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The series focuses mainly on newlyweds Paul Buchman, a documentary filmmaker, and Jamie Stemple Buchman, a public relations specialist, as they deal with everything from humorous daily minutiae to major struggles. Near the end of the show's run, they have a baby daughter, whom they name Mabel.
Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser were paid $1 million per episode for the last season (with their contracts calling for them to be paid equally). However, ratings fell sharply that year as the series was shuffled away from its Tuesday slot to prop up a fledgling Monday night line-up of comedies on NBC.
The show's theme song, "Final Frontier", was composed by Reiser and Don Was. It was originally performed by Andrew Gold, but a version performed by Anita Baker made its debut at the beginning of the sixth season. Baker's rendering, in addition to Gold's, was used on several episodes of the last two seasons, and appears on the show's soundtrack album. Gold's version is available on the collection Thank You for Being a Friend: The Best of Andrew Gold.
In April 2018, it was announced that Sony Pictures Television would revive the show with the two lead actors to reprise their roles, though Reiser expressed doubt about it in July 2018. In September 2018, Reiser stated that the revival was still on the table, it's that "the studio needs to figure out if they know how to do it."
On March 6, 2019, the series was revived for an eighth season by Spectrum Originals, described as a 12-episode limited series, with Reiser and Hunt confirmed to reprise their roles. On September 5, 2019, it was announced that the first six episodes of the revival would premiere on November 20, 2019, and another six episodes would be released on December 18, 2019.
Many of the living main and recurring cast members reprise their roles for the revival. The most notable former main cast member not to reprise their role is Leila Kenzle, who played Jamie's best friend, Fran Devanow. Kenzle retired from acting in 2003 and became a psychotherapist. Fran's husband Mark does return in the revival, but the character is now remarried. It is unknown if other notable recurring cast members, such as Lisa Kudrow who played Ursula and Cyndi Lauper who played Marianne, will reprise their roles. It was previously reported that there were no plans for Kudrow to reprise her role, but executive producer Peter Tolan has said he hopes she will.
Cast and Characters
Original Run (1992 - 1999)
Paul Reiser as Paul Buchman, a filmmaker. After attending the New York University Film School, he struggled for recognition before finally succeeding in filmmaking in New York City. He and his family reside near Union Square, on lower Fifth Avenue.
Helen Hunt as Jamie "James" Buchman (née Stemple, born February 19, 1963), the younger daughter of Gus and Theresa Stemple. After seven boyfriends at Yale University, she met Paul Buchman at a New York newsstand by stealing his copy of The New York Times with an implausible excuse. Her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law is an ongoing source of jokes on the show.
Maui as Murray, the Buchmans' dog. He was a puppy when Paul found him, and Paul met Jamie while walking him. He sometimes chases what the couple assume is an invisible mouse, and often ends up crashing into the bedroom wall. In a later episode, Jamie discovers that there is indeed a real mouse that Murray has been chasing. In the two-part series finale, The Final Frontier, adult Mabel says that Murray died when she was six, but she was not told until she was twelve. Twice voted the most popular dog by the readers of TV Guide, Murray is loyal and endearing while being very laid back and a bit thick-skulled. Maui was originally found in a Castaic, California, animal shelter by noted Hollywood animal trainer Boone Narr. Maui weighed 58 pounds and was primarily trained by Betty Linn. His first assignments came in TV commercials and as the backup for the top dog in the feature film Bingo.
Anne Ramsay as Lisa Stemple, Jamie's older sister. Lisa has unfathomable psychological issues. Jamie is referred to as "Stella" in a book written by Lisa's therapist: "It was Stella's overprotectiveness that suffocated her ability to relate to others, and tethered her to a lifetime of insecurity and neurosis." After an envious rage, she blames Jamie for all of her problems in an interview with her shrink that becomes a chapter of a book called "Manics." With no place else to go, she does her laundry at Paul's and Jamie's apartment while scavenging through her sister's clothes and food. Every visit from her parents triggers her eating disorder. In between bouts of weirdness, she still cares deeply for Paul and Jamie and is often trusted to house sit for them, usually with unfortunate results.
Leila Kenzle as Fran Devanow, Jamie's best friend. She is the regional vice president at Farrer-Gantz Public Relations who hired Jamie as her assistant. Near 1989, Fran quits Farrer-Gantz to spend time with her obnoxious five-year-old son, Ryan, and husband, Mark. Jamie is then promoted to Fran's position. Fran and Mark's relationship lasts 10 years, and their separation shocks Jamie and Paul. After divorcing Mark, Fran returns to her old position at Farrer-Gantz, since Jamie had quit. Eventually, Fran also quits and goes into business with Jamie. In time, Fran and Mark reconcile.
John Pankow as Ira Buchman, Paul's cousin. He first appears in the episode "The Wedding Affair." Ira is from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. He worked for Paul's father, Burt, at Buchman's Sporting Goods. Paul and Ira have a close friendship, but their hidden rivalry came out when Ira took ownership of Buchman's Sporting Goods upon Burt's retirement. Even so, he frequently appears as loving and supportive towards Paul and Jamie.
Cynthia Harris as Sylvia Buchman, Paul's mother. Sylvia almost always gives Jamie a hard time, but occasionally does show kindness towards her daughter-in-law.
Louis Zorich as Burt Buchman, Paul's father. Burt runs a sporting goods store - until he passes it on to Ira upon retirement. His signature line in the show occurs whenever he visits Paul and Jamie's apartment, exclaiming at the door, "It's me, Burt! Burt Buchman--your father!"
