Comedian Paul Reiser has always insisted that his long-running NBC sitcom Mad About You (co-created by Reiser and Danny Jacobson) was inspired by events in his own life. Naturally, a bit of dramatic license was practiced: Reiser's TV character Paul Buchman was not a comic, but instead a New York-based documentary filmmaker. Nonetheless, the character's personality was virtually "all Reiser," just as Paul Buchman's TV wife, public relations executive Jamie Buchman (played by Helen Hunt), was basically a carbon copy of the real-life Mrs. Reiser.
Debuting Wednesday, September 23, 1992, Mad About You set up its premise, setting, and characters with admirable speed and efficiency. Married five months at the beginning of the series, Paul and Jamie are already safely ensconced in their Manhattan high-rise apartment, already conversing in a naturalistic, non-jokey (but hilarious) manner about the little, apparently inconsequential events that made them who they were and shaped their outlook on the world. (Reiser's oft-quoted assessment of the series was, "The feeling of the show should be like a couple's ride home after a party, when you can finally say what you've been thinking all night.") Also already in place is the series' colorful array of supporting characters, including Jamie's unlucky-in-love sister, Lisa Stemple (Anne Ramsay), gynecologist Mark Devanow (Richard Kind) and his dissatisfied wife, Fran (Leila Kenzle) -- still married at the start of season one, but headed for divorce by the 22nd episode -- and, for the first half of the season at least, Paul's disheveled bachelor pal Jay Selby (Tommy Hinkley), with whom Lisa has a brief fling. The exit of Jay after the 12th episode permitted the producers to bring in a new character, Paul's ever-competitive cousin Ira Buchman (John Pankow).
Recurring characters making their first appearances during Mad About You's shakedown season include the Devanow's precocious son, Ryan (Spencer Klein); the Buchman's insufferable upper-crust British neighbors, Maggie and Hal Conway (played by Judy Geeson and, initially, Paxton Whitehead); Paul's father, Burt Buchman (Louis Zorich); Jamie's parents, Theresa and Gus Stemple (originally played by Nancy Dussault and Paul Dooley); apartment doorman Eddie (Lou Cutell); and various members of Paul's production staff, among them film editor Ike (Art Evans), phlegmatic photographer Warren (Stephen Wright), and production assistants Stacey (Kerri Green) and Connie (Meagen Fay). And oh, yes, the series' obligatory non-human character, the Buchman's blasé pet dog, Murray (played by Maui), was conspicuous by his presence. The series' celebrated habit of featuring pop-icon "guest stars," which would manifest itself in such notables as John Astin, Carl Reiner, Yoko Ono, and the cast of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in later years, was tantalizingly previewed with the first-season appearances of Barbara Feldon (spoofing her Get Smart persona) and Regis Philbin. Although Mad About You did not crack the Top 25 series during its inaugural season, the program managed to accumulate a following that would remain loyal and steadfast for the next seven years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi