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Mad About You aired from September 1992 until August 1999 on NBC.
In a tv world of single parents, fractured families, and divorce-as-comedy, Mad About You was a surprise-A sexy hit show about a husband and wife that explored what it meant to be newly married and simply in love.
Paul Buchman (Paul Reiser), was a neurotic, excitable documentary filmmaker and his wife Jamie ( Helen Hunt), a smart and impulsive public relations executive. Living in a Manhattan high- rise, they bickered constantly, but lovingly, sharing both the big events and the trivia that make marriage its own sitcom. " The feeling of this show should be like a couple's car ride home after a party, when you can finally say what you've been thinking all night," said co-creator Paul Reiser. " It's what the world is like behind closed doors."
Sharing their world were Lisa ( Anne Elizabeth Ramsey)Jamie's luckless single sister; Jay ( Tommy Hinkley seen during the first season), Paul's bachelor-slob friend; and Dr. Mark David Devanow and his wife Fran ( Richard Kind, Leila Kenzle) who divorced after the first season ( oops it was the nineties), but Fran stayed on to dodge Paul and Jamie's one-liners.Ira ( John Pankow)was Paul's self-confident cousin, and Murray was the Buchman's indolent dog.
Stories followed the progress of the Buckman's marriage, through a near breakup ( 1996) to the birth of achild Mabel, in May 1997. Dr. Kleinman ( Mo Gaffney) was their therapist during the rough times, while Paul's parents Sylvia and Burt ( Cynthia Harris, Louis Zorich) offered well-meaning advice as did Jamie's less frequently seen folks Theresa and Gus Stemple ( Carol Burnett and Carroll O'Connor in later episodes). Maggie and Hal ( Judy Geeson, Paxton Whitehead) were their British neighbors, and Marvin ( Jeff Garlin) the stock boy at Ira's store. Paul's lesbian sister Debbie ( Robin Bartlett)turned up occasionally with her " life partner" Joan ( Suzie Plakson).
The series finale in May 1999 was narrated by a grown-up Mabel ( Janeane Garofalo), a filmmaker, who produced a film about her parents later life. In 1999 Paul and Jamie discovered they were not legally married, causing a number of complications; in 2005 Jamie became pregnant again( she thought Paul had had a vesectomy), but lost the baby; and in 2021 they broke up. Fran and Mark remarried; Ira married and had 8 kids; Burt died and Sylvia moved into the Buckman's apartment building, still offering advice; Maggie and Hal turned out to be British spies; Marvin became an international wrestling champion ( " as Angry Tina"); and Debbie and Joan were married in Hawaii. And lovebirds Paul and Jamie? They reunited, and " lived happily ever after."
A Review from The New York Times
Review/Television; Trying To Succeed At a 90's Marriage
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 23, 1992
Marriage, television-style, is a perilous concept. Older couples, in the manner of Archie and Edith Bunker, are mired in wisecracks. Guys like Jerry Seinfeld are almost always bachelors. Smart and attractive women, from Mary Richards to Murphy Brown, stay single. Poor Rhoda Morgenstern got married and her show was canceled. Nevertheless, "Mad About You," the new NBC series having its premiere tonight at 9:30, is giving marriage a whirl, hoping to make a cogent point or two about love in the 1990's. Maybe.
Created by Paul Reiser and Danny Jacobson, the show stars Mr. Reiser, formerly a stand-up comic and star of television's "My Two Dads," and Helen Hunt, who plays opposite Billy Crystal in the film "Mr. Saturday Night." Mr. Reiser and Ms. Hunt play Jamie and Paul Buchman, married for five months and still wondering what to do with some of their wedding presents. He makes documentaries; she's in public relations. He's cautious: she's impulsive. They live in a Manhattan apartment and she gets nervous about leaving windows open: cat burglars and that sort of thing.
Realizing that they haven't had sex in five days -- "Stuff happens," he says -- Jamie and Paul decide in the morning to spend the evening home alone. It is not to be. Jamie's sister, Lisa (Anne Ramsay), pops in, a bit shaky after having "broken up with that creep in Fort Lee." Then their rather trying friends Mark and Fran Devanow (Richard Kind and Leila Kenzle) arrive for dinner on the wings of confused invitation signals. Giving up, Paul calls his loopy bachelor buddy Jay Selby (Tommy Hinkley), who spends much of the evening on a stationary exercycle.
As in "Seinfeld" and the routines of countless stand-up comedians, nothing much happens in "Mad About You." And what eventually does happen, with the hosts cavorting in the kitchen as the guests wait for dinner, is considerably less than charming. But the offbeat details gradually reveal a relationship that, intensely intimate and candid, could be worth watching. At the very least, Mr. Reiser and Ms. Hunt get the chemistry just right.
As it happens, relationships get a dramatically different spin at 10 this evening as "Civil Wars," a series specializing in divorce, returns to ABC. The law firm is engulfed in anxieties as Charlie (Peter Onorati) handles a case in which a woman sues her husband for divorce because he didn't come to her rescue when she was raped, and Sydney (Mariel Hemingway) is forced to pull a gun on a sexual aggressor who corners her in an elevator. And gentle Eli (Alan Rosenberg) gets to represent a stripper who charges that her slimy boss, claiming the modern equivalent of droit du seigneur, taunted and ridiculed her on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Sydney's secretary is being urged by her new husband, a messenger, to dress up for the evening as a cheerleader.
It takes all kinds, evidently, and sooner or later, television will get to each and every one of them. Mad About You NBC, tonight at 9:30. (Channel 4 in New York) Created by Paul Reiser and Danny Jacobson for Infront Productions and Nuance Productions in association with Tri-Star Television; Mr. Jacobson, executive producer; Mr. Reiser and Bruce Chevillat, producers; Jeffrey Lane, Pamela Eells and Sally Lepiduss, supervising producers; Barnet Kellman, co-executive producer. Paul Buchman . . . Paul Reiser Jamie BuchmanliHelen Hunt Lisa Stemple . . . Anne Ramsay Jay Selby . . . Tom Hinkley Dr. Mark Devanow . . . Richard Kind Fran Devanow . . . Leila Kenzle
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
C-By Ken Tucker
For a show with a title as impassioned as Mad About You, this new sitcom is a curiously serene little series. Paul Reiser (My Two Dads) and Helen Hunt (Mr. Saturday Night) star as Paul and Jamie Buchman, New York City newlyweds whose biggest problems in life seem to be deciding which sofa to buy and which restaurant to choose for a leisurely brunch.
