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Oh Baby aired from August 1998 until March 2000 on Lifetime.
Another of the me-first-coms so popular in the '90s, Oh Baby milked laughs from the decision of a fourtyish professional woman, Tracy Calloway ( Cynthia Stevenson), to ignore her commitment-phobic boyfriend and have a baby on her own, via the wonders of modern science-artificial insemination. Tracy's boyfriend Grant ( Daniel Hugh Kely) was a little taken aback by this, but had only himself to blame since the most he could muster on their third anniversary of dating was a " friendship ring." Her bossy mom Celia ( Jessica Walter), was even more aghast, laying on guilt with a trowel, but at least she figured she's get a grandchild out of it. More supportive was busybody best friend Charlotte ( Joanna Gleason), who also happened to be the office psychiatrist at the software firm where she worked. Ernie ( Matt Champagne) was Tracy's neurotic accountant brother, quietly frustrated in his own kid-filled marriage, and Shelly ( Dina Spybey) was Ernie's fluttery wife. A novel aspect of the series was Tracy's tendency to address the camera directly, then with a remote control in her hand turn to a TV screen and " fast forward" through her life.
In the final episode of the first season, surrounded by squabbling friends, ex-boyfriends, and relatives, Tracy gaave birth to a boy, Danny. Charlotte drove everybody in the hospital crazy until her boyfriend , Dr. Doug ( Doug Ballard), proposed to her, and she accepted.
In the second season, Tracy juggled child rearing and running her own start-up Internet business, trustmom.com.
An Article from The New York Times
COVER STORY; Three Phases of Eve: Mother, Wife, Friend
By JAN BENZEL
Published: August 16, 1998
When ''Thirtysomething'' ended its run on ABC, its viewers, a small group by network television standards but still numbering in at least six figures, were bereft. No more weekly visits at the home of Hope and Michael Steadman, where their friends all seemed to have a key to the front door and unlimited hours to talk -- about marriage, careers, relationships, parents, sex, children and death.
In stepped the cable channel Lifetime, which snapped up the series. It still shows the reruns, along with those of ''The Golden Girls,'' ''L.A. Law,'' ''Designing Women'' ''Sisters'' and, beginning , ''Chicago Hope,'' ''Party of Five'' and ''Ellen.''
But as the cable channel approaches its 15th year in business, it is branching out into original series. Beginning this week on Tuesday nights viewers will find three new shows -- ''Any Day Now,'' ''Maggie'' and ''Oh Baby'' -- produced for Lifetime by major Hollywood television studios. All have strong female characters at their centers, as one would expect on a channel that now proudly promotes itself as ''Television for Women.'' And each of them has a large dose of the Steadman quotient: questioning conversations about life choices taken and yet to be made.
Those who abhor self-examination can keep that thumb clicking the remote control. Lifetime's not for you. But in the age of cable, niche television has become possible, as Nickelodeon has proven in spades. Lifetime has built its success on reruns, original movies, nonfiction programming, including a biography series called ''Intimate Portraits,'' and a talk show, ''New Attitudes.'' It also shows the games of the Women's National Basketball Association. Now it's betting that there's an audience for series about women who have progressed beyond the life stage represented by Ally McBeal and her closet.
''Women's needs and the way women are today isn't reflected on network television,'' said Dawn Tarnofsky, director of programming, in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where the new series are being produced (the channel's corporate offices are in Manhattan and its studio complex is in Astoria, Queens). ''We wanted to show them something that would make them say, 'Wow, that's me up there.' ''
''Any Day Now,'' an hourlong drama that will be shown at 9 P.M., stars Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint as women who had been best friends growing up in Alabama in the 60's. Ms. Potts, who has had roles in such television series as ''Designing Women'' and ''Dangerous Minds,'' but may be most familiar for her role as the spectacled gum-cracking secretary in ''Ghostbusters,'' plays Mary Elizabeth, who got pregnant at 19, married her high school boyfriend and remained in her hometown. Ms. Toussaint, who has appeared on ''Law and Order'' and ''Leaving L.A.,'' plays Rene, the daughter of a black civil rights lawyer, who as a child in neat braids and dresses dreamed of fairy tale marriage and family but instead became a high-powered lawyer in Washington, unmarried and childless, with an unsatisfying boyfriend. The friends had split when their lives diverged, but reconnect when Rene returns home for her father's funeral. The drama alternates scenes of the girls' childhoods, done in black and white with paint-box pastel touches, with the present-day story line.
