-of-work liberal journalist whom John hired as the senator's press secretary. John, the divorced father of two sons, Ben and Elliot ( Justin Burnette ( later J. Skylar Testa played Ben) and Clark Duke), offered to let Georgie Anne and her "mammy," Miss Lulu ( Beah Richards), live in his home until they could find housing. There was an ulterior motive because, although they were on opposite sides of the political fence and constantly sparred about almost everything, they were physically attracted to one another. Within weeks they were having a steamy affair.
Others on the senator's staff were Billy Bob ( Billy Bob Thornton) , a childhood friend of Johns, Dee Dee ( Beth Broderick) , the sexy but simple-minded receptionist with whom the married senator was having an affair; Mavis ( Wendie Jo Sperber) , Billy Bob's efficent wife; and Adam ( Adam Carl) , the incompetent office assistant. Things got even more crowdedd when Georgie Anne's cantankerous father George ( Edward Asner), recently released from prison also moved in. Possibly because viewers were not enthralled by a couple effectively living in sin in a home with children, John proposed to Georgie Anne in February.
The 1993-1994 season brought major changes to Hearts Afire. John and Georgie Anne, now newlyweds moved back to the small southern town ( never named), where he and Billy Bob had grown up to get a new start away from the political jungle of Washington. Billy Bob , recently divorced , returned home too, along with his young daughter Carson Lee ( Doren Fein). They bought the financially troubled local paper, The Daily Beacon and set to work to revive it. The only surviving member of the Beacon's staff was Lonnie ( Leslie Jordan), the big-talking but insecure printer. Sharing space in the small building that housed the Beacon was Madeline ( Conchata Ferrell), a cynical sharp-tongued psychiatrist whom they convinced to write an advice column for the paper. The editorial approach of the Beacon was always a bone of contention between conservative John and Liberal Georgie Anne, now abetted by Madeline, her new friend and progressive soul mate.
In the fall of 1994 season premiere Georgie Anne gave birth to a daughter Amelia.
The Executive Producer of Hearts Afire was Linda Bloodworth Thompson who had worked on the 1992 presidential campaign of President to be Bill Clinton.
A Review from The New York Times
Review/Television: Hearts Afire; Of Love and Politics, Left and Right
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 14, 1992
Creator of "Designing Women" and "Evening Shade," not to mention prominent consultant to Bill Clinton, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is sticking with CBS but shifting her formidable focus to Washington in "Hearts Afire," which is to have a special one-hour premiere at 8 o'clock tonight. There's great potential here but, for the moment, Dan Quayle needn't fret. This is no "Murphy Brown," at least not yet.
What's served up in "Hearts Afire," its roots in sitcom tugs of war going back to "All in the Family," is the artful mating of a sort of conservative with a sort of liberal. On the right, there's John Hartman (John Ritter), political aide to a Southern Senator, Strobe Smithers (George Gaynes), the kind of rascal who nowadays intones that maybe it's "time for a little trickle-down humanity." Recently divorced and caring for two very precocious young sons, John tries to cope reasonably with being mugged on a street near his home and the rumor that his former wife is having an affair with another woman.
Coming from the left, chain-smoking Georgie Anne Lahti (Markie Post), her father in prison for some funny business concerning the teamsters, has seen her reporting career go from writing about "Sexism in the Israeli Military" and "My Year With Fidel" to, most recently, a part-time job at Euro Disney. Georgie and her surrogate mother, Miss Lula (Beah Richards), are living in a run-down motel, credit cards having run their course. Think of Murphy Brown facing food stamps. What's next? Nothing less than being hired by a dubious but smitten John as press secretary for Senator Smithers, overseeing his photo ops in jogging togs.
This may be Washington, but national issues are kept behind closed doors as the principals, feeling each other out, parry generalities. Looking to the past, John notes that everybody seemed so happy then. "Maybe they were just acting," says Georgie. "Maybe that's what we need now," John responds, "better actors."