Like the show that precedes it, Seinfeld, Mad About You is conceived as a genially poky, insistently talky sitcom, a series about the little things in life. In Mad's debut episode, a major plot point was whether the couple should leave a window open in their apartment for the dog while Paul and Jamie were at work; in a recent show, the couple is paralyzed when they can't decide whether to spend a Sunday afternoon at a Belgian film festival or an Amish quilt exhibit.
This is the sort of sitcom that extracts its laughs from picking at the tiniest of nits. When Jamie is in the kitchen making a cassoulet, Paul asks, ''Cassoulet what's that?'' ''A casserole,'' she replies. ''Then why don't they call it a casserole,'' yells Paul, in instant high dudgeon, ''why do they do that to people?'' ''I don't know,'' says Jamie. ''Should I call France?'' This is the recurring rhythm of Mad About You's scenes: Fussy, neurotic Paul is driven crazy by some insignificant trifle, only to be soothed by calm, luminous Jamie, the voice of wry reason. Then a scene later, Jamie gets to throw a fit, and Paul immediately becomes the marriage's huggy-bear nurturer.
Reiser, who first came to wide attention as a quibbling, French-fries-with-gravy eater in the 1982 film Diner, is also a stand-up comic whose act con- sists of just the sort of why-do-people-do-this? material that forms the average Mad About You script. Reiser cocreated the series (with Danny Jacobson), and while Mad is tailored to his style, he's exceedingly generous to his costar, who, after a number of small roles in TV series and films, has emerged as a terrific comic actress. Hunt can even do a Paul Reiser impersonation that gets laughs at least as big as her costar's.
While the relationship between Hunt and Reiser is very much Mad's focus passive vs. aggressive, WASP vs. Jewish, sweet vs. sour the series also has the requisite sitcom supporting cast. Paul has a goofball best friend, Selby (Tommy Hinkley), who so far has been little more than a lump eating potato chips on Paul's couch; a much better-written character is that of Jamie's sister, Lisa, played by Anne Ramsay (A League of Their Own). Lisa is amusingly intense, anxious and pessimistic ''I have so much pain inside me that I can cry at will,'' is Lisa's idea of small talk at a party.
Ultimately, though, what's missing in Mad About You is...madness. Unlike Seinfeld, it lacks the loopy quality an affinity for the absurd that regularly enables Jerry and his wacky pals to transcend the mundane. Already, a pattern is emerging in Mad: The best episodes are the ones in which Paul's whining finickiness annoys not only us viewers but Jamie as well. The series is funniest when it acknowledges what a pill this husband can be, when these lovebirds spat when, in short, this idyllic Manhattan romance is less wry and more awry. David Letterman has already given the show's title his own twist he likes to call it Mad At You. For me, it's Ambivalent About You. B-
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION; Making the Move From Cold to Hot
By BILL CARTER
Published: February 20, 1994
IF NOT YET CERTIFIABLY MAD about "Mad About You," more and more of the nation's television viewers seem to be interested in going steady with the NBC Thursday-night comedy.
The show, which chronicles the small pleasures, passions and peeves of a newly married Manhattan couple, had a rocky start in September 1992. Set up by NBC to be the companion comedy to its then-growing Wednesday night hit, "Seinfeld," the new show found itself banished to Siberia -- also known as Saturday night -- because it couldn't hold onto many "Seinfeld" viewers.
But "Mad About You" surprised almost everyone in the television industry by surviving and even thriving on Saturday nights. NBC then upped the ante this past September, moving the show into the 8 P.M. Thursday spot, where the last successful occupant for that network was a comedy called "Cosby."
Again the doubters questioned how this fragile little show with its sophisticated adult humor would fare in a time period usually reserved for shows with lots of kiddies running around. But "Mad About You" has answered those doubts this season with ever-increasing popularity.
Within the past month, in fact, the show has started to soar, averaging a 14.7 rating (each rating point represents 942,000 homes) and firmly establishing itself as one of the hottest shows on television.
The show's creative team is taking success more or less in stride, excited by the growing buzz about the show, but content to keep on pursuing their original vision: a funny, intimate look at the marriage of Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt), with heavy emphasis on the way love can be exciting and exasperating at the same time. (A typical recent episode: the Buchmans try to find time in their busy lives for just one night in bed together, only to be endlessly interrupted.)
"Mad About You" is mostly the product of a collaboration between Mr. Reiser and one of the most prolific new writer-producers in television comedy, Danny Jacobson. Mr. Reiser, a long-time stand-up comedian, had made a deal to develop the show for Tri-Star Productions, which hooked him up with Mr. Jacobson, who had written and produced the short-lived comedy "David Rules" but was better known for having headed the writing staff during the first two turbulent years of "Roseanne."
The men didn't know each other, but they had something in common: recent weddings. "We learned we had been married within weeks of each other," Mr. Reiser said. "We were both going through the same kinds of discoveries." That, they say, abetted by the casting of Ms. Hunt, became the source of a distinctive approach to situation comedy.
Ms. Hunt's ability to spar on equal terms with Mr. Reiser allowed the show's creators to spin out wilder and wilder comic confrontations between the couple, as in a recent episode when he dons a "virtual reality" helmet and is swept away by a fantasy with Christie Brinkley, only to have Jamie fight back in a fantasy with Andre Agassi.
"I had always liked Paul," Mr. Jacobson said at a breakfast interview in his New York hotel the morning after shooting all night for a scene set at the Rockefeller Center skating rink. (The series is usually shot on a stage in Los Angeles.) "I had an ear for him. I got his word music. I sat down with him and we talked about our marriages and the possibility of doing a show about the dances of marriage. And we both got it right away."
That discussion came at a time when Mr. Jacobson was also developing a comedy for Shelley Long, the former "Cheers" star. That series, "Good Advice," was put into production by CBS at the same time NBC was ordering "Mad About You," but then was postponed. The delay allowed Mr. Jacobson to concentrate full time on "Mad About You," and, he said, he found the work so satisfying he stuck with it even after "Good Advice" got on the air.
Next year another Jacobson comedy, "Faith," starring Faith Prince, might be added to the CBS schedule; but even if that happens Mr. Jacobson said he would probably continue to concentrate on "Mad About You."
One of the real surprises of the show has been Ms. Hunt, who had not previously tried television comedy (or any other form of series television) but who has emerged as perhaps the next great sitcom leading lady. She was recently awarded a Golden Globe award as the best comedy actress in television.