When they tested the series, Ms. Tarnofsky said: ''Kids were interested in seeing what these young girls' lives were like in the 60's. It shows the issues of the civil rights movement through the smallest of stories; it makes you feel like you're in the moment.''
The other Lifetime series are comedies. ''Maggie,'' which follows ''Any Day Now'' at 10 P.M., stars Ann Cusack, older sister of Joan and John, with whom she appeared in the movie ''Grosse Point Blank,'' and veteran of several television series including ''The Jeff Foxworthy Show.'' Maggie is a wife and mother on the verge of 40 and a midlife crisis. Her husband is a highly successful, self-involved cardiologist who treats her as part of the furniture. She has fantasies about a dashing television star who sweeps her off her feet in her own kitchen and finds herself drawn to the warm, funny veterinarian for whom she works part time. What's a woman to do? Proceed directly to therapy, of course.
In ''Oh Baby,'' at 10:30 P.M., Cynthia Stevenson (whose credits include ''Hope and Gloria'' and ''Bob'' and the film ''The Player'') speaks straight through the fourth wall to the audience. Her character, the 30-something marketing executive Tracy, is fed up with waiting around for Mr. Right and decides to become a single mother. Fertility clinics and artificial insemination are this show's bread and butter. Joanna Gleason plays the been-there done-that best friend.
Lifetime has bought 13 episodes of each program and has options to pick up nine more.
If this all sounds like estrogen overload, that's at least part of the point. The current typical Lifetime viewer is female, college-educated, around 47 years old, Ms. Tarnofsky said. The target audience for the shows is women of ages 24 to 49, although ''Any Day Now,'' she hopes, will also draw families.
Douglas McCormick, chief executive officer of the channel for the past five years, who has worked at Lifetime since its founding, said a number of factors allowed the company to move into original (read expensive) series. For one, as the distinction between cable and network television fades, he said, ''the networks are ceding their audience to us.''
''When they create yet another news magazine, they're leaving the entertainment business,'' he said. ''They leave an opening for us to compete for the dramatic or comedic audience.''
But the most telling factor seems to be a better-honed awareness of the lives of women, of whom now work outside the home, of which are their families' primary breadwinners. Mr. McCormick offers the talk show ''New Attitudes'' as an example: ''It began as a show about beauty and fashion but has moved into a lot of other areas, including health and finance. We put it on at 11 P.M., at a time when working women can see it, not in the 3 o'clock ghetto when so many women's shows appear. People don't have to quit their jobs or get the flu to watch it.''
The new series, both executives pointed out, focus on women who are taking control of their own lives, discovering themselves, making choices that they hope will be satisfying. For their part, they'll be happy if women turn to Lifetime on Tuesday nights the way teen-agers flocked to Fox for ''Beverly Hills 90210'' and ''Melrose Place.'' Men are welcome too -- just don't expect equal time.
An Article from Time Magazine
Meet The Post-Ally Women
Monday, Feb. 15, 1999
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Busy as she is strapping on those sandals, cocktailing to an imitation Bonnie Raitt and taking on clients who want to sue God, Ally McBeal probably doesn't have time to watch some of the new woman-themed TV programming that has arisen in her wake. And perhaps that's really best; for if she did have a look, Ally might see her dream of upmarket long-term love crumble like so much poorly packed wedding china. Indeed, what Ally would discover is that life with a good-looking professional and a Sub-Zero fridge doesn't add up to much, that happiness might be easier to come by if she returned to wherever she came from and made sure that Mom and Dad hadn't turned her girlhood room into an outpost for their StairMaster.