On the sidelines, of course, are a batch of supporting characters, each with a wicked repertory of wisecracks. Most prominent is Miss Starr (Beth Broderick), the Senator's quite shapely secretary, known to exasperated colleagues as L.B.L.I.C. (Last Bimbo Left in Congress). Miss Starr -- this being a Southern politician's office, just about everybody is addressed as Mister or Miz -- is given to pithy pronouncements: "One man's condom is another man's party balloon."
After getting off to a surprisingly threadbare start, with the kids being tiresomely cute, "Hearts Afire" begins scoring frequently enough to keep itchy fingers off the remote. Mr. Ritter is still frisky and remarkably youthful, even if slightly more puffy. Ms. Post is tough and charming enough to make even her character's incessant smoking almost bearable. This week they end up in a huge bathtub. Next week they go on a date that includes the dangerously tanned George Hamilton ("I think he looks like Al Jolson," mutters John), who is looking even puffier than Mr. Ritter.
Will "Hearts Afire" ever be able to rattle political cages? The opportunity is there. The new show, scheduled from tonight on between "Evening Shade" and "Murphy Brown," is likely to be around for a while. Hearts Afire CBS, 8 P.M. Directed by Harry Thomason from a script by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason; produced by Doug Jackson and Tommy Thompson for Mozark Productions in association with Adam Productions; Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason, Mr. Thomason and Bob Myman, executive producers. John Hartman . . . John Ritter Georgie Anne Lahti . . . Markie Post Miss Lula . . . Beah Richards Strobe Smithers . . . George Gaynes Billy Bob Davis . . . Billy Bob Thornton Dee Dee Starr . . . Beth Broderick Mavis Davis . . . Wendy Jo Sperber Adam . . . Adam Carl Elliot Hartman . . . Clark Duke Ben Hartman . . . Justin Burnette
A Review from the Baltimore Sun
Politics takes back seat to sex in 'Hearts Afire'
September 14, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic
"Hearts Afire" is a case of the terminally dumb vs. the eternally wisecracking in the political world of Washington.
It's not exactly the South of "Evening Shade" or "Designing Women," but there's no mistaking the fact that this is Linda Bloodworth-Thomason country we're traveling in -- a world of non-stop one-liners, jokes and wisecracks.
In tonight's one-hour preview on CBS (Channel 11) at 8, there are bisexuality jokes, jokes about Southerners, jokes by Southerners, jokes on Southerners, and one very dumb redheaded receptionist 5l who's a running joke. And, yes, there are more than one or two smart-talking career women who usually have the last words and get the big laughs.
The smartest-talking career woman in "Hearts Afire" is Georgie Ann Lahti, played by Markie Post, formerly of "Night Court." She's a reporter with a wild past who's desperately in need of a job. She finds one as press secretary to a lecherous Southern senator. She's liberal; he's conservative.
The senator's chief aide, John Hartman (John Ritter), is also a conservative. The recently divorced father of two is repelled by Lahti's politics but attracted to her figure. His wife has just left him for another woman, which is where the bisexuality jokes come in -- in case anyone was wondering.
Almost everyone in tonight's preview has a golden line or comedic moment worth remembering. Like "Evening Shade," the supporting cast is huge and talented. One actress Bloodworth-Thomason needs to make better use of is the extraordinary Beah Richards, who is simply dragged around different sets tonight, playing Lahti's old nanny, with nothing much to do but comment on how much she likes yellow.
This is a comedy with a decided edge, but the edge this time is sex, sex, sex. Sex in the office. Sex and politics. Sexual politics.
The married senator is having an affair with his dumber-than-a-post receptionist -- and promoting her every chance he gets as a result. Hartman hires Lahti partly because he's attracted to her physically. There is also a married couple working in the senator's office who seem to talk about nothing but sex at work. In short, there's so much sexual heat here, the place could be mistaken for a power station.
