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Friday, May 03, 2013

Kate & Allie

May 2013 is off to a brilliant start around these parts. I am actually sitting here in my living room with the A/C on, as the past couple of days have been absolutely beautiful out. With temperatures well into the eighties (or twenties, if you happen to go by the Celsius gauge), and sunshine all around, I say bring on the heat!

Seriously, this winter was the longest one yet (and for some of you, it still hasn't ended). I'm happy to look forward to those hazy summer months.

And, since we just kicked off a new month, I thought that I would do something special for May.

Truth be told, there are quite a few special days in May this month, depending on the region you happen to live in. If you live in Mexico for instance, your independence day is coming on May 5 (also known as Cinco de Mayo).

In Canada, we have Victoria Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. The holiday always falls on the third Monday in May, so this year, it's on the twentieth.

One week later, the United States of America celebrates Memorial Day, on May 27 this year. And, on May 18, the United States also celebrates Armed Forces Day.

Hmmm...May 18 is Armed Forces Day. I shall have to keep that in mind.

Of course, there's one more very special day that happens to fall on the second Sunday in May. This year, the date to save is May 12.

I'm talking about Mother's Day, of course. And for the record, I have a very appropriate subject for that particular entry on deck.

But why should I stop at just ONE entry dedicated to mothers all over the world?

That's why I made the decision to talk about famous fictional mothers during every Friday in May. After all, there have been hundreds of sitcom mothers, all of them raising their children the best way they know how to different results.

I wanted this blog to celebrate the accomplishments of these fictional mothers, mainly because I wanted to showcase that no matter what your background or financial status, or living situation is, women can be fantastic mothers to their kids, and raise them just right...even through the rebellious periods and temper tantrums that kids tend to have right through their eighteenth birthdays.

To kick off the series of special mom themed Fridays, I thought that we would take a look at a show that did extremely well during its six season run on CBS. It was a show that changed the definition of family dynamic, opened the doors for a lot of women, and unlike most sitcoms of the day, portrayed two single mothers as intelligent and self-sufficient women who didn't necessarily need a man to get by in life (although by the end of the series, one of the women did find love).

The two women were Kate McArdle and Allie Lowell, played by Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin.

And, the show that both of them starred in was the 1984-1989 sitcom, “Kate & Allie”, the subject of today's blog and the first feature in our special month of fictional supermoms.

Kate & Allie” debuted on CBS on March 19, 1984 as a mid-season replacement, and when it was first put on the schedule, only a half dozen episodes were produced. But CBS executives must have saw something special in the series, and the audience really seemed to enjoy it as well. It's debut episode was #4 in the Nielsen ratings on that particular time slot, which for a brand new show was fantastic.

It seemed as though creator Sherry Coben had struck gold, as a full season order was immediately commissioned for the following 1984/1985 season. The show would run for an additional five years, ending its run on May 22, 1989.

As far as traditional families go, the family that Kate and Allie portrayed was definitely not that. Both women were newly divorced, with children of their own, and both Kate and Allie had been friends since grade school. Since both of their families were living in New York City at the time (and since New York City is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, even back in 1984 standards), they decide to live together in a brownstone located in the heart of Greenwich Village.

To add to the fun were the children of Kate and Allie, who caused both of their mothers stress, and turned their hair more and more gray with each passing year. But, to both the credit of Kate and Allie, they loved their children more than anything and they would do everything to ensure that they had a bright future.

Kate's daughter was Emma McArdle (Ari Meyers), a typical teenage girl who loved music, boys, and talking on the phone. But she was also very intelligent, and went to Yale University (Meyers left the series during season five and her character was written out).

In an ironic twist, Emma's best friend was Jennie Lowell (Allison Smith), Allie's daughter who dressed a little more plainer than Emma, and was a little bit quieter than Emma, but ended up having some rather interesting storylines. Rounding out the cast was Allie's son, Chip (Frederick Koehler), the youngest member of the McArdle-Lowell family, who was well-mannered, but had a bit of a bratty streak once in a while.

One of the things that the show did very well was portraying women as the main breadwinners of the household. From the very beginning of the series, Kate had a successful job working at a travel agency, where her main objective was to get everyone she worked with to treat her seriously. While Kate was bringing home the bacon, Allie initially stayed at home to cook the bacon, as well as the other domestic duties that were a part of every day life. It was a role that Allie was accustomed to, as she was more or less a housewife/stay-at-home mother during her entire marriage. But as the series progressed, Allie began to understand that there was a whole new world out there waiting for her, and that she didn't have to settle for being the domestic goddess of New York City. Her independence and self-confidence grew over the years, and by the beginning of the fifth season, Allie was ready to go out into the workforce. Her dream came true during the show's fifth season, as she and Kate started their own catering business.

Even Kate and Allie's daughters seemed to learn something from their mothers during the course of the serial. For Emma, she tried running for class president, has to deal with the unwanted affection from a boy in her class, and having to deal with her mother's disapproval of another boy she starts dating. And, for Jennie, she has to deal with peer pressure, the pressure to have sex with her boyfriend, and enduring sexual harassment from her boss at a croissant shop. Even Chip had some interesting storylines over the series, which featured Chip having to fight against a bully and trying to adjust to life with a part-time father.

The show was unique in that each episode opening was different. Sure, the intro started off with the same shot of New York's skyline with the same opening music. But each episode began with a cold open, devoid of a laugh track which showed Kate and Allie having a conversation about living in New York during the 1980s. Since the show was one of the few sitcoms to film entirely in Manhattan, it made perfect sense to have on-location shots.

In fact, one episode screened in 1987 was filmed entirely outside, and dealt with Allie trying to find her way home after leaving behind most of her personal belongings inside a taxi cab. The episode focused on the homeless of New York, and was actually an episode produced with the cooperation with the Coalition for the Homeless.

The show was also rewarded with several Emmy Award nominations, with Jane Curtin herself winning two for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and the show ranked within the Top 20 shows during most of its run.

And, so we close the book now on Kate and Allie...two women who really embraced and celebrated life in the 1980s as the independent, strong, carefree women that most wanted to be during that time period.

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