and Allie, which ran on CBS from 19 March 1984 to 22 May 1989,
was the brainchild of Sherry Coben who came up with the idea for
the series while attending a high school reunion. There she noticed
that a couple of divorcees who seemed unhappy and dissatisfied found
comfort in sharing with each other. Coben worked with this germinal
notion and successfully pitched the resulting script, originally
entitled, "Two Mommies," to Michael Ogiens, then head of New York
program development at CBS. Ogiens liked the script because
it contained fresh material that dealt with a real issue of the
next step in the series' genesis was the location of actresses for
the central roles. Susan Saint James was, at the time, under contract
to CBS. Though she was best known for romantic comedy, she liked
the script and the part of Kate McArdle but stipulated her demands--production
before a live audience and a New York shooting location. Saint James'
close friend Jane Curtin was soon convinced to accept the part of
Allie Lowell. Producer-director-writer Bill Persky agreed to produce
and direct six episodes, without committing to an entire series.
He also insisted that Bob Randall be brought on board as producer/writer
and supervisor. Reeves Communications, with executive producers,
Mort Lachman and Merrill Grant, undertook production of Kate and
Allie, and the series debuted with a script by Coben which sets
the series' premise: two divorced women who have known one another
since childhood decide to move in together and raise their three
children as a family unit--at least temporarily.
and Allie was an instant success, ranking fourth the week it
debuted, garnering consistently high ratings thereafter, and earning
Jane Curtin two consecutive Emmys and Bill Persky, one. The characters
and the issues they dealt with obviously appealed to the program's
James' character, Kate, is a woman recently divorced from her unstable
and somewhat flighty part-time actor husband, Max. She has one daughter,
14-year-old Emma (Ari Meyers). Curtin's Allie is also recently divorced
from her successful, but unfaithful doctor husband, Charles. She
has a 14-year-old daughter Jennie (Allison Smith) and a seven-year-old
son, Chip (Frederick Koehler). Neither Kate nor Allie have ruled
out remarriage but view their new situation as a provisional reprieve,
a time for both women to come to know and appreciate themselves.
On one level the series dealt with practical problems faced by divorced
women with children: adjusting to a new lifestyle and to living
closely with new people, dealing with children's issues, beginning
to date again, securing financial stability.
another level, however, the series deals with the larger issue of
gender identity at a time when gender roles were in transition.
Allie Lowell has submerged her own identity in that of her husband
and most of the series' trajectory tracks her journey toward autonomy.
Kate McArdle, on the other hand, has a stronger sense of her own
identity, but must constantly struggle for equality at work and
for the assurance that her goals will be respected in any love relationship.
to the series' notion of women's development is same-sex friendship,
and each episode is narratively structured to highlight the long-term,
supportive friendship between the two main characters. Episodes
begin with a conversation between Kate and Allie designed to enhance
the audience's understanding of both women or to provide backstory.
Similarly, each episode ends with Kate and Allie discussing and
bringing closure to the events just depicted. Their verbal intimacy
both reflects and heightens their sustaining friendship. As the
series evolved the same kind of supportive friendship developed
between the two daughters who initially disliked being forced together.
directing one hundred episodes and having Allie accept the wedding
proposal of likable character Bob Barsky, Bill Persky left the series,
feeling that Kate and Allie had now fulfilled its premise.
The needed respite had worked for Allie, who was now able to enter
a meaningful heterosexual relationship as a fully autonomous individual,
sure of herself and of her own goals. While Kate still had not met
a man whose life goals matched her own, she and Allie owned a successful
business, and the audience was sure that she would not succumb to
a marriage which downplayed her personal desires.
these developments, the series continued. Linda Day became the director
with Anne Flett and Chuck Ranberg as producers, but the new team
did not meet with the same success as had the first. The decline
of Kate and Allie illustrates an interesting aspect of television's
capabilities in combining socio-cultural issues with particular
narrative strategies. With the series' premise fulfilled, plots
lacked the same objective and lost the relevance and vitality of
earlier episodes. In part to address this situation, early in the
new season the writers created a device to bring the two women together
again: Kate moved out of the old apartment and in with Allie and
Bob--who accepted a sportscasting job that would take him away on
weekends. By this time, however, Emma was out of the series, ostensibly
away studying, and though Jennie remained an active and visible
character, she too had moved out of the household to live in a university
dorm. The friendship between Kate and Allie lost its earlier dynamism
now that Allie was married. Kate appeared as an intrusion into the
household rather than a necessary part of it. Even though the series
had not "solved" the social problems it addressed, its creators
and performers had moved the main characters into a narrative situation
that no longer seemed a workable fiction. After its sixth season,
the series was not renewed.
Kate and Allie
McArdle.................................Susan Saint James
Emma McArdle (1984-1988)........................ Ari Meyers
Chip Lowell...................................... Frederick
Jennie Lowell......................................... Allison
Charles Lowell (1984-1986)......................... Paul Hecht
Ted Bartelo (1984-1985, 1987-1988)...... Gregory Salata
Bob Barsky (1987-1989)............................ Sam Freed
Lou Carello (1988-1989).......................... Peter Onorati
Bob Randall, Mort Lachman, Merrill Grant, Bill Persky, Anne Flett,
HISTORY 122 Episodes
March 1984-May 1984 Monday
9:30-10:00 August 1984-September 1986 Monday
9:30-10:00 September 1986-September 1987 Monday
8:00-8:30 September 1987-November 1987 Monday
8:30-9:00 December 1987-June 1988 Monday
July 1988-August 1988 Saturday
8:00-8:30 August 1988-September 1988 Monday
9:00-9:30 December 1988-March 1989 Monday
8:30-9:00 March 1989-June 1989 Monday
10:30-11:00 June 1989-September 1989 Monday
Brown, M. E., editor. Television and Women's Culture: The Politics
of the Popular. Newbury Park, California: Sage, 1990.
S. "Life with Kate & Allie--The Not-so-Odd Couple On TV." Ms.
(New York), 1984.
L. "Sitcoms and Single Moms: Representations of Feminism on American
TV." Cinema Journal (Champaign, Illinois), 1989.
T. "Comedy with Class: The Creative Spark Behind CBS' Kate & Allie."
The Washington (D.C.) Post, 19 March 1984.
L., and D. Mann, editors. Private Screenings: Television and
the Female Consumer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
Domestic Settings; Curtin,