Alyssa and Justin Baric (twins) as Mabel Buchman, Paul and Jamie's daughter. She was finally named when Jamie's overbearing mother proclaimed that "Mothers Always Bring Extra Love.", an homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob and Laura explain Ritchie's middle name. Alyssa and Justin Baric played Mabel from the beginning of season six when Mabel was brought home from the hospital ("Coming Home"). They continued to play the role of Mabel for numerous episodes. Carter and Madison Gayle play the role at a later time. In the season six episode "Letters to Mabel," an 18-year-old Mabel is played by Meredith Bishop. In the series finale, a teen Mabel is played by Cara DeLizia, and an adult Mabel is played by Janeane Garofalo.
Richard Kind as Dr. Mark Devanow, Fran's ex-husband, with whom she is on good terms. A former obstetrician, Mark left Fran and their young son because he felt smothered and wanted to see the world. After returning to New York, he converts to Buddhism and works for a grocery store, although ultimately he returns to his old profession. In due course, he wins Fran back.
Jerry Adler as Mr. Wicker, the apartment building superintendent (10 episodes)
Hank Azaria as Nat Ostertag, Jamie and Paul's dog walker (15 episodes)
Mad About You has had numerous connections to other NBC sitcoms set in New York City, as well as various other programs.
Friends (owned by Warner Bros. Television): Lisa Kudrow played the recurring role of Ursula, a flaky waitress at Riff's Bar, a local restaurant that Paul and Jamie frequented. Kudrow went on to star in the NBC sitcom Friends, playing the also somewhat flaky character of Phoebe Buffay, and for a time both series shared the same Thursday night line-up. While not originally intended, the characters of Ursula and Phoebe were later found to be identical twin sisters. In a Friends episode ("The One With The Two Parts", 1st Season), as part of a night of NBC sitcom crossovers, Jamie and Fran walk into Central Perk and mistake Phoebe for Ursula. Hunt and Kenzle were not identified on screen as Jamie and Fran. In the season three episode "Pandora's Box", Jamie causes a citywide power blackout in New York City, and the effects of the blackout are seen in the Friends episode, "The One with the Blackout", and there was also a blackout in the episode "Birthday in the Big House" of the short-lived NBC sitcom Madman of the People, which leaves open the possibility that the characters from this program may also exist in the same universe as the characters of Mad About You. All three episodes originally aired during the evening of November 3, 1994, alongside a Seinfeld episode which did not incorporate the blackout premise.
Seinfeld: In one episode ("The Apartment", 1st Season), Paul, pressured by Jamie, decides to sign over the lease of his old "bachelor pad" to the current tenant who is subleasing. When the tenant is revealed to be Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) of Seinfeld, Paul asks Kramer "What ever happened to that Jerry guy who used to live there?" Seinfeld, however, twice contradicted this connection, once even featuring a running joke about George's distaste for his fiancée Susan's fondness for watching Mad About You. In the Mad About You season seven episode "Season Opener", Paul, under the effects of Viagra, ran into Jerry Seinfeld in the street, who tells Paul to go away. At this point in Seinfeld's chronology, Jerry Seinfeld was supposed to be in prison. One implication of Jerry's appearance is that he had turned prison "snitch" and earned early release.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady from the 1960s sitcom (a series acknowledged as an inspiration for Mad About You). The episode made several references to the older show, such as Jamie at one point crying and whining "Oh, Paul!" - a take on Mary Tyler Moore's character Laura Petrie's frequent refrain "Oh, Rob!" - Ten episodes earlier, Paul almost trips over a box and says, "Get me, I'm Dick Van Dyke."
In 1997, Atlantic Records released a Mad About You soundtrack. The soundtrack from and inspired by the sitcom, is composed of fun and sentimental songs and clips from the show. The tracks are organized chronologically marking the milestones of the couple's relationship. The album is bookended by the two versions of Paul Reiser's song "Final Frontier"--the first track is the classic version used in the show's opening, and the last track is Anita Baker's jazzy, full-length rendition, with Reiser on keyboard. The 21 tracks are as follows:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of Mad About You on DVD in Region 1 and 4. The first two seasons were also released in Region 2. Due to poor sales, no subsequent seasons were released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
In February 2010, Shout! Factory acquired the rights to release the remaining seasons of Mad About You on DVD. They subsequently released seasons 4 and 5 on DVD.
On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Mad About You. They subsequently re-released the first and second seasons on DVD on August 5, 2014.
Mill Creek released the complete series on a 14-DVD set on May 3, 2016; as with all Mill Creek releases, there are undisclosed edits to episodes and some episodes are the syndicated cuts rather than the original NBC edits, including the finale.
As of August 1, 2019, the entire series has been available to Spectrum subscribers as part of the run-up to the premiere of the revival series.
The Complete 1st Season
October 22, 2002
The Complete 2nd Season
April 22, 2003
The Complete 3rd Season
February 6, 2007
The Complete 4th Season
June 29, 2010
The Complete 5th Season
November 2, 2010
The Complete Series
May 3, 2016
Mad About You Collection
February 8, 2005
Blooper Reel: The Seven Warning Signs of Madness
Audio commentaries: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt on "The Final Frontier" and "The Pilot"
Featurette: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt Are Mad About the Theme
Featurette: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt Are Mad About the Guest Stars