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Fay aired from September 1975 until June 1976 on NBC.
The exploits of an attractive fourtyish divorcee who decides to become a swinging single were the subject of this short-lived and somewhat risque comedy. After divorcing Jack, her philandering husband of 25 years, Fay ( Lee Grant), first got herself a job as secretary to two off-the-wall attorneys, David Messina and Al Cassidy ( Bill Gerber, Norman Alden). She then moved into an apartment of her own and started dating. Onlookers to Fay's new lifestyle were Jack ( Joe Silver), who kept trying to get her back again , daughter Linda and son-in-law Elliott ( Margaret Willock, Stewart Moss), who were appalled, and Fay's unhappily married friend Lillian ( Audra Lindley), who lived vicariously through Fay's affairs.
Fay's theme song was sung by Jaye P. Morgan.
Susan Harris later blamed the show's failure on the fact that it had been intended as a sophisticated adult comedy but had been scheduled by NBC at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, smack in the middle of " The Family Viewing Hour." As a result of the scheduling decision, the network ordered many changes in dialogue and characterization, which seriously weakened the show's import.
Here's an article from Time Magazine on the impact of The Family Viewing Hour on the new shows of the fall 1975 season including Fay.
No Time for Comedy
Monday, Aug. 25, 1975 Article
Will the new TV season feature the same old guns, rape, murder and arson? Yup. But with a difference. This fall the networks have agreed that between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time (6 to 8 Central Tune) is to be "family time," when Mom, Pop, the kids and Rover can cluster round the tube assured that they are not going to be shocked or scared. The very notion summons up classic adventure stories and young people's concerts. Is TV finally beginning to grow up?
Not a bit of it. Family tune is a cynical compromise reached by the FCC and the networks to deflect mounting protests, in and out of Congress, about the rising tide of TV violence. Criticism peaked last fall when NBC aired at 8 p.m. a seamy story (Born Innocent) about a rebel teen-ager who was raped with a broom handle. With a glow of virtue, the networks "voluntarily" agreed to police themselves with their own censors and wrote into the National Association of Broadcasters' television code what amounts to a rule clearly intended to ban sex and violence from the air between 7 and 9. For audiences this simply means that most cops and robbers are now pushed back to 9 p.m. In their place the networks are busy emasculating the medium's most promising genre, the situation comedy, into appropriate pap.
Chuckles Curtailed. "It's like a knee in the groin of social criticism," says Norman Lear, who only 5 years ago launched TV's new wave of frankness with All in the Family. Since then, sitcoms have laughed at almost everything: there was Maude's abortion, Archie's bigotry, and Rhoda and the Pill. The family laughed with them. Now it will find its chuckles curtailed. All in the Family, TV's No. 1 show last season in its 8 p.m. slot on Saturdays, has been moved to Monday at 9 p.m. Lear has been told that most of last year's episodes were not family fare. Rhoda, scheduled for family time, is feeling the censor's breath. Says Rhoda Executive Producer Allan Burns: "Rhoda and Joe may give the impression that although they are newlyweds, sex is a thing of the past." Another family-time show, M*A*S*H, has for the first time in three years had trouble with the word virgin. CBS censors took it out, saying, "A parent might be asked to explain what it means to a younger member of the family."
New shows are having an even tougher passage. Phyllis, starring Cloris Leachman, and Fay, with Lee Grant, came close to never getting on the air at all. Phyllis Executive Producer Ed Weinberger almost choked when CBS meddled with the pilot, in which the widowed Phyllis suspects her 17-year-old daughter of having an affair. Says Phyllis, as she ends an explanatory phone conversation with her daughter: "Nothing happened if she is telling the truth." CBS cut the tag line.
NBC objected to a romantic situation merely implied in Fay's pilot. Says Grant, who plays a divorcee with three kids, "I can't have affairs, only serious relationships." But even they are risky. In another episode, Fay goes out with a man who has no sexual interest in her. The network had a fit. Says one frustrated scriptwriter: "They want to return to shows like Leave It to Beaver except that that title would never get past the censors."
Steamy Climate. With a double standard worthy of Hollywood's old Hays Office, the networks have apparently raised few objections to the season's seven new crime shows. They start at 9, which is shown by Nielsen to be almost as much of a children's viewing hour as family time. There is no indication either that the censors so much as raise an eyebrow at the lubricious exchanges that enliven family-time game shows like Hollywood Squares.