Ms. Hunt was one of two finalists brought to NBC to audition for the role of Jamie (the other was Teri Hatcher, who now plays Lois in ABC's "Lois and Clark") and won when asked to do a scene in the pilot where she imitates Mr. Reiser trying to decide what to eat. "She did that so brilliantly," Mr. Jacobson said. "It was as clear as a tap on the shoulder from the coach saying, 'Go into the game.' "
Ms. Hunt, who has acted in such films as "The Waterdance" and "Mr. Saturday Night," said she had no desire to lock up five years or more of her life playing the same woman in a television series -- until she got the pilot script for "Mad About You."
"Paul had said he wanted to do a show about the moment when a couple has left a party and just gotten behind closed doors and then the truth comes out," Ms. Hunt said. "To do a whole series about moments like that -- that was the only kind of show I could see that would warrant five years of work."
Ms. Hunt said she also wrung a promise from Mr. Jacobson that she would be able to make contributions to the direction of her character. "It takes a lot of hard work to make something look like it happened by accident," she said.
Mr. Jacobson and the show's other main writer, Jeffrey Lane, turn out scenes so true to life that the show's principals have been stopped by people who say things like: "You must have a microphone in our bedroom."
One reason for the dead-on quality is the way the experiences of the Buchmans parallel those from the lives of its creators. Mr. Reiser said he had been fascinated by discussions with his wife in which they would weave from topic to topic and suddenly arrive at a confrontation without him knowing how they had gotten there. The idea of trying to figure out the way those discussions progress was worked into the show.
Mr. Jacobson cited a recent night when his wife roused him from a deep sleep to ask if the smoke detectors would work for a fire in their closets. "And I just said, 'Are you crazy?' That's the kind of thing we look for in this show."
Mr. Jacobson began writing after a career as a musical comedy performer on Broadway. In the 1970's he performed in "Grease," and part of that experience will turn up in the television show he is writing for Ms. Prince. "She'll play Faith Prince before 'Guys and Dolls,' " Mr. Jacobson said, "a working Broadway actress who hasn't hit it big yet."
With "Good Advice" set to return to the air this spring and "Faith" waiting in the wings, Mr. Jacobson faces the prospect of running three network comedies at the same time next season.
"My favorite comedy of all time is 'The Honeymooners,' " he said, because in every episode you would laugh and then they would also hit you right there." He pointed to his chest. "I think the biggest single moment in sitcom history was a show when Ralph is fighting with Norton and then he hears there's been an accident in the sewer and Norton may be hurt. Gleason does this incredible turn. And the guy who gave him the news says, 'I thought you said you couldn't stand Norton.' And Gleason says, 'What I said about Norton is one thing; what I feel about him is another.' That's the kind of moment I think we can get to on our show."
An Article from The New York Times
Can It Be? Are Paul and Jamie Kaput?
By BILL CARTER
Published: May 16, 1996
You know it's sweep month on television when bad things start happening to good people:
On "Roseanne," Roseanne's husband, Dan Conner, has a heart attack. On "N.Y.P.D. Blue," Andy Sipowicz's son gets gunned down, sending Andy hurtling off the wagon. On "Law and Order," the prosecutor Jill Hennessy goes into a coma.
But can Paul and Jamie Buchman, the merrily romantic couple at the heart of NBC's highly rated sitcom "Mad About You," really be breaking up?
In what may be the riskiest of the many life crises afflicting television characters this May, "Mad About You" has introduced friction, extramarital kissing and even separation into the previously nudgy and cuddly lives of the Buchmans.
This Sunday night at 8, the breakup culminates in what networks often breathlessly label a "very special episode." In this case, that also means it's an hour long instead of the usual half-hour.
Do fans of the series want to see a couple they have laughed at and with for four years having serious marital discord? Paul Reiser, one of the show's two stars (along with Helen Hunt), as well as a co-creator, believes they do, and so far he has the numbers to back him up.
Two weeks ago, when the show introduced the separation plot, complete with a little walk around the park with "someone else" for him and a little kiss with a "someone else" co-worker for her, "Mad About You" received its third highest rating of the season and highest since January. With NBC pressing the emotion buttons with all its promotional skill since (it was pre-empted last Sunday), the episode this Sunday night seems certain to top that.
But Mr. Reiser said this was no sweep-month rabbit he pulled from his executive producer's hat. "From the very beginning," he said. "I knew I wanted to do this. From the first time I met Helen, I told her this would be part of the show at some point. To not bring this couple into a little trouble would just not be honest."
Mr. Reiser said he was not at all worried about how this turn of events might sit with the show's audience. "I never even thought it was a risk," he said in a telephone interview. "I just thought it was exciting." Much more exciting, he said, than the idea that was being pressed on the show by its studio, Tri-Star Television.
"The studio's reaction was, 'Oh, why do this?' " he said. "From the beginning, they've been trying to convince us to have a baby. By year two, it was, 'They can have a baby in a big sweep episode.' But if we have a baby in sweep month, it's still going to be there after that."
The baby issue did become useful, Mr. Reiser said, because it helped set up what he really wanted to do, which was turn the couple's frustration at their inability to conceive into a seasonlong funk leading to strain in the marriage.
"It was a very organic process," he said, which was not at all inconsistent with the show's comedy. "It's a very funny episode," he added, acknowledging that it does, of course, get downright dramatic as well. And he argued that this wasn't inconsistent with the tone of the show.
"The reason the show has been successful is that people watch the Buchmans and say, "Boy, that's us,' " he said. "People are very interested in this couple. I expect them to watch Sunday night and say, 'Even the Buchmans go through this stuff.' "
Despite the desire for verisimilitude, Mr. Reiser said, "We had to be very careful about how we did this." He did not want to put the blame on one member of the couple or the other, so he tried to make each mutually responsible, he said.
So where do the Buchmans go from here? The only sure answer is, to Tuesday: NBC has announced that in the fall it will move "Mad About You" to Tuesday night at 8.
At the beginning of this season, NBC, hoping "Mad About You" would build a comedy beachhead on Sunday night, moved it from Thursday, where as part of a powerhouse lineup it had consistently ranked among the top 10 shows on television.
To an extent the move worked, but not as easily as had been expected. Part of the reason, several NBC executives said, was that the show began the season in a slump.
The "Mad About You" people vociferously opposed the move because they knew another strong year on Thursdays would guarantee big profits in syndication sales. And when the show had to begin this season with a rerun, network executives said it was because, in the words of one, "They couldn't get back into production because they were sulking over the move to Sunday."
Mr. Reiser admitted he was initially annoyed by the move to Sunday, where the show's ratings have suffered. But he said the idea that "Mad About You" had delayed production out of pique was "wildly untrue." He said there were no special production delays except that Ms. Hunt had to finish her starring role in the current blockbuster movie "Twister."
"We paid a price for the move to Sunday," Mr. Reiser said. "But really that was their prerogative. They juggle shows on seven nights."
