Anything But Love: Volume 1
February 24, 2007
The problem inherent in any television show that revolves around the sexual tension between its two romantic leads is how do you keep the audience interested after the thrill of the chase is gone? Once the anticipation of the potential couple hooking up has been removed, what do you put in its place? The early ‘90s sitcom Anything But Love tried to answer these questions in a smart and entertaining way with two very engaging leads – neurotic comedian Richard Lewis and sexy actress Jamie Lee Curtis. This much beloved sitcom finally gets its due on DVD with the first two seasons available in one volume.
Marty Gold (Lewis) and Hannah Miller (Curtis) meet on an airplane in the pilot episode. She’s just coming off a bad relationship and he’s worried that the plane will crash. She’s an ex-teacher who aspires to be a writer and he’s an established journalist. They bond during the flight and he recommends her for a research gig at the Chicago magazine he works for. Hannah meets the editor-in-chief (Giambalvo) and demonstrates her passion for the written word. He gives her a shot – a 2,000 word think-piece on the tortilla chip. Of course, she does a great job and gets the position. Her passion for the job translates well. She is thrilled to be working and we see her put in long hours helping Marty on his articles.
The busy editorial office is what I always imagined what working at a big-time city magazine must be like – phones constantly ringing, people hustling and bustling, a tough, but fair editor and cutthroat competition from fellow writers. Obviously, we are being presented with a romanticized version but that is also part of its appeal.
The first season introduced Pamela Finch (Faison), a snarky gossip columnist that constantly sucks up to the no-nonsense editor and positions herself as Hannah’s antagonist who delights in seeing her fail. However, by the second season she was gone along with most of the cast with the exception of Curtis, Lewis and Richard Frank. The network wanted changes in the premise and the casting. Show creator Wendy Kout disagreed and left which opened the door for a revamping that included the addition of Ann Magnuson as the magazine’s new editor-in-chief, playing a much more flamboyant fashion victim role. It’s hard to say if she’s better or worse than the previous actor – just different.
Richard Lewis gets to do his stand-up shtick and plays the neurotic guy to the hilt. Marty is jaded and cynical and this acts as a nice contrast to Hannah’s peppy enthusiasm. She’s just happy to be working in a job she truly loves. As she demonstrated with a film like A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Curtis has a knack for comedy, displaying crackerjack timing with Lewis while also being adept at physical humour as well. The writing is top notch – sharp, crisp dialogue that snaps and pops with sarcastic one-liners courtesy of Lewis in contrast to Curtis’ unflappable optimism. The writers hit the right beats on a consistent basis and the cast does a great job of delivering them.
Watching Curtis and Lewis in Anything But Love is like going back in time. He sports the big hair look from the 1980s (that has not aged well) while Curtis adopts a mousy look that downplays her natural sexiness that she normally exudes. Thankfully, they would tweak her look in the second season. There is also undeniable chemistry between Curtis and Lewis that is constantly evident, like in a scene from the “Deadline” episode where they dance to a cheesy romantic song. You can see a genuine expression fun and enjoyment in their faces. They work well together and the appeal of this show is watching their characters flirt and eventually fall in love with each other.
Disc one features an audio commentary on “Fear of Flying” by Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis. She makes fun of her hair-do and dated fashion sense while Lewis remarks on his “Davy Crockett” coif while playfully chiding Curtis on her outfit in the opening scene (he quips that she should be playing forward for the New York Knicks). From the way they banter you can tell that they are still good friends and this only emphasizes the chemistry we see on-screen.
Disc two features a commentary on “Hotel of the Damned” by director Robert Berlinger. He says that this was his very first episode of T.V. and points out his first mistake (a visible boom microphone in the first shot). He came from theatre originally and made the segueway into T.V. He talks about how this background informed his style of direction on the show.
The third disc has a retrospective featurette entitled, “All About Anything But Love,” with Curtis, Lewis, creator Wendy Kout and other key people back to reminisce about the show. In discussing its origins, footage from the unaired pilot is shown and it’s interesting to see the original idea which was eventually rejected: a love triangle between Marty, Hannah and another man but test audiences didn’t like the actor playing the third person and the network shifted the focus to Curtis and Lewis.
“Stories from the Set” features most of the participants from the previous extra telling more anecdotes about working on the show, including their impressions of cast and crew members and how everyone bonded like a big family.