As funny as Bloodworth-Thomason can make all of that seem at times, there is something troubling with the overall tone of this show. Maybe this isn't the right political comedy for this political year. Making light of issues that aren't funny in real life for some folks might be more complicated than even Bloodworth-Thomason, friend and adviser to Bill Clinton, understands.
The fact that sexuality and sex talk in the office have a dark side and regularly victimize women seems to be something that Bloodworth-Thomason and Company don't really appreciate -- despite their references to Anita Hill and the Clarence Thomas hearings tonight.
The show has a great regular time period (8:30) in CBS' killer Monday night lineup. But those shows are all aimed primarily at women. And I'm not sure a lot of women are going to think sex talk in the office is a great idea for a joke, a preview show and, maybe, a whole series.
An Article from The New York Times
ARTS & POLITICS/TELEVISION; Greed, Lust and Ambition Rule in Hollywood D.C.
By RICK MARIN;
Published: October 25, 1992
Hollywood: a town driven by greed, lust and ambition, where fat-cat moguls indulge sexual fetishes and an elect few (or their agents) rule with an iron hand.
Washington: A town driven by greed, lust and ambition, where white-haired senators indulge sexual fetishes and an elected few (or their handlers) rule with an iron hand.
Better make that Hollywood's Washington, the one featured in Tim Robbins's mockumentary "Bob Roberts," CBS's new poli-sitcom "Hearts Afire" and no fewer than three television movies hitting pre-election prime time. HBO's romantic comedy "Running Mates" receives its final scheduled airing tomorrow night at 9:30. Lifetime's feminist fantasy "Majority Rule" and CBS's paranoid thriller "The President's Child" both have their premieres Tuesday night at 9.
Sample plot lines? A woman general runs for President. C.I.A. spooks mastermind a campaign. A candidate's girlfriend performs quasi-obscene acts involving the American flag.
Alas, the real Washington may bear little resemblance to the fabulously thrilling show-biz version, or so an informal survey of Beltway insiders indicated. The fallacies and stereotypes they cite may or may not help explain why Washington movies of the week are seldom showered with Emmy awards and why no television series about Washington politics, this season's potential hit "Hearts Afire" notwithstanding, has lasted longer than the Ford administration (almost two and a half years).
Of course it's Hollywood's word against Washington's, but the pundits polled isolated these three chronic cliches.
Sin City. Ever since Henry Kissinger proclaimed power the ultimate aphrodisiac, Washington has been fictionalized as Sodom and Gomorrah costumed by Frederick's of Hollywood. "The President's Child" posits a Presidential candidate who is the unwitting father of an illegitimate 7-year-old. During a conception-night flashback, a young, hard-working reporter (Donna Mills) receives a surprise visit in her hotel room from a young, hard-working senator (James Read).
"I'm here to assure you I'm anything but withered," he declares, dispelling her misperception of pols as bow-tied coots past their sexual prime. Later, once the pair have retired to the bathtub, he holds forth on the importance of good government.
Is life in Washington a nonstop sexathon of bad pickup lines and Mr. Bubble? Not according to Christopher Buckley, author of the satirical novel "The White House Mess," who says: "I don't know how much sex is going on here. People are too busy worrying about access here, not sexual organs." Jacob Weisberg, a senior editor of The New Republic, ruefully agrees. "People who work on Capitol Hill are probably the most monogamous subculture you could find," he suggests.
Writers for "Hearts Afire" who confessed an ignorance of Washington ways were dispatched to the office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy for their political education. The comedy, which is the latest offering from Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the co-creator of "Designing Women," takes as its titular premise a flaming passion between its two stars, John Ritter and Markie Post, both of whom work for a conservative Southern senator. By the end of the pilot episode, the two are cavorting -- where else? -- in a bubbly bathtub, she still clad in her black evening gown, he in little more than a lecherous grin.