The move to Tuesday could enhance the ultimate value of "Mad About You," especially if it can overtake the flagging "Roseanne" on ABC. But will the Buchmans be back together next season? Mr. Reiser wasn't revealing the ending of Sunday's episode, but NBC may have given it away when it announced the move to Tuesday.
The show wasn't being called "Mad About Your Hiring a Lawyer."
An Article From The New York Times
Paul Reiser's Balancing Act
By ANDY MEISLER
Published: February 2, 1997
AT 39, the comedian and actor Paul Reiser has achieved a level of success in the television industry attained by very few. As the co-star, co-creator and one of the executive producers of the NBC sitcom ''Mad About You,'' he has seen his series become one of the most popular and critically praised prime-time series of the 1990's.
During the run of the show, which is in its fifth season and appears on Tuesday nights at 8, Mr. Reiser has written a best-selling humor book (''Couplehood''), starred in a theatrical movie (''Bye Bye, Love''), been a host for the Emmy and Grammy Awards, and worked as a commercial spokesman for I.B.M. and AT&T.
Most television viewers, however, know him primarily as Paul Buchman, the mildly neurotic documentary film maker he plays on ''Mad About You.'' They know that his series is a predominantly lighthearted treatment of the ups and downs of an urban marriage and that his television wife, Jamie (played by Helen Hunt), is pregnant with their first television child.
What most viewers do not realize is that Mr. Reiser, like many of the other television comedy stars on his level (Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne and Brett Butler, for example), expends as much effort behind the cameras as in front of them. With his image and millions of dollars at stake, he is not content merely to show up each week and recite his lines. As a bankable star, he has the clout to make virtually whatever changes he desires. And as an accomplished comedy writer, he has the skills to contribute to the show's production. Mr. Reiser feels that ultimately he is responsible for the quality of ''Mad About You,'' down to the set decoration, the stock shots and the sound mix.
But television is a quirky, labor-intensive and supremely collaborative medium. Even if he wanted to, Mr. Reiser could not write and produce ''Mad About You'' by himself. And though he has the ultimate authority, indiscriminate use of it would cause resentment and disruption of the creative process.
It's a delicate balancing act that Mr. Reiser performs better than most, but he still has to work hard at it. ''From the inception of the show,'' he said recently, ''I wanted to create a sandbox in which I could move the sand around myself.''
Mr. Reiser was sitting in an easy chair in his large but casually decorated bungalow office on the Culver Studios lot. It was a quiet afternoon during the show's weeklong Thanksgiving break. ''Does that mean creative control?'' he continued. ''Well, yeah. It sounds so domineering, and there is something ugly about the word, but the fact is I didn't want to do a show where I had to fight against doing things I didn't want to do. I wanted to create a show with my sensibility, that I myself would want to see.''
Mr. Reiser readily admitted that he left most of the budgeting, hiring and firing to others because his background -- he is a New York City native who worked the stand-up comedy circuit before winning featured roles in the 1982 movie ''Diner'' and the NBC sitcom ''My Two Dads'' -- includes no real managerial training.
''One of our directors told me the first season that a show like this is a human machine,'' said Mr. Reiser. ''He said, 'It's not a coffee machine that you can kick when it's not working.' I try to keep that image in mind.''
Monday: Table Talk
''You know, I think this should be a fun table reading,'' said Mr. Reiser. It was 10 A.M. on Monday, Dec. 2, the first day back at work for the ''Mad About You'' company. It was also the first day in production for ''Citizen Buchman,'' or episode No. 513, which will be shown on Feb. 18.
Trailed by one of his two full-time assistants, Mr. Reiser walked the few feet from his bungalow to the entrance of sound stage 11. He greeted Ms. Hunt; the comedian Shecky Greene, one of that week's guest stars, and the comedian and director David Steinberg, who was to direct the episode.
Seated around folding tables inside the sound stage were more than 30 people: representatives from NBC and Columbia Tri-Star Television, the show's production company; cast members; production personnel, and the show's eight writers. Before sitting down, Mr. Reiser schmoozed with many of them. A few minutes later, at the tardy entrance of the episode's most prominent guest, the television-comedy pioneer Sid Caesar, he rose and led a round of applause.
''There's a misconception we're here to read the script; this is really a comedy roast for Paul,'' joked a long-haired man seated opposite Mr. Reiser. This was Larry Charles, one of the sitcom's three executive producers and its ''show runner,'' the head writer who, on most television series, is responsible for overseeing all aspects of production. Next to him was Victor Levin, a preppy-looking man who is a co-executive producer and was the author of that week's script.
''Citizen Buchman'' revolves around a history of his family that Paul Buchman is filming. An aged relative dies while contributing his reminiscences; Paul and Jamie spend most of the episode trying to decipher the man's last words. Before getting to ''table draft'' stage the story had been modified and approved several times by Mr. Reiser, Mr. Charles and Ms. Hunt.
The pale-blue 71-page script had arrived at their homes the previous day, in better shape, all concerned agreed, than the majority of table drafts. At Mr. Charles's signal the reading began, and it went smoothly, the main problems being that Mr. Greene and Mr. Caesar seemed uncomfortable with their lines and that the running time was 38 minutes, almost twice as long as a standard episode.
Immediately afterward, several cast members surrounded Mr. Reiser, praised the script and urged him to expand it into two consecutive weeks' worth of half-hours. ''Good idea,'' said Mr. Reiser. ''Quite possibly.''
He then entered a short ''notes meeting'' with Mr. Steinberg, Mr. Charles, Ms. Hunt and the other principals. Its purpose was to identify the jokes and story elements that were not working. After lunch, while Mr. Charles and his writing staff tackled ''Citizen Buchman,'' Mr. Reiser worked with the other actors and Mr. Steinberg on the show's set, beginning to block out the scenes.
''The reason I like working with Paul,'' said Mr. Steinberg, ''is that he's one of the funniest people on earth. He's also a good person, not a bad person. And you can talk him out of a bad idea.''
By evening the rehearsals were over. Mr. Reiser walked over to Mr. Charles's bungalow in time for another meeting, in which the decision either to cut the script drastically or to expand and divide it was to be made. The meeting broke up around 9 P.M. Mr. Reiser, who was coming down with a cold, went home. The writers continued working through the night.
Tuesday: 'Vamp, Vamp'
On Tuesday, Mr. Reiser arrived at work at 9:45 A.M. Awaiting him was the next draft of ''Citizen Buchman,'' now canary yellow and 54 pages long. His cold, now shared by his wife and his daughter, was somewhat under control. He had a long closed-door conversation with Arthur Spivak, his business manager and the third executive producer of ''Mad About You.'' Then he telephoned his publicity agent and instructed her to decline a request from In Style magazine for an interview en famille.
