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Style & Substance aired from January until September 1998 om CBS.
Chelsea Stevens ( Jean Smart) was a dynamo whose knowledge of cooking, decorating, and entertaining had made her rich and famous. She had an estate in Connecticut and ran a media conglomerate that produced videos , books, a magazine, and a TV show. Unfortunately, she had virtually no people skills and alienated almost everyone with her lack of tact, need to be in control, and constant meddling in their personal lives. Chelsea's newly hired producer , Jane ( Nancy McKeon) was determined to make Chelsea more human, while minimizing the extent to which her boss interfered with her own personal life. She was not completely successful. With Jane's help Chelsea did try to change her self-absorbed image, but things didn't always go as planned. When Jane tutored a current-affairs ignorant Chelsea for an appearance on a Politically Incorrect type show, the topic was changed at the last minute. When Chelsea hosted a fund-raiser for a drug rehabilitation center, she accidentally served "magic mushrooms," leaving her social register guests stoned and confused. Others who worked for Chelsea were Mr. John ( Joseph Maher), her gay interior designer; Trudy ( Linda Kash), the cynical food stylist; Terry ( Heath Hyche), her gentile but incompetent secretary; and Earl ( Alan Autry), her muscular handyman.
This was the first of two CBS series parodying Martha Stewart that aired during the 1997-1998 season. When the second, The Simple Life, was canceled, Style & Substance took over the vacated time period.
A Review from Variety
January 3, 1998 11:00PM PT
Style & Substance
By Ray Richmond
Newest entrant in CBS’ femme-friendly Monday comedy lineup arrives as a surrealistic goulash of implausibility, a shtick-com that thinks there are huge laughs to be mined from having Jean Smart portray an irrational, seemingly Quaalude-marinated version of Martha Stewart and Nancy McKeon her slack-jawed lapdog. It’s like watching a traffic accident in super slo-mo.
“Style & Substance” is one of those misguided efforts that sets up men like bowling pins aching to be knocked silly. Testosterone — bad! Estrogen — good!
Show hits the air already dated, serving up strained pop-culture references (ooh, an Ellen DeGeneres lesbian joke!) and hopping gleefully aboard the stereotype express. On her first day in New York, our heroine, Jane (McKeon), notes in her phone machine message, “I’m a New Yorker now, so leave a message or I’ll kill you.” Get it?
As the half-hour opens, Jane has been dumped by her boyfriend and moves to Gotham from Connecticut to start fresh. She lands a job inside the empire of Chelsea Stevens (Smart), an eccentric Martha clone who makes a mint off books and videos on home decorating and entertaining.
What Jane didn’t bargain for is the fact that Chelsea is one clashing tablecloth removed from an emotional breakdown. She greets Jane’s arrival by rifling through her purse to get to know her and then stalking the poor woman. If this were the real world, she’d be straitjacketed and institutionalized. In primetime, she is celebrated as delightfully wacky.
“Chelsea, are you lonely?” Jane asks through a haze of dormant neurons.
Turns out that Chelsea’s hubby recently left her for another woman. Her response — to lose touch with reality — is understandable enough. But there is nary a realistic exchange nor a genuine human emotion in Peter Tolan’s awkward and laughless opening script.
Smart, who was so fresh and lively as a “Designing Women” regular, appears to be having plenty of fun in an over-the-top sort of way. The problem is that she’s playing a cartoon character, and it’s difficult to muster much in the way of identity with Georgette of the Jungle. McKeon is reduced to a series of incredulous reaction shots. It helps little that the two utterly lack chemistry.
Supporting cast is fairly faceless, save for an all-too-brief turn by Joseph Maher as Mr. John, a flamboyant older gay man with a breezy wit. In a perfect world, we’d see more of him and less of Chelsea and Jane and their odd-couple buddy thing.
It begs to be pointed out that “Style & Substance” lacks both. It’s just another lame attempt to court that elusive intangible known as the female demographic.
Style & Substance
Mon. (5), 9:30-10 p.m., CBS
Production: Filmed in Burbank by the Cloudland Co. in association with Touchstone TV. Executive producer, Peter Tolan; co-executive producers, Ross Woody, Ian Praiser; producer, Michael Petok; director, Jay Sandrich; writer, Tolan.
Cast: Cast: Jean Smart, Nancy McKeon, Heath Hyche, Linda Kash, Joseph Maher, Alan Autry, Peter Krause.Camera, Bruce Finn; editor, Leslie Tolan; sound, Edward L. Moskowitz; music, Brad Hatfield; casting, Liberman/Hirschfeld Casting.
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Style Empire's Busy Czar, So Nice Underneath It All
By CARYN JAMES
Published: January 5, 1998
As she breezes into her office, Chelsea Stevens greets her staff with a trilling voice and a stream-of-consciousness message Martha Stewart might envy. ''This morning before breakfast, while I was restocking my trout pond and milking my goat, I realized how much I wanted to tell all of you how much I appreciate all the hard work you do,'' she begins. ''But then later, when I was airing out my quilt and making prosciutto jerky, I reminded myself we can always work harder!''
In the new satire ''Style and Substance,'' Chelsea Stevens (Jean Smart) is an unmistakable Martha Stewart type, a style czar whose empire includes a magazine, a television show and books. Ms. Stewart is, of course, an irresistible target. But those who wondered how this CBS sitcom could satirize her, one of the network's own stars, will find the answer all too easily. Chelsea's breathless greeting offers the first and last pointed lines in a comedy so lacking an edge that it is more a valentine than a parody.
The original Martha Stewart seems so serenely above it all that she has halfheartedly mocked that image in credit card commercials. Even if Chelsea Stevens is merely an aspiring Stewart, she needs that wonderwoman hauteur. But Ms. Smart plays her as the emotionally poor little rich girl, as if the actress can't wait to let Chelsea's likable side burst through.
That is the pitfall of so many television satires: the rule is that recurring characters have to become likable sooner or later. But does it have to happen this soon? ''Style and Substance'' takes all of half an hour to show that Chelsea is a softy.
As if that weren't dreary enough, she has softhearted company in her producer and office manager, Jane (Nancy McKeon in an uncommonly whiny performance). Chelsea has just been divorced; Jane has just arrived from Omaha, leaving a fiance behind. The women bond. ''You're nice; you care about people,'' Chelsea tells Jane. ''How do you do that?'' They eat Hostess Snowballs together; that junk-food bonding ritual is the ultimate sign that Chelsea is a nice person too. Maybe nice works in life, but it's a horrible idea in satire, and it leaves this series with nowhere to go.
Of course, there are a minor misunderstandings before the women become friends. Jane flings an insult at Chelsea. ''You are a weirdsmobile,'' she says. Truly, any series that lets ''weirdsmobile'' pass for wit is in such disrepair Martha Stewart herself couldn't fix it.
STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
CBS, tonight at 9:30
For clips of Style & Substance go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=style+and+substance+tv+show+full+episodes
For more on Style & Substance go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Style_%26_Substance
For an interview with Alan Autry go to http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/interviews/Alan_Autry010907.aspx
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Keywords: The Cast of Style Substance (Links Updated 8/3/18)