Norman Lear suggests that "sex and violence are a smokescreen. There are interests in this country that don't care to have fun made about the problems existing in society." He has another problem too. He stood to make a bundle when All in the Family finally went off network TV and was sold for syndication to local stations. Now he may make a good deal less. The prime hour for syndicated shows is 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., when networks and their affiliates air news and local programs. That is the only time when independents feel they are competitive, and they are willing to pay a lot for a show. But All in the Family is ineligible for that time slot. So are crime series. Quinn Martin, who produces The Streets of San Francisco and Cannon, predicts: "It's going to force the networks into giving producers more money to make these shows if we can't make any money from syndication."
That threat raises the faint hope that a few years of family time might drive some crime shows off the air. What is more likely, however, is that local stations will simply abandon the optional N.A.B. code. After all, cops and robbers are the most popular enduring fare. Now, in the steamy climate of lost tempers, producers of all kinds are discussing lawsuits. One approach is on constitutional grounds: family time violates the First Amendment. The second involves an antitrust action that the networks' agreement to ban violent shows from early prime time amounts to collusion. In the fuss, the original issue of violence on TV has been lost. Another loser may well be the fresh, funny irreverence of the sitcoms that for only a brief span of time has lit the wasteland.
An Article from The New York Times
CANCELING OF ‘FAY’ IS CALLED PROPER
By LES BROWN OCT. 3, 1975
Lee Grant referred to him as “the mad programer” when she recently discussed on the “Tonight” show the swift cancellation of her comedy series, “Fay,” after only three televised episodes.
But Marvin Antonowsky, program chief of NBC‐ TV, maintains that there was nothing “mad,” quixotic or impulsive about his decision to terminate the Thursday night series and the companion come??, “The Montefuscos.” It was not merely based on three rat?? reports but also on a combination of factors, he said, and “all the indicators were negative.”
In an interview, Mr. Antonowsky spoke of new developments in audience research that permit a speeding up of decisions on programs. These not only include the overnight Nielsen ratings that began three years ago but also the Trendex “call‐back” research, which measures how well people liked the shows they watched.
Trendex involves random phone calls to households in 25 cities, asking respondents what new TV shows they have watched, how much they liked them and whether they intend to watch them again. These results, combined with the rating trend, tell a network whether prospects for a program are encouraging or not, Mr. Antonowsky said.
Popularity a Must
“Everything happens very fast now. The business has changed,” he said. “Fast input makes possible fast output.” He suggested that NBC was better prepared than its competitors to act quickly and dispassionately with programs not popular enough for commercial TV.
“The price of failure looms too large for us not to make the pragmatic decisions that are necessary, even though we may not like doing it,” he said.
In the case of “Fay,” Mr. Antonowsky stressed, the ratings for the third week had dropped to around half of what they were the first. “This told us that the people who checked out the premiere were not interested in watching it again. The Trendex data confirmed that. Meanwhile, the low ratings for ‘Fay’ were hurting ‘Ellery Queen,’ which follows it in the schedule. We looked at the future scripts for ‘Fay’ and decided to kill it fast, to keep it from killing Ellery Queen.”
The decision to do away with “The Montefuscos” was easier, he said. “It was simply a poor show.” Both series will go off the air Oct. 23.
Miss Grant, who played the lead in “Fay,” a series about a middle‐aged divorced woman, had blamed the program's failure.largely on NBC's decision to schedule it in the “family viewing hour,” where it competed with “The Waltons.” To meet the conditions for wholesomeness required of network programs playing before 9 o'clock, the scripts for “Fay” had to be altered and many references to sex eliminated.
New Situation Comedy
“Fay, as the heroine, was unsympathetic because she was divorced,” said Mr. Antonowsky, a bachelor. “Having her ex‐husband continually popping in added to the difficulty with the part. It would have been better if she had been abandoned by him—that would have made the character more sympathetic.”
Acknowledging that “The Waltons” was stiff competition for any new show, Mr. Antonowsky observed, however, that ABC had also introduced a new situation comedy, “On the Rocks,” in the time period, and it was doing welt. He indicated that this was the final blow for “Fay.” With a choice of two comedies at 8:30, most of the audience not watching “The Waltons” had chosen “On the Rocks” an preference to Miss Grant's series.
Mr. Antonowsky said that ABC and CBS had failures that were at least as evident as “Fay” and “The Montefuscos.” He said that for some reason “they are delaying the funeral.”
“‘Beacon Hill’ is already dead, but CBS won't admit it. The initial Trendex callbacks were very poor,” he said.
CBS announced this week that “Beacon Hill” would exchange time periods with “Kate McShane” on Oct. 21. Under this arrangement. “Beacon Hill” will be offered Wednesdays at 10 P.M. and “Kate McShane” Tuesday nights at 10.
Switching time periods has helped some programs find an audience in the past. A notable example was “Baretta” on ABC, which was rescued from failure by such a shift last spring.