The Conspiracy. CBS's "President's Child" lifts a page from both Oliver Stone's "J.F.K." and Tim Robbins's "Bob Roberts." William Devane plays a C.I.A.-trained Presidential campaign manager whose master plan to restore "order" to America means murdering his concupiscent candidate's illegitimate child and possibly Mom too. "They assume that there is this incredibly Machiavellian, Kissingerian chess game going on," says Chris Matthews, formerly chief aide to the former Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. and now a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. "Conspiracy theories are a lot of nonsense, because everybody knows nobody in Washington can keep a secret."
In Lifetime's "Majority Rule," Blair Brown plays a combat-seasoned female general who runs for President, only to be ambushed by an "October surprise" plot (like the one some say Ronald Reagan's election team used against Jimmy Carter).
"They are looking for drama where, for the most part, such drama does not exist," says Norman Orenstein, an American Enterprise Institute scholar and self-described "sophisticated denizen" of Washington. "I find it all rather amusing to watch."
The Evil Handler. A composite of the media guru Roger Ailes, the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater and Rasputin, Hollywood's political handler is typically ex-C.I.A., a savings-and-loan profiteer and Iran-contra gun runner who will stop at nothing to get his man into the Oval Office. Ms. Brown's general in "Majority Rule" falls prey to the power broker masterminding her campaign. And when in "Running Mates" Diane Keaton's Hillary Clinton-like character makes a controversial remark on television, a media Machiavelli bellows to his candidate, "You have to modulate her!"
Mr. Matthews, as a former handler, maintains that "the idea that the consultants call the shots is ridiculous. The candidate makes the decisions." Others aren't so sure. Morton Kondracke, a regular on NBC's "McLaughlin Group," says: "I tend to think there's something there. Congressmen are grown-ups. They're supposed to be able to say no. But they are handled a lot."
Aha. So all cliches are true. John F. Kennedy philandered. Oliver North schemed. Many senators are past what might euphemistically be called retirement age. It's just that television makes the exceptions into the rule. "Hollywood's concept of how Congress works is based on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, maybe with a smattering of the Keating Five," says Mr. Orenstein. "The day-to-day operation of the Government is far more boring."
Hence the need to make Washington more . . . Hollywood.
Even so, NBC shelved "The Powers That Be," with John Forsythe as the patriarch of a dysfunctional political family, until next year because of poor ratings last spring. It was Norman Lear's second attempt at a Washington sitcom. "The Round Table," a Washingtonian "Melrose Place" new this season on NBC, didn't even last until the election. "Hearts Afire" may catch fire, but so far the town's only bona fide hit is "Murphy Brown," which until l'affaire Quayle was a show about television news, not Washington. "The truth is, everybody would rather be in Hollywood's Washington than the real Washington," says Mr. Weisberg. Or as the disclaimer at the end of "Hearts Afire" unabashedly admits: "Any similarity to an actual person, organization or business is entirely coincidental and unintentional."
An Article from the Sun-Sentenal
Characters' wedding won't cool passion on steamy 'Hearts Afire'
February 04, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"Hearts Afire" is within weeks of creating a TV variation on the old shotgun wedding.
On Feb. 22, the characters played by John Ritter and Markie Post will be married on the first-year, Monday-night CBS sitcom. This will legitimize a romance that quickly has become one of the hottest on TV.
From opening night in September, the characters played by Mr. Ritter and Ms. Post -- John Hartman and Georgie Ann Lahti -- have been unable to keep their hands off each other. The pilot episode concluded with the two -- he's a divorcee with two kids; she has never been married -- embracing in a hot tub.
Since then, the couple -- both aides to a conservative Southern senator -- have been amorous in their Washington office, in a car and just about anywhere else they could create some privacy. They put the lie to the Billy Crystal line: "Women need a reason to have sex, men need only a place." Georgie Ann and John both need only a place.
The intensity of their romantic high jinks has stirred numerous stories, including a mention in a TV Guide interview with then President-elect Bill Clinton. The creators of "Hearts Afire" are Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, longtime friends and political advisers to Mr. Clinton.