This lesson is delivered most pointedly in the new series Providence, which has become the TV season's unexpected hit and given NBC its highest ratings for a new drama since the unleashing of ER. Our heroine on Providence is a thirtysomething doctor who rids herself of her agent boyfriend and Malibu beach-house life to move home to the presumably less decadent shores of Rhode Island and work at a health clinic. Similarly, over on Lifetime, "the women's network," its three first-ever original programs--the drama Any Day Now and the comedies Maggie and Oh Baby--focus on women who renounce yuppie partnering fantasies for loftier pursuits. In fact, just like Providence, Any Day Now has as one of its protagonists a fortyish Washington refugee who gives up on power brokering and a noncommittal boyfriend to settle in her native town of Birmingham, Ala., and practice civil rights law.
Judging from the number of shoes on back order at Prada stores, it doesn't appear that real-life affluent women are doing all that much divesting. But here we have it anyway: a new, collective TV homage to lives of greater meaning and lower cell-phone bills. Perhaps CBS's soon-to-be-shelved sitcom Maggie Winters suffered because it didn't give its heroine a holier or more wholesome life-style alternative. Instead, it relocated a dumped Faith Ford from Chicago to her mother's house in Indiana for bonding and the occasional line dance.
All these programs seem born of an effort not only to create programming with a female point of view but also to attract women who may fall outside the demographic of single city girls age 25 and 26. This is a group perhaps too perkily and plentifully represented on late-'90s television in shows such as Ally McBeal, Suddenly Susan, Caroline in the City, Friends and so on. There's no doubt that Providence is reaching a broad audience. Since its Jan. 8 debut, and despite its generally doomed time slot (Fridays at 8 p.m. E.T.), Providence has been among the 15 highest-rated shows on network television, in some instances surpassing Ally McBeal, which draws more press than perhaps its ratings warrant. Watched in large majority by women over 35, Lifetime's original shows have all won more and more viewers since their fall premieres, and last month helped lead the 15-year-old cable channel to its highest ratings ever.
Given all the criticism that has been leveled at Ally McBeal (some of it by this writer) for her flighty self-involvement, it seems downright whiny to complain about the arrival of Providence's Sydney Hansen, whose androgynous name, like Murphy Brown's, is there to remind us that she is a serious working woman. After all, Sydney (Melina Kanakaredes) has abandoned a career as a Los Angeles plastic surgeon to become a family practitioner for people without means. Now, instead of ballooning the world's Pamela Andersons, she's treating homeless drug addicts, getting dogs for autistic children and helping care for her baby niece.
But Providence was apparently created in the hope that no one would ever describe its dramatic leanings as subtle or its characters as emotionally complex. The show exists primarily as a smug indictment of urbanity. Sydney doesn't reflect on her old life or ponder her decision; nor does she think much about the fact that she left her boyfriend because she found him in the shower with a man. Instead she swoons anew over a high school crush (a noble, working-class chauffeur) and dreams of herself in his varsity jacket. Sydney's dreams also take her into conversations with her dead mother. (Ever since Sisters, dramas aimed at women are required to include fantasy sequences.) Mom (Concetta Tomei) chain-smokes--so we know she's not a goody-goody--as she tries to turn Sydney more fun loving.
Sydney will always remain chaste, though. Providence is the brainchild of John Masius, also responsible for prime time's other paean to morality, Touched by an Angel. Masius envisions Sydney as a woman who doesn't become "loose." "I'm protective of her TV virginity," he says. Masius developed Providence when NBC came to him in 1997 in search of a family drama centered on a young woman. "I wanted to explore someone who got into something [medicine] for the right reasons, but whose life took a left turn," he explains. "I wanted to do a show around a career-oriented woman who as a result of her choices had given up family connections."
Any Day Now had a not quite so made-for-market genesis. Created by Nancy Miller, a veteran of such decidedly un-Lifetime fare as The Renegades (starring Patrick Swayze), the new series was originally conceived as a story about two little girls, one black, the other white, coming of age during the civil rights movement. Miller shopped her idea around Hollywood for eight years, but the networks always gave her the same response: the story was too controversial, and it wasn't all that marketable without a strong male voice. Any Day Now finally found a home at Lifetime last year when an executive there remembered reading the script during her days at CBS. Lifetime suggested setting the show in the past as well as the present, so Any Day Now flashes back and forth between a friendship born in Alabama during the '60s and its resurrection there in the '90s.