Mr. Reiser said that the previous evening's meeting had produced a decision to cut ''Citizen Buchman'' down to one half-hour. ''We felt it's better to get it down to its strengths rather than pump it up and make two weaker episodes,'' he said.
Next was a run-through with the cast, observed by Mr. Charles and the writing staff. Mr. Reiser greeted Mr. Caesar effusively. ''Sid, this is all just vamping for your entrance -- vamp, vamp, vamp!'' said Mr. Reiser. At least part of his enthusiasm had to do with the fact that Mr. Caesar, who was to deliver a comic funeral oration in the episode's climactic scene, was still unhappy with his lines. The previous afternoon the 74-year-old Mr. Caesar had worked with the 35-year-old Mr. Levin on rewriting them, to no avail. During the lunch break Mr. Reiser worked in his office for an hour with both men.
A little after 1:30, Mr. Reiser walked to a bungalow occupied by Sheila Amos, the show's editor. Unlike Ms. Hunt, who concentrates on script matters, Mr. Reiser participates in virtually all ''Mad About You'' editing sessions. ''No monologue-killing cutaways'' read a sign on a bulletin board. Ms. Amos punched up a preliminary version of No. 505, an episode that was to appear on Dec. 17, on her computerized editing bay. She ran several scenes over and over as Mr. Reiser cut a line or two and shortened reaction shots. The effect was to make the dialogue crisper and to shift the focus away from the subsidiary characters and toward Ms. Hunt and him.
Wednesday: 'Hold It!'
By Wednesday the script for No. 513 was bright pink and down to 53 pages. More important, the episode had become more sharply focused on Jamie and Paul's relationship to each other. ''We're amazingly close to where we want to be,'' said Mr. Reiser.
During the morning rehearsal Mr. Reiser was told that Mr. Caesar was still unhappy with his lines. Once again Mr. Reiser devoted his lunch hour to working with Mr. Caesar and Mr. Levin.
Later, Mr. Reiser returned to the sound stage to spend several hours working as an actor. Mr. Steinberg was ''preshooting'' the documentary that would be inserted into ''Citizen Buchman'' between portions shot before a live audience. Mr. Reiser as Paul Buchman stood off camera and asked questions of two actors playing an aunt and a cousin of Paul Buchman's.
All went smoothly until the middle of one sequence. ''Hold it!'' said Mr. Reiser. After conferring with Mr. Steinberg and the show's hairdresser and makeup artist, he sent the two actors to their dressing rooms for makeovers. ''The mother looks about an hour and a half older then her son,'' explained Mr. Reiser.
Thursday: Camera Work
''The truth is, there's no such thing as a power hierarchy on this show,'' said Ms. Hunt. ''There's not a need for one. Everyone around here wants to make the show better.''
Ms. Hunt, who this season for the first time is listed as one of the show's producers, said she had as much input into the story and script aspects of the show as anyone. ''Actually,'' she added, ''Paul and I agree with each other about 9 times out of 10. Sometimes I'll leave him a 20-minute message on his voice mail late at night. I'll come in the next morning and listen to my voice mail, and find he was thinking the same thing exactly.''
Indeed, Mr. Reiser and Ms. Hunt seem to have a comfortable professional marriage. Thursday morning -- canary yellow, 54 pages -- found them huddled together on the ''Mad About You'' set, eating breakfast on Paul and Jamie's dining room table and comparing notes on the script. They seemed oblivious to the work going on around them.
On a sitcom, the fourth day of rehearsals is ''camera day,'' when the four cameras' complicated movements are choreographed and recorded, and pieces of color-coded tape are placed on the floor to signify both the actors' and the camera operators' marks. The marking sessions, during which stand-ins replace the cast members, are interspersed with actual rehearsals. This is a tedious process, and when he was not needed Mr. Reiser worked on memorizing his lines, made business calls and made notes on several proposed commercial scripts from AT&T's advertising agency.
In midafternoon Mr. Caesar finally delivered his revised funeral oration, a seemingly improvised effort that didn't mesh with the writing around it but that did hark back to the cacophonous rhythms of his famous ''Your Show of Shows'' sketches. Mr. Reiser shook his head in admiration.
Conspicuously absent from this whole process -- as they had been most of the week -- were any senior representatives from NBC or the show's production company. ''I really haven't had any contact with them,'' said Mr. Reiser. ''I try to save myself for when I really need them to do something.''
Such a time was last season, when he decided that ''Mad About You,'' marooned in a disadvantageous Sunday evening time slot, needed to go in a different direction. That direction was toward a seriously portrayed crisis in the Buchmans' marriage. It was to be brought on by difficulties in conceiving a child and some mild feints toward infidelity by both characters.
''I told them that if they wouldn't let us do this, there really wasn't any point in keeping the show going,'' said Mr. Reiser. Over strong opposition from NBC and Columbia Tri-Star, the shows were written. And in a testimony to the depth of the characters, the audience went along readily with the nonhumorous story line. Reviews and ratings were so good that the show was moved to Tuesday. Any talk of cancellation is far beyond the network horizon.
Now, Mr. Reiser mused, he is left to deal with a different set of problems. ''Sometimes,'' he said, ''I find it easier to change my lines than to reach down and get as much as I can from them as they're written.''
He also said he missed contact with the life that ''Mad About You'' reflects. ''My life is literally bordered by this office, the sound stage and my home,'' he said. ''Not a lot of the real world comes in here, does it?''
Friday: Show Time
Mr. Reiser and his colleagues shifted into higher gear on Friday, ''show day.'' Before the morning rehearsal, peppy music played over the public-address system. During a run-through, while last-minute changes were debated, Mr. Caesar was in his best humor of the week. And Mr. Reiser was in full-strength backslapping mode.
At around 3 P.M., Mr. Reiser retreated to his office for meditation and a visit from his masseuse. At 4 P.M., the cast and crew members, sans Mr. Reiser and Ms. Hunt, sat down to a catered dinner. At 5 P.M., Mr. Reiser emerged from his office and, on his way to the makeup room, tossed plastic baggies to staff members who sat in a picnic area near the sound stage. ''Thanks, boss,'' said one. Inside each bag was a Cuban cigar.
At 6:15, as the studio audience warmed up by watching a previous episode of ''Mad About You'' on monitors, Mr. Reiser, Ms. Hunt and Mr. Charles gathered the cast members and key personnel into a huddle for a muffled cheer. After the cast was introduced by a warm-up comedian, Mr. Reiser grabbed the microphone and introduced Mr. Caesar. ''If ever there was a comedy god, it is this man,'' he said.