The controversy hasn't been so much over what the "Hearts Afire" couple have been doing but about the time of night they have been doing it. The show airs at 8:30 p.m. which once was considered part of the unofficial family hour, a concept now ignored by the networks. Still, some people have complained that John and Georgie Ann's ungoverned lust is a bit much so early in the evening.
Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason, whose social conscience is as well developed as her sense of humor and writing skills, has acknowledged the problem and has lobbied CBS for a later starting time, preferably 9:30.
This would seem to make the marriage an expedient Plan B.
Not so, says Ms. Post. "We were always going to get married."
If there were marriage plans, they were not mentioned last summer when producer and stars met the TV press to promote the show.
On the other hand, Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason has always been a champion of romantic sex among married couples. When she created "Evening Shade," in which Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner play a passionate, married couple with children, she said the primary reason was to show that sex could be just as exciting within marriage as outside it.
Ms. Post tried to be conciliatory toward critics of the show. "We know there are people who think we're too sexy. . . . For those people, our getting married might legitimize the romance. But Linda's attitude is there is nothing wrong with sex as long as it is loving, romantic sex. It should be pretty clear by now that our characters really love each other."
The bow to convention will have its limits. Viewers should not expect a traditional church wedding.
"It's not going to be Georgie Ann marching down the aisle in a big white wedding dress, I can promise you that," Ms. Post said. "It will be different."
An Article from The New York Times
Review/Television; Shoe Pinches Other Foot In a Series
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: October 27, 1993
How's this for a quandary? Your dearest friend has just moved into the White House, and here you are writing and producing a weekly series poking fun at politicians and other assorted nitwits on the Washington power circuit. What to do? Well, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, top-of-the-list F.O.B.'s, don't fool around. Their "Hearts Afire" show, shifted by CBS from Mondays to Wednesdays, has been yanked out of its now awkward Washington setting and plunked down in a small town in Middle America. The state is not identified, but Bubbas in good standing can cast a knowing wink in the direction of Arkansas.
Tonight's special hourlong season premiere at 8 (the regular time will be 8:30) wastes no time in fleeing the District of Columbia. John Hartman (John Ritter) and family are already on the road in a rickety van heading for the town where he grew up. He talks rhapsodically of common sense, decency and family values. He will soon know better. His new wife, Georgie (Markie Post), a Peabody Award-winning journalist, warily wonders if she's going to fit in on John's version of Walton Mountain. His two young sons from an earlier marriage are making no firm commitments.
Riding in tandem in another van is the divorced Billy Bob Davis (Billy Bob Thornton), who grew up with John and is now bringing his young daughter back to roots territory. For tidy purposes of plot, Billy Bob will live with the Hartmans, although his mother, Velma (Maxine Stuart), is still living in her own house. Mom, it seems, has taken in a boarder and has no room for Billy Bob. Apparently, if you're going to make unbelievable changes, you might as well go all the way.
John's intention to buy the local newspaper is temporarily stymied by the need for a $50,000 loan and the discovery that part of the newspaper office has been leased by a depressed psychologist named Madeline Stoessinger, played by Conchata Ferrell, herself yanked not too long ago from "L.A. Law." When not looking for possible suicide bullets or candy bars, sarcastic Madeline lets loose with fat jokes, gay jokes and crazy shrink jokes. ("O.K., so you had a bad childhood. Next!")
These good folks finally get settled, after much bickering and shouting. ("John wants to be Andy of Mayberry," Billy Bob explains to Madeline, "and the town and his wife are not cooperating.") Then this new version of "Hearts Afire" begins to reveal its ulterior motives. The small town is no longer idyllic. "Things are getting terrible around here," says feisty Velma, ticking off a list of what "they" have been stealing lately. John talks about "standing on the precipice of annihilation," noting that "most of the really good people, the World War II people, are gone."