Mr. Antonowsky called the CBS move “desperate” and said it probably signaled the end for both shows.
An Article from People Magazine
* October 06, 1975
* Vol. 4
* No. 14
Divorce Is More Than a Sitcom for Lee Grant, but Will Fay Play?
By Robert Windeler
"I can make as crappy a television show as can be, and that's okay it stops me from being anointed." Actress Lee Grant was talking about Peyton Place, her soapy TV series of the 1960s, and about the tendency of people in the business to lay on oily praise because she so often fetches up on the right side of causes before they become fashionable. Grant was blacklisted a dozen years (for refusing to testify against her husband in the witch-hunt of the 1950s). She hosted a stunning documentary on breast cancer several seasons ago that only this fall will hit a network PBS. She is one of Hollywood's first aspiring women directors, and was among the earliest in town to adopt an Asian refugee child.
And now, lest anyone think of canonizing her again, Grant is back in another so far crappy TV show NBC's Fay. Quality aside, to Lee, at least, this sitcom represents a consequential breakthrough. The heroine she plays is admittedly 43, adamantly and happily divorced. Says Grant, herself turning 45 this month and well into her second marriage, "It's very important to me that girls don't have to be 39 for the rest of their lives anymore and I believe in divorce. I'd like to reflect on TV the large segment of the female population who realize that." She adds, though: "I know what sitcom is I didn't expect art." Worse for Fay, the "sit" is bowdlerized because of its early evening "family hour" time slot (NBC doesn't allow her men friends to spend the night), and its "com," crafted by Danny Thomas Productions, seems toothless compared, say, to the M-T-M and Norman Lear competition.
The Nielsen vultures are already circling, but Lee wishfully thinks NBC will reschedule the show. But Grant is not into self-delusion or self-righteousness. Her causes are personal and she works at them privately, shunning pre-staged rallies, telethons and do-gooders' letterheads.
She grew up in New York, the only child of an experimental-school teacher, Abe Rosenthal, and a model-actress mother, who urged her onto the boards early. At age 3, Lee appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in L'Oracolo. Her mom, says Lee, "always pushed me in the direction of the arts or marrying somebody fantastically rich. From 11 to 15, with the approval of my mother, aunt and grandmother, all I cared about were boys. I'd be out all night at the Pierre Hotel and fall asleep in class. My career as a femme fatale was over when I was 15. I'd done everything and been everywhere." Even today, she says, "if a guy comes up to me and says 'I know you,' the first thing I think is 'did he and I make it once?' "
By 18, Grant (as she called herself) was a star. As the teenage shoplifter in Detective Story on Broadway and its follow-up on film, she copped a New York Drama Critics' Award, a laurel at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar nomination. At 20, she married playwright Arnold Manoff, 15 years older than she. Ironically, he, as a blacklisted writer, could work under a pseudonym, but she, as a performer, was non grata in Hollywood. She says, "I make no judgments on anyone from that period." And not until 1965, when Manoff died, was Lee, by then divorced from him, absolved. Starting over again in her 30s, Lee says, "the odds were too long on me to make it," but it was a challenge she took on and in the process met Joseph Feury, who was dancing in a road show of Silk Stockings. His profession "bored" her until she discovered he was once a construction worker. "It's that in him I relate to," and they married in 1967.
The Feurys rent a $500,000 ranch house overlooking Zuma Beach, west of Malibu, with their 4 -year-old Thai daughter, Belinda. Lee's prior marriage produced another daughter, Dinah, 17, who is apprenticing as a TV actress-director and living with her boyfriend. Lee and her husband, now a producer whose credits include a Clio-winning commercial for Diet Pepsi, want to make movies together.
Lee's pals number some of the more vital, idiosyncratic people in Hollywood Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Strasberg, Sarah Miles and for business counsel, she turns to Warren Beatty, the creator and co-star of her last movie, Shampoo. Says Lee, "I like to get down to things that are real food, children, money and not deal in fantasies." Possibly, she should concentrate on films and directing, and blacklist herself from TV.
To read an article about Fay go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=IdZVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JuADAAAAIBAJ&dq=fay%20lee%20grant&pg=4512%2C4333955
For more on Fay go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fay_(TV_series)
For an episode guide go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/Fay.htm
For a biography of Lee Grant go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Grant
For an article on 10 Sexual Controversies That Changed TV go to https://web.archive.org/web/20100513073833/http://www.nerve.com/entertainment/2009/09/24/10-sexual-controversies-that-changed-tv
For some Fay-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/fay
To watch a promo from Fay go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksQySqQfnxI
To watch the closing credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSi79d9gpa4
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Keywords: Fay: Cast Photo