It would be approximately 9 P.M. before Mr. Caesar, whose big scene was the episode's final one, appeared before the cameras. Some sitcom practitioners, in hopes of pleasing their audiences, work as fast as they can, planning to fix mistakes in the editing room. Not the people who make ''Mad About You.'' Each scene was filmed at least twice, with breaks for the reloading of film and scene and costume changes.
In the midst of all this, Mr. Reiser plunged into the bleachers and entertained the dwindling crowd with a rapid-fire spray of jokes. Finally, at around 11 P.M., the cast members took their final bows, and the remnant audience left. The cast and crew members worked on as Mr. Steinberg filmed several ''pickup'' shots of scenes that had not gone satisfactorily.
Ms. Hunt left for home around midnight. Mr. Reiser remained, to film a ''tag,'' a short comic sequence to run under an episode's final credits.
At 1:15 A.M., Mr. Reiser, continuing a tradition that dates to the pilot episode, grabbed a cigar from his office and led the dozen or so people who remained to Mr. Charles's office. On a bulletin board were written the numbers and titles of the season's 22 episodes; the 12 shows already filmed were crossed off. ''Just to review,'' he said, pointing to the completed half-hours. ''Done. Done. Done. Filmed but not yet aired. Done.''
When he was finished, Mr. Reiser crossed off ''Citizen Buchman.'' There was a game but weak cheer. ''It's been a good week, a splendid week,'' Mr. Reiser said. ''We're over the hump, past the halfway mark.'' The start of episode No. 514 was fewer than 60 hours away.
An Article from The New York Times
Be It Ever So Urban, It's Green
By RICK LYMAN
Published: September 5, 1997
PAUL REISER waved across the shade-dappled lawn to the woman with the baby carriage who had shouted his name. ''I left a pair of socks here 20 years ago and I came back to get them,'' he called out.
Like the head of a comet, Mr. Reiser streaked through Stuyvesant Town trailing his entourage (an interviewer, a photographer, a personal manager, a publicity agent, a bodyguard) and a growing peanut gallery of residents. It was a warm, near-perfect summer afternoon, and the complex's playgrounds and walkways were thick with people enjoying the day amid the splash of fountains, the bright flash of flowers and the banners celebrating Stuyvesant Town's 50th anniversary. ''I really must send them something,'' Mr. Reiser said. ''Please remind me.''
Paul Reiser, the former stand-up comic who became a movie actor, scriptwriter, television star and best-selling author, grew up in this inward-looking urban cloister of red brick apartment houses between 14th and 20th Streets, from First Avenue to FDR Drive in Manhattan. He went to a Hebrew school across from nearby Tompkins Square Park, then to Stuyvesant High School, just across First Avenue.
His father was one of the soldiers who returned from World War II and found a moderately priced home in this 8,755-unit complex, built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to house the men who won the war, and their families. Mr. Reiser, 41, grew up there with his parents and three sisters, first in a three-bedroom apartment near 14th Street, then in one of the complex's few five-bedroom units on a ground floor overlooking the East River. ''The cars going by on the drive made this whooshing noise, and sometimes you could look out the window at the river and listen to that noise and convince yourself that you were at the ocean,'' he said.
Stuyvesant Town was not greeted warmly by architecture critics in 1947. Lewis Mumford referred to it as ''police state architecture,'' and some of the pictures of the early years, with the hulking buildings separated by treeless greens, are somewhat grim. To this day, it remains a rather forbidding place from the outside, turning its rough brick back on the surrounding neighborhoods.
But on the inside, it is an oasis. That's certainly how Mr. Reiser remembers it.
''Everything was here for me,'' he said. ''Walking outside was like going into the real world. I didn't get uptown until I was like 16. It still looks good, doesn't it? Prettier than I remember it, but smaller, too.''
'It Wasn't a Shtetl'
Mr. Reiser hadn't been back to Stuyvesant Town for many years. He can't remember exactly. The previous trip had also been for an interview, that time with a local television station. ''We went into this shop and said to the proprietor, 'Hey, pretend you don't know me.' We thought it would be funny. The guy said, 'No problem, I don't know you.' '' Mr. Reiser shrugged. ''Hey, it wasn't a shtetl. It wasn't like everyone knew your name.''
Lately, though, Mr. Reiser said, he has felt the need to make more regular trips back to New York from his home and base in Southern California, where he lives with his wife, Paula, and his son, Ezra, who will turn 2 on Sept. 15. He needs to keep what he calls his ''New York muscle'' in shape. ''I used to pride myself on my ability to get a cab, anytime, anyplace,'' he said. ''But I came back one time a few years ago and I could not get a cab. I thought to myself, 'You lost it.' ''
Stuyvesant Town is a strange creature, as densely populated as any corner of Manhattan but as leafy as a Westchester suburb, the outside urban grid turned on its head as the 13-story buildings interlock around one another like jigsaw pieces, separated by parks and promenades. The northern quarter of the complex, above the meandering Peter Cooper Drive, is known as Peter Cooper Village, a slightly upscale cousin to Stuyvesant Town.
''They were only upscale because their electrical wiring could accommodate air-conditioners,'' Mr. Reiser said. ''You tried to make friends with someone from up there so you could go sit in their apartment in July.''
It was only a few years ago that Stuyvesant Town was rewired, and now seemingly all of the apartments have sprouted air-conditioners.
There are all-new window fittings on all the apartments, too, as Mr. Reiser found out when an elderly woman approached him and, mistaking him for an official of some sort, began a long, involved harangue about them. The older ones were better, she said, with the louvered slats in the kitchen. Now, some of the apartments have their stoves on the left and some have their stoves on the right, and the ones on the left have trouble opening the new windows over the stove and . . . Mr. Reiser nodded, smiled, nodded some more, then gradually moved away. ''I can no longer remember a time in my life when that conversation was not taking place,'' he said.
Another woman, seated on a park bench, yelled out to him: ''Are you here to buy the place?''
It gave him pause, just thinking about it. ''I don't know,'' he said. ''I hear the windows aren't too good.''
Pushing and Running
Mr. Reiser pointed out the field where he had played football, the gently inclined sidewalk that he and other skateboarders had dubbed ''Suicide Hill.'' He noticed a few changes (''Hey, where'd they put the mailbox?'') but by and large, it was pretty much as he remembered it, except smaller. He leaned on one of the wrought-iron fences overlooking the FDR Drive overpass, the ground-level parking area where two of his father's cars were stolen and the gray East River rolling past. ''Back then, this was all farmland,'' he said.