But there are those, presumably, who are going to fight back. Not just the Thomasons and the Clintons but, by golly, the Hartmans. "This small-town thing," says John tapping his heart, "it's in here, it's in all of us." He and Georgie and Billy Bob and the kids are going to get the old times back. Their warning to criminals: No crime will go unpunished. You can go home again, guys. Rising to Henry Fonda heights, John swears, "We're going to take back this town." Final shot: The entire gang walking down a country road with fishing poles.
"Hearts Afire" began in Washington with unattached Georgie joining divorced John in a sumptuous bathtub for a bit of whoopie. Now gathered around the ol' fishing hole, the characters look like takeouts from an Eddie Bauer catalog. Real change, or politically correct adjusting? The show still ends with a soulful rendition of the song "Hearts Afire." A saxophonist predominates. I hesitate to ask. Hearts Afire CBS, tonight at 8 (Channel 2 in New York) Created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. Harry Thomason directed the premiere episode from a script by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. A Mozark Production in association with Adam Productions. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Harry Thomason and Bob Myman, executive producers. John Hartman . . . John Ritter Georgie Anne Lahti . . . Markie Post Billy Bob Davis . . . Billy Bob Thornton Elliot Hartman . . . Clark Duke Ben Hartman . . . Justin Burnette Madeline Stoessinger . . . Conchata Ferrell Carson Lee Davis . . . Doren Fein Velma . . . Maxine Stuart Fireman . . . Howard French Miss Barnes . . . Doris Hess
A Review from The Deseret News
NEW, IMPROVED `HEARTS AFIRE' RETURNS TO THE CBS SCHEDULE
By Scott D. Pierce, Television Editor
Published: October 27, 1993 12:00 am
"Hearts Afire" had its problems last season, but I always liked the main characters.
John Ritter and Markie Post were a nice couple. Nice people you'd enjoy spending some time with.The series, alas, wasn't as good. Cast as aides to a U.S. senator, the show was both too political and often of questionable taste.
Sex jokes - many of them completely inappropriate for an early time slot - abounded. And some viewers were uncomfortable with the obvious sexual relationship going on between Ritter and Post's characters (John Hartman and Georgie Anne Lahti).
But there's good news. "Hearts Afire" - which returns with an hourlong episode tonight at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5 - has undergone a good deal of remodeling, and the result is a big improvement.
The political angle has been dumped. John, Georgie and the kids have left Washington, D.C., for a small town, where they've bought the local newspaper.
It's John's rather unrealistic dream to create a "Leave It to Beaver" childhood for his kids by returning to his hometown - ob-vious-ly unaware that it's not the same little place he remembers from his own rosy childhood.
Fortunately, tagging along are Billy Bob (Billy Bob Thornton) and his daughter. Thornton's deadpan observations and dry wit steal almost every scene he's in.
Billy Bob's mother is also a hoot, but the other new character is less successful. Conchata Ferrell joins the cast as a suicidal psychologist. (Not to be confused with the lesbian marriage counselor she played in a couple of the episodes last season.)
But, overall, this is a much-improved show. There's a good deal of genuine humor - and anything that can make you laugh out loud is worth watching.
There's also a good deal of those old-fashioned "family values," albeit with a '90s twist. John and Georgie's hearts still are afire for each other, but there are worse things on TV than a married couple who are truly in love.
Tonight's season premiere is a bit too long at an hour, although it's still fun to spend time with these folks.
An Article from the Baltimore Sun
Producer stays upbeat about sagging 'Hearts Afire''
December 19, 1993|By Tom Jicha | Tom Jicha,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Harry Thomason doesn't believe in going through channels. When he has faith in something, he takes his case directly to those he needs to reach.
Last year, it was Bill Clinton. Mr. Thomason, a fellow Arkansan and long-time friend of the Clintons, became the former governor's top strategist during the 1992 campaign.
This year, Mr. Thomason has a new campaign, the salvation of "Hearts Afire," the CBS series he and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, created and produce.
