Tell me why, I love you like I do,
Tell me who, Can stop my heart as much as you,
Tell me all your secrets and I'll tell you most of mine,
they say nobody's perfect but that's really true this time,
I don't have the answers, I don't have a plan,
Mad about you baby, so help me understand,
What we do, You can whisper in my ear,
Where we go, who knows what happens after here,
Let's take each other's hands, As we jump into the final frontier,
Mad about you baby, Yeah... I'm mad about you... 1
Mad About You was a sitcom that first aired on NBC on Wednesday September 23, 1992 and ran for 164 episodes over the span of seven years. It chronicled the life of newlyweds Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) and was set in Lower Manhattan, in New York City. Mad About You quickly gained a loyal following, and many couples (married or not, straight or not) delighted in watching the show and comparing themselves to "James" and "Paulie" Buchman.
The appeal of the show was its realistic and yet funny portrayal of “the minutiae of married life: the petty aggravations and triumphs, the everyday arguments and compromises.”2 The cast included meddling parents, neurotic siblings, odd neighbors, supportive friends, and a slow-witted dog, and yet the focus was always on the relationship between Paul (a documentary filmmaker) and Jamie (a public relations free-lancer). Reiser and Hunt were a perfectly matched team; they quickly developed a comedic rhythm all their own, and their romantic chemistry was enviable. Over the years, their characters and the relationship changed, as both would in real life; the course of true love never ran perfectly smoothly, but Paul and Jamie were committed to each other and the marriage:
Paul: "Look, there's always going to be stuff. I put up with your crap and you put up with my crap."
Jamie: "That's marriage?"
Paul: "This is what I'm thinking!"
Paul: "Listen, you may know you better than me, and you may even know me better than me, but I know us better than you and I'm telling you -- it's a bad idea!"
Jamie: "Nobody's right and nobody's wrong! (pause) I'm a little bit more right!"3
Paul: So in other words-----
Jamie: You were right.
Paul: But more importantly---
Jamie: I was wrong
Paul: There you go! 4
Paul’s character, and some of the others to a lesser degree, had words, phrases, and verbal tics that were unique and yet soon echoed by his wife, other cast members, and eventually the general viewing audience. These included his unusual way of listing items ( "1., 2., and C.," or "A., B., and 3.,") and the phrases “…not so much…”, “This is what I’m saying”, and “Never going to happen, my friend”. ( Helen Hunt’s character in the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets had some definite Paul Buchman-isms in her speech, not surprising after five years of working with Reiser…)
In addition to the two stars, who were reportedly earning as much as $1 million per episode by the last season, the cast roster for Mad About You included some great supporting actors. Anne Ramsay played Lisa Stemple, Jamie’s older sister, and John Pankow played Ira, Paul’s slightly older fraternal cousin who eventually became so much a part of their family that Jamie referred to him as her cousin. Leila Kenzel played Fran Devanow, Jamie’s erstwhile mentor and best friend; Richard Kind played Fran’s ex-husband, Dr. Mark Devanow. Talia Balsam (and later Robin Bartlett) played Paul’s younger sister Debbie, and his parents (Sylvia and Burt Buchman) were played by Cynthia Harris and Louis Zorich. Nancy Dussault, Penny Fuller, and Carol Burnett each took a turn playing Theresa Stemple, Jamie’s mom; her dad, Gus Stemple, was played over the years by Paul Dooley, John Karlen, and Carroll O’Connor.
Murray the dog, referred to by Paul as “rare Flatbush Pound Collie-Shepherd,” was played by two different dogs; initially a pooch named Smiley had the role, but when he proved to be too alert, for an animal who was supposed to be unaware of and unaffected by his surroundings (the essence of Murray-ness), the role went to a collie-mix named Maui. Maui was found by Boone Narr, animal trainer, and trained by Betty Linn. Nat the dog walker, Murray’s new best friend, was played by Hank Azaria. (Best known for his work on The Simpsons, Azaria married Hunt in 1999. They divorced in 2000.)
Before there was Phoebe on Friends, there was Ursula on Mad About You. Ursula (played by Lisa Kudrow) waited tables at Riff’s, one of the Buchman’s hangouts:
Ursula: "I'm sorry but the chef says we're all out of the chicken."
Ira: "That's okay, we didn't order the chicken."
Ursula: (turns away) "All right, I'll try again."
(a bit later)
Ursula: "Okay, you're in luck, I found two more chickens."
Ira: "No,no,no, we didn't order a chicken, we are splitting a club sandwich!"
Ursula: "I'm sorry! There are no substitutions."5
And about the same time that Ross was dealing with the fact that his ex-wife was a lesbian on Friends, Paul’s sister Debbie came out and introduced her girlfriend Joan (played by Suzie Plakson) to her parents:
Debbie: "You know, Joan is a doctor."
Sylvia: "That's supposed to make me feel better?"
Debbie: "I don't know Ma..." (leaving the apartment)
Sylvia: (pause, calling after her) "What kind of doctor?"6
In the fifth season, Jamie succeeded in getting pregnant, after a great deal of soul-searching (whether or not they wanted kids) and trying (to conceive). Joan was eventually chosen as their gynecologist, and in the final season, their baby Mabel was born. A grown-up Mabel (played by Janeane Garofalo) was featured in a “flash-forward” in the series finale, which was directed by Helen Hunt and written by Hunt, Reiser, and executive producer Victor Levin.
Paul Reiser and Danny Jacobson created Mad About You, which was produced jointly by Nuance Productions and InFront Productions, their production companies. Mad About You was distributed by TriStar Television, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Over the years Mad About You was nominated for over eighteen Emmy Awards, winning (among others) Best Sound Mixing (Peter Damski) for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons, Best Guest Actor and Best Guest Actress (Carl Reiner and Cyndi Lauper) for 1994-95, and Best Actress (Helen Hunt) for 1995-96. Hunt also won Best Actress Golden Globe awards in 1994, ‘95, and ’97, and Mad About You won Best Comedy Series (tied with Fraiser) in 1995.
1 ”Final Frontier”, composed by Don Was
and Paul Reiser; original music by David Kitay; sung by Andrew Gold, with piano accompaniment by Paul Reiser.
2"Off Go Paul And Jamie, Realistic To the End" (L.A. Times) 7/26/99 quoted on http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/6395/
4 See footnote 2.
5 See footnote 3.
Cast list courtesy of IMDB, http://us.imdb.com/Title?0103484