THAT GIRL

U.S. Situation Comedy

That Girl was one of the first television shows to focus on the single working girl, predating CBS's Mary Tyler Moore Show by four years. This situation comedy followed heroine Ann Marie's adventures as she struggled to establish herself on the New York stage while supporting herself with a variety of temporary jobs.

That Girl was reputedly inspired by the life of its star, Marlo Thomas. The daughter of famous television comedian Danny Thomas wanted success on her own merits, so she moved to England where her father was unknown. After five years struggling, she won acclaim in Mike Nichol's 1965 London version of Barefoot in the Park. Returning home, she starred in an ABC pilot, Two's Company about a model married to a photographer. Although it was not picked up, ABC head Ed Sherick offered Thomas other roles, including the lead in My Mother, the Car. She rejected these parts and instead approached the network with an idea for a show called Miss Independence centered on the life of a young, single career girl. ABC was interested, but wanted some kind of chaperone as a regular character.

Like The Patty Duke Show, Peyton Place, and Gidget, That Girl was one of many shows ABC targeted at the young, female audience during the mid- to late-1960s. The network had successfully turned to this up-and-coming demographic as early as 1963, capitalizing on the nascent women's movement and youth revolution. Like most of these shows, That Girl followed an already established trend, offering a diluted and sanitized version of the glamorized single girl lifestyle popularized by the likes of Helen Gurley Brown, Mary McCarthy, and Jacqueline Susann. Unlike their heroines, though, Ann Marie remained, at the behest of network standards and practices offices, chaste. The executives even wanted her to marry steady boyfriend, magazine executive, Don Hollinger (whom she met in the first episode) but Thomas resisted, consenting only to a September 1970 engagement.

While it focused on a self-supporting woman, That Girl did not center on the workplace (unlike The Mary Tyler Moore Show), largely because Ann's employment was essentially itinerant. Instead, her efforts to succeed revealed the merger of public and private life. The erratic nature of her employment undermined everyday routines of working life, positioning her independence as highly precarious--particularly when contrasted to the steady rituals of Don's career. Ann's temporary jobs presented comedic opportunities as she struggled to retain her dignity in the face of often demeaning circumstances while foregrounding her continued reliance on her parents and Don. Female independence was thus presented as a site of struggle--both against the restrictions of the male dominated workplace and the social and familial pressures for marriage. Meanwhile, her very choice of profession--the stage--undermined her desire for success, casting it in terms of fantasy. This lack of realism was evident from the start. Even Thomas noted that her struggling actress heroine never changed or developed. This refusal of change ultimately led to the show's 1971 cancellation: despite good ratings Thomas announced that she could not face playing the same character for eternity.

-Moya Luckett


That Girl
Photo courtesy of Marlo Thomas

CAST

Ann Marie ...............................................Marlo Thomas
Don Hollinger..............................................
Ted Bessell
Lou Marie
.................................................... Lew Parker
Helen Marie
(1966-1970) ...................Rosemary DeCamp
Judy Bessemer
(1966-1967) .......................Bonnie Scott
Dr. Leon Bessemer
(1966-1967)............ Dabney Coleman
Jules Benedict
........................................ Billie De Wolfe
Jerry Bauman........................................... Bernie Kopell
Ruth Bauman
(1967-1969)...................... Carolyn Daniels
Ruth Bauman (1969-1971).......................... Alice Borden
Harvey Peck (
1966-1967).......................... Ronnie Schell
George Lester (1966-1967)........................ George Carlin
Seymour Schwimmer (1967-1968).................. Don Penny
Margie "Pete" Peterson (1967-1968).............. Ruth Buzzi
Mary............................................................ Reva Rose
Gloria
.........................................................Bobo Lewis
Jonathan Adams
...................................Forest Compton
Bert Hollinger............................................
Frank Faylen
Mildred Hollinger
...................................Mabel Albertson
Sandi Hollinger
.................................... Cloris Leachman
Nino
.........................................................Gino Conforti
Mr. Brantano
.............................................. Frank Puglia
Mrs. Brantano...........................................
Renata Vanni
Sandy Stone..............................................
Morty Gunty

PRODUCERS Bill Persky, Sam Denoff, Bernie Orenstein, Saul Turteltaub, Jerry Davis

PROGRAMMING HISTORY 136 Episodes

ABC
September 1966-April 1967               Thursday 9:30-10:00 April 1967-January 1969                     Thursday 9:00-9:30 February 1969-September 1970          Thursday 8:00-8:30 September 1970-September 1971           Friday 9:00-9:30

FURTHER READING

Douglas, Susan J. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Times Books, 1994.

 

See also Mary Tyler Moore Show