In a stroke of ingenuity, the Thomasons are bypassing network researchers and show doctors and taking their case right into American households. Each Wednesday night, they make themselves available for an hour or two to the approximately 4 million homes with satellite dishes. (For those with a dish, Telstar 302, Transponder 9H at midnight Eastern time).
This secret audience is invited to fax in comments about "Hearts Afire." The Thomasons and their stars, John Ritter and Markie Post, discuss the suggestions for the dish crowd, and the input is used in plotting future developments.
"Hearts Afire" needs the intensive care. The Nielsen ratings have the sitcom fourth, as in last, in its time period (8 p.m. Wednesdays, WBAL, Channel 11).
Still, Mr. Thomason remains unwavering in his belief in the quality
of his product. "Linda thinks the shows she is writing are her best work since 'Designing Women,' and I agree," Harry Thomason said.
There is a basis beyond personal pride for this faith. When CBS tests "Hearts Afire," Mr. Thomason says, it routinely rates as high as any comedy on the No. 1 network. In another unusual move, the Thomasons have asked the network to pre-test every episode. Generally this is done only in advance of new shows.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure that not one clunker gets on the air," Mr. Thomason says. If a test audience turns thumbs down on an episode, it would be either fixed or scrapped, he says. So far, this hasn't happened.
The problem is, CBS tests "Hearts Afire" in research facilities, where the audience doesn't have the option of turning to "Unsolved Mysteries" or "Beverly Hills 90210." Twice this season, "Hearts Afire" also has found itself against specially scheduled episodes of "Home Improvement," the highest-rated comedy on TV.
"We really got nuked on those nights," Mr. Thomason says.
As disappointing as the ratings are for "Hearts Afire," they are an improvement on what CBS has had in the time period in recent seasons, Mr. Thomason says. This and the Thomasons' credentials as hit-makers have earned network patience. CBS is moving the series back a half-hour to 8:30 p.m., starting Dec. 29. With the mature, romantic themes of the program, every minute later that it starts is a boost.
A Review from Variety
Published on January 18, 1995
Videotaped in Los Angeles by Mozark Prods. Executive producers, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Harry Thomason, Robert M. Myman; co-executive producers/writers, Pamela Norris, Paul Clay; producers, Douglas G. Jackson, Tommy Thompson; co-producer, Chad O'Connor; director, James Hampton.
Cast: John Ritter, Markie Post, Bily Bob Thornton, Conchata Ferrell, Clark Duke, Doren Fein, J. Sklyar Testa, Leslie Jordan, Julie Cobb, Lee Kessler.
A story thread left dangling last season is wrapped up in an especially funny episode of "Hearts Afire." Now ensconced between "Womenof the House" and "Double Rush," the third-season show -- if it continues at this pace -- could help provide CBS with a Wednesday night lineup to rival what it used to have on Mondays.
Episode is centered on return of Diandra (Julie Cobb), former wife of John Hartman (John Ritter). When last seen, Diandra had run off with the couple's therapist, a woman named Ruth.
At first, John is reluctant to see his former wife, but before long they're confiding and conferring with one another as if they'd never separated. And does current wife Georgie Ann (Markie Post) fume!
When the series was reconfigured last year, and moved from its D.C. setting to small-town Arkansas, Conchata Ferrell, who had played the recurring role of Ruth, was recast: Now she's still a therapist, but this time straight and named Madeline.
Confusing? As Billy Bob Davis (Billy Bob Thornton) tells Madeline in Pamela Norris and Paul Clay's witty script, "as a matter of fact, that Ruth looked a little bit like you."
Madeline sets matters straight with Diandra: "I'm sure that I'm different from her in very significant ways ... never in my life have I owned a k.d. lang CD."
It's an easy joke, and somewhat off the mark -- Ferron, Cris Williamson or Linda Tillery would have been more appropriate, if obscure -- but still pretty hip for 8:30 network television.
Speaking of which, the secondary story finds Lonnie Garr (Leslie Jordan) toting a circular sent out by an unnamed fundamentalist preacher, who warns of sex and violence in upcoming TV episodes -- while carefully listing airdate and time.