''For us, everything was located by playgrounds,'' Mr. Reiser said. ''Someone would ask, 'Where do you live?' You'd say, 'I live right above Playground 7. How about you?' 'Oh, I live next to Playground 5.' ''
Besides numbers, the playgrounds also had their own separate functions and constituencies. ''See that over there? That's the swing playground. That was for the little kids,'' he said. Though Stuyvesant Town drew its residents from many ethnic groups, the predominant ones were Jewish and Irish Catholic, he said. There was a Jewish basketball playground and there was a Catholic basketball playground. ''We never played together,'' he said.
Did it ever disintegrate into violence? ''Fights? No. There was pushing and running. One group would push, the other group would run. It never escalated into a full-scale brawl.''
Mr. Reiser had been on one of the network morning shows that day, and several people walked up to talk to him about his appearance, to ask questions, to quote some of his lines back at him. He was in New York for a three-day visit, promoting his new book, ''Babyhood,'' a series of riffs on having children that is a kind of sequel to his best-selling ''Couplehood.''
''Hey Paul Reiser, how are you?'' a woman called as she walked by, not bothering to break stride.
''I'm fine, how are you,'' he called back happily over his shoulder. ''This is really cool. I don't know if any of you guys are getting anything out of this, but I'm having a great time.''
A pair of police officers emerged from the security hut just opposite the main central fountain. They were grinning, too.
''I threw something in that fountain 30 years ago,'' Mr. Reiser called out to them. ''I came back to apologize.''
Siren New York
An objective observer would have to admit: Life has been pretty good lately for this particular son of Stuyvesant Town.
His hit television series, ''Mad About You,'' is going into its sixth season. Mirroring the subject of his new book and Mr. Reiser's own life, the couple in the series (played by Mr. Reiser and Helen Hunt) have had their first child. After being the host of the annual Emmy Awards broadcast last year, Mr. Reiser is up for one himself again this year, for best actor in a comedy series, and will find out on Sept. 14 whether he won. He's also been the host of the Grammys and a television commercial spokesman for AT&T and I.B.M., and his new book earned him an advance of $5.6 million.
Mr. Reiser was a popular but struggling comic when the director Barry Levinson tapped him to play a role in his 1982 film, ''Diner.'' Supporting roles in some subsequent films (in 1982 as Eddie Murphy's hectoring colleague in ''Beverly Hills Cop,'' in 1986 as the futuristic corporate weasel in ''Aliens'') led in 1987 to his first television series, ''My Two Dads,'' about an ambitious yuppie and a laid-back artist who find they must share the task of rearing a former girlfriend's child. He was the yuppie.
Now, as the co-creator, co-star and executive producer of ''Mad About You,'' about a young married couple who live at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 12th Street, Mr. Reiser can control every aspect of the production. He finds that when he follows his inclinations, they lead him back to New York.
''I was trying to write a script once and it was set in Los Angeles,'' he said. ''I couldn't write it. I'd have him get in his car and turn onto Wilshire Boulevard and then . . . what? I didn't know what happened next. So I just changed the setting, had the guy get on the Second Avenue bus and wham, the whole story just poured out. I knew what happened next.
''As a writer, I discovered, I could not write something that takes place in California. More than that, I could not write something that isn't in New York.''
A young woman was walking by, struggling not to look over at Mr. Reiser, and he raised his voice just as she moved within range. ''And that is how I invented helium,'' he said. She kept walking and he continued:
''We really do try to make the characters on the show seem real and recognizable. The worst thing we can say about an idea is, 'This couldn't happen in real life.' '' He paused and pointed down the walkway. ''Look, here comes Helen Hunt.'' Sure enough, about 50 yards ahead, a young woman with a knapsack was sauntering up a short flight of stairs and, from that distance, she could have been Ms. Hunt's double.
Hebrew and Bongos
Mr. Reiser remembers the time his mother walked up to Peter Cooper Village to see J.F.K. (''not the movie, the person''), and he recalls the 1960's as something that happened on the fringes of his childhood, a kind of psychedelic background noise.
''Tompkins Square Park was really a kind of an epicenter for the 60's, you know,'' he said. ''We'd be sitting in class, listening to a lesson in Hebrew, and you could literally hear the sound of the bongos wafting in through the windows.''
So Mr. Reiser did what many young people did in the late 60's. He started a rock band. Sometimes they practiced at his apartment; sometimes the Y.M.C.A. on 14th Street would let them use a room. ''First, we called ourselves the Night Riders, then we changed it to the Upper Deck,'' he said. Every time a sports announcer would say that a ball had been hit into the upper deck of Yankee Stadium, he and his friends would whoop and cheer. ''Free publicity,'' he said.
One of his most vivid memories is practicing with the band in his bedroom while a dozen teen-age girls sat on the steps outside, listening to them. ''We played 'Gloria' for 45 minutes, because it only had one chord,'' he said. ''If it got beyond 'Gloria,' we were in trouble.'' The band lasted for four years and made exactly $140.
It was when he was in college, at the State University of New York in Binghamton, that Mr. Reiser began to hang out at comedy clubs and play with the notion of a career as a comic. He was studying business, with plans of joining his father as a health foods wholesaler. But in the end, the comedy club subculture seduced him.
He moved to a rent-controlled, $400-a-month apartment on East 76th Street that he gave up not long ago, and only under pressure from the landlord. For more than a decade now, he has been living in Southern California.
But he can't seem to shake Stuyvesant Town, he said.
''I grew up with such an apartment mentality,'' he said. ''When I went away to college, the family moved from Stuyvesant Town to New Jersey. But even there they moved into another apartment building. I remember, after I moved to California, into my first real house, I was playing the piano once and suddenly realized that I could play whenever I wanted as loud as I wanted. It took me a couple of months to realize this. In my genes, I had this voice saying 'Ssshhh, the neighbors!' ''
Suddenly, the drone of a small airplane could be heard somewhere overhead. Mr. Reiser shrugged and pointed toward the sky. ''That was the hardest part about living here,'' he said. ''Constantly being bombed by the Germans.''
Mr. Reiser stood at the edge of the grass, looking back toward ''Suicide Hill'' and the swing playground and the steps where the girls listened to his band.
''I used to stand out here in the evening and look up at the buildings and watch, as the people came home, the lights would go on, one by one,'' he said. ''I used to think about how each of those lights was a different family, a different little world. All those lives, all those people.''
Suddenly, he spotted something he remembered; the ventilator shaft for the complex's underground parking garage poked into the air, a grid of red bricks about the size of a refrigerator. ''I can remember exactly how that smelled,'' he said. ''I used to love that smell. I wonder if it still smells like that.''