The relationship between Rene, who is black, and Mary Elizabeth (the adult women are played by Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts, respectively) isn't exploited as a vehicle for preachiness, and as a result it feels remarkably true. With her fast-track life abandoned, Rene comes back to Birmingham believably confused and a little lonely. Mary Elizabeth is a homemaker married to her childhood sweetheart, a construction worker. She has a son and a daughter. The show's strength lies in the way these two grownup women fight and play and envy each other's flawed lives in the manner that actual women do.
Lifetime's comedies, on the other hand, may not be among the best-written on TV, but they are certainly easier to sit through than back-to-back episodes of Jesse. Fortunately, both Maggie and Oh Baby work well enough as soap operas to make up for the fact that they feature unfunny therapy sessions, bad renditions of drunkenness and smart-aleck nannies.
Maggie, starring Anne Cusack, is one of the rare TV depictions of a woman feeling trapped in her marriage at mid-life. Forty years old and and a bit bored with her cardiologist husband of 20 years, she goes to veterinary school and soon after begins to fall for another guy. Whether or not she will pursue him forms the show's narrative arc. Oh Baby gives us Cynthia Stevenson as a woman in her late 30s who, in the third year of a relationship with a guy who won't leave his toothbrush at her house, realizes she would do better breaking things off and getting artificially inseminated. The series is based on the personal experience of its creator, Susan Beavers, who also tried to pitch her show to the networks without success: "They'd say it was too alienating to men, or they'd say, 'We already have a show about single moms,' and I'd answer, 'Well, that's like saying we have a show about people.'"
No matter how shlocky, programming aimed at conveying the full scope of womanhood may now have an easier time of it. NBC is trying to find a companion series to Providence that would follow it on Fridays at 9 p.m. Twentieth Century Fox is developing a Providence-type show for CBS about a mother and daughter based loosely on the life of star Amy Brenneman (formerly of NYPD Blue), whose mom is a judge.
And then there's the impending arrival of Oxygen, an all-new cable channel set to debut on Jan. 1, 2000, which will target women and children exclusively. Launched by former Nickelodeon president Geraldine Laybourne, it will rely heavily for its programming on producer Marcy Carsey, the force behind such hit shows as Roseanne and 3rd Rock from the Sun. "There is no diversity on network TV right now," says Carsey. "All the women are young and beautiful and work in the media. They don't seem to have any real problems." Except, of course, for the women on all the new shows she seems to be ignoring. At any rate, Oxygen plans to run female-oriented sitcoms, cartoons and even game shows. Presumably Calista Flockhart and Lea Thompson won't be slugging it out for the prize of a date with Judd Nelson.
BEYOND BAD DATES These are the women who want more--or is it less? Soured on dreams of the high life and yuppie love, these thirty- and fortysomethings are getting real
PROVIDENCE NBC, Friday 8 p.m. E.T. STARRING: Melina Kanakaredes as a doctor ISSUES: Unfulfilled by L.A. life, she moves home to work at a medical clinic OUR RATING: Overly moralizing, too sentimental to take seriously, Providence is ultimately a chore (out of five)
ANY DAY NOW Lifetime, Tuesday 9 p.m. STARRING: Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint as pals ISSUES: A friendship born during the civil rights movement is revived during mid-life crises OUR RATING: A rare example of good feminism and smart, entertaining TV
OH BABY Lifetime, Saturday 8 p.m. STARRING: Cynthia Stevenson as Tracy, an expectant mom ISSUES: Fed up with a beau who'll never marry her, she decides to have a baby solo OUR RATING: Tracy is easy to relate to; if only she and her friends were funny
MAGGIE Lifetime, Saturday 8:30 p.m. STARRING: Anne Cusack as a Portland, Ore., homemaker ISSUES: Almost '70s in its theme, Maggie looks at a woman seeking to grow past her confining marriage OUR RATING: It's nice to see a fortyish woman thinking about an affair for a change