Lonnie's mother (who subscribes to the circular) has started watching "NYPD Blue," he says, "and yells out the window every time there's a bare butt."
Seg's funniest sequence finds John, Georgie Ann and Diandra appearing on "Jenny Jones" in a dream sequence, via stock Jones footage intercut with the actors.
Show is strongly cast throughout, with Thornton and Jordan distinctly "Southern" characters without being too stereotypical, and Ritter and Post appealing as individuals and as a couple.
"Afire" doesn't take its setting of a small-town newspaper very seriously: Someone should explain to the producers that neither reporters nor editors would use laptop computers for day-to-day work.
An Article from the New York Daily News
NO RUSH, SAYS BLOODWORTH-THOMASON
By ERIC MINK Daily News TV Critic
Thursday, January 19th 1995, 3:83AM
PASADENA Last season, a guest shot by Rush Limbaugh boosted ratings for CBS' "Hearts Afire" and offered Americans a chance to see a more human side of Limbaugh than the bombastic, if entertaining, partisan he plays on radio and in his books.
But don't look for Limbaugh to return to "Hearts Afire" in the foreseeable future or to appear on the new "Women of the House," both of which are produced by Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and both of which could use some ratings tonic.
"I just wanted to have Rush Limbaugh one time," said Bloodworth-Thomason, whose friendship and philosophical kinship with the Clintons of Arkansas are well known.
"He's from my home town [in Missouri]. We grew up near each other. Our dads were lawyers who met in court, and his dad was very conservative and my dad was liberal. And we sort of sat at our daddies' knees and then grew up and did different things in life. I wanted to have him on. I wanted to meet him personally."
So she did. And, given events since then, once apparently was enough.
"I would not see a reason to invite him back again, she said.
"I do disagree with him, vociferously, and his characterizations of the President and First Lady. And even though you're trying to be objective, I think there are some things when you do have a show of your own just like he has his own radio show where you do have to sort of draw a line in the sand."
To read some articles about Hearts Afire go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HidZAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B0cNAAAAIBAJ&dq=hearts%20afire%20john%20ritter%20markie%20post&pg=5104%2C397145 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=16I_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=PFYMAAAAIBAJ&dq=hearts%20afire%20john%20ritter%20markie%20post&pg=3942%2C5008108 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=c7syAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3_ADAAAAIBAJ&dq=hearts%20afire%20john%20ritter%20markie%20post&pg=6781%2C5846156 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=8MFOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ePwDAAAAIBAJ&dq=hearts%20afire%20john%20ritter%20markie%20post&pg=7013%2C450475 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=BmYwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HDMDAAAAIBAJ&dq=hearts%20afire%20john%20ritter%20markie%20post&pg=6152%2C6470478
To watch some clips from Herats Afire go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hearts+afire+tv+show
For a Page dedicated to Hearts Afire go to https://web.archive.org/web/20060427003630/http://heartsafire.tvheaven.com/
For an episode guide go to http://web.archive.org/web/20051225153019/mistwebdesign.com/Hearts-Afire.html
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406183932/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/afire.html
For a Website dedicated to John Ritter go to http://web.archive.org/web/20051124073743/www.john.ritter.talktalk.net/
For a John Ritter Fan Page go to http://www.fluffytails.ca/johnritter.asp
For The Official Billy Bob Thornton Home Page go to http://www.billybobthornton.net/
For the Beth Broderick Home Page go to http://web.archive.org/web/20091026204400/http://www.geocities.com/zelly_15/entry.html
For a Website dedicated to Leslie Jordan go to http://thelesliejordan.com/site/
For some Hearts Afire-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/hearts-afire
� Date: Sat June 21, 2014 � Filesize: 47.9kb, 58.4kb � Dimensions: 760 x 956 �
Keywords: John Ritter & Markie Post (Large Photo) (Links Updated 7/29/18)