He sprinted up the hill, pressed his face into the grimy ventilator holes and took a long, deep breath. His smile melted into a kind of sad grin.
''No,'' he said. ''It's gone.''
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION/RADIO; Off Go Paul And Jamie, Realistic To the End
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: May 23, 1999
WHEN ''Mad About You'' began its seven-year run on NBC in the fall of 1992, a run that ends tomorrow night, it was seen on Wednesdays at 9:30 P.M., right after ''Seinfeld.'' The two shows seemed like a perfect match at the time: both were set in New York, both displayed an edgy comic sensibility pegged to the absurdities of everyday life, and both starred stand-up comedians known for their observational humor.
Those similarities were underlined when Michael Richards, in the role of Kramer, made a guest appearance on an early episode of ''Mad About You.'' The show's central characters -- a documentary filmmaker named Paul and his wife of a few months, a public relations executive named Jamie -- were struggling to adjust to married life. Paul could not bring himself to surrender the lease to his old apartment, his one remaining link to bachelorhood. Kramer was the person to whom he had been subletting it.
The notion that ''Mad About You'' and ''Seinfeld'' existed in the same fictional world was abandoned after that. And that's just as well, because despite their superficial similarities, they really weren't part of the same world. The gulf between the two sensibilities was nicely illustrated on a ''Seinfeld'' episode a few years later when George Costanza told Jerry how miserable his life had become since he proposed marriage and found himself saddled with a fiancee he didn't want. To illustrate the severity of his predicament, George complained that his fiancee, Susan, was forcing him to watch ''Mad About You'' every week. Jerry was appalled.
George, Jerry and their fellow arrested adolescents were right to find the idea of ''Mad About You'' unsettling; it threatened everything they stood for. For the ''Seinfeld'' gang, commitment -- indeed, responsibility of any kind -- was something to be feared and avoided at all costs. (When Susan later died, George was visibly relieved to be off the hook.) For the Buchmans, commitment was no less frightening, but it was a risk worth taking. That was the source not just of the show's humor but of its heart as well.
Over the years numerous sitcoms have centered on married couples, but there had never before been one that focused so obsessively on the minutiae of married life: the petty aggravations and triumphs, the everyday arguments and compromises. Paul Reiser, who was both the co-star with Helen Hunt and the co-creator with Danny Jacobson, has said that he wanted ''Mad About You'' to be ''honest, so that people will say, 'God, that's just like my life!' '' That meant keeping the humor believable and the canvas small.
''Mad About You'' wouldn't have been a sitcom if it hadn't heightened and distorted reality for comic effect, and like most sitcoms it had not just the standard-issue, if superbly acted, supporting characters (the nagging parents, the wacky neighbors, even the slow-witted dog) but also quite a few standard-issue outlandish plot lines (Jamie causes a citywide blackout while attempting an illegal cable-television hookup; Paul mistakenly wears a pair of pants intended for David Copperfield's magic act). What was remarkable was how funny it could be even when it kept the exaggeration to a minimum. It's unlikely that this approach would have worked if the writing had been any less sharp or if the stars had been any less talented than Mr. Reiser and Ms. Hunt -- or any less compatible.
From the beginning, their romantic chemistry was credible and their comic timing was impeccable. They bantered with a machine-gun pace reminiscent of Abbott and Costello and a loopy logic reminiscent of Burns and Allen. Like all the great comedy teams, they had a rhythm entirely their own and entirely irresistible.
They didn't even need punch lines. They could get laughs from a facial expression, a shrugged shoulder, even the kind of verbal tics -- ''not so much,'' ''this is what I'm thinking'' -- that can both charm and infuriate a spouse but usually mean nothing to anyone else. They could get big laughs with dialogue like this:
PAUL: So in other words----
JAMIE: You were right.
PAUL: But more importantly----
JAMIE: I was wrong.
PAUL: There you go!
Most married couples don't actually talk like Paul and Jamie, any more than they talk like Ozzie and Harriet or George and Gracie. But there was a comedic truth to their repartee (to their entire relationship, in fact). Paul and Jamie were not portrayed as an easily definable Yin and Yang: the smart one and the dumb one, the level-headed one and the emotional one. They were just two fallible and neurotic but intelligent and well-meaning human beings, clearly meant for each other. It wasn't hard to accept them as real.
The more real a sitcom tries to be, the less funny it risks becoming, and ''Mad About You'' was not immune to this problem. Take the highly touted three-part episode at the end of the fourth season in which Paul and Jamie sort of cheated on each other and almost split up. However unlikely it was, the prospect of the Buchmans separating left a sour aftertaste that didn't mesh well with the comedy. But for the most part, the series maintained the tricky balance between real and funny.
It wasn't easy, and there had been signs for at least the last two seasons that the show's fragile conceit was wearing thin. The decision to give Paul and Jamie a baby, while it made sense in terms of who the characters were, added surprisingly little in the way of comedy. And when Ms. Hunt won an Academy Award last year for her performance in ''As Good as It Gets,'' it seemed a foregone conclusion that she wasn't going to want to stay tied to weekly television much longer, even if, like Mr. Reiser, she was making a reported $1 million an episode. The fact that the ratings had slipped made the decision to sign off all the easier.
Happily, ''Mad About You'' is leaving on a high note. The hourlong series finale -- directed by Ms. Hunt and written by her, Mr. Reiser and the executive producer Victor Levin -- aims for belly laughs and gets them. It also tugs at the heartstrings without getting heavy-handed. The focus on Paul and Jamie's relationship becomes even more microscopic. And the Buchmans' daughter, Mabel, figures prominently -- and hilariously -- thanks to the kind of inspired guest-star casting that over the years was able to fit everyone from Jerry Lewis to Eric Stoltz to Yoko Ono comfortably into the ''Mad About You'' universe.
I'm glad Paul and Jamie are saying goodbye so charmingly, and I'm sad they're leaving us -- but perhaps, as Paul might say, not so much sad. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the marriage between ''Mad About You'' and its audience started to unravel in the seventh year, as many real marriages are said to do. But it's nice that ''Mad About You'' remained, to the very end, true to life.
To watch some clips from Mad About You go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mad+about+you+tv+show
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406183824/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/madabout.html
For a Comprehensive episode guide go to http://maycommentary.tripod.com/index.html
To go to Mad About Murray go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020313122224/http://members.aol.com:80/leucophrys/murray.html
For some Mad About You-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/mad-about-you
For another review of Mad About You go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080622131847/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/madabout.htm
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Keywords: Mad About You Cast (Links Updated 7/31/18)