NICK AND HILLARY
While Tattinger’s was dying a slow and miserable death in the ratings, Bruce
Paltrow was doing his damnedest to save the series. After all, he and
Jim Finnerty had turned the abandoned Chelsea Piers into first class sound
stages (which Dick Wolf eventually inherited for Law and Order), Bruce had
moved the family East and he knew I wasn’t going back to LA, under any circumstances.
So, he and Brandon Tartikoff, in trying to dissect what worked about the
show, decided that Tattinger’s was actually a comedy. Brandon announced
to the press that we would make four half-hours. This was a television
first: an hour drama morphing into a sitcom. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
had born Lou Grant, but ours was the same show, only different. We scrambled
to write new scripts and reconfigure the cast: Rob Morrow was out, Chris
Elliot was in. We also replaced one of the daughters, though I was
never sure exactly why.
We wanted to call the new series Formerly Tattinger’s because there was
a bar in New York called Joe’s, which became Formerly Joe’s when Joe sold
it to another guy. NBC hated the idea and we compromised with Nick
Nick and Hillary premiered in June, which, back in nineteen eighty-five,
was the worst time to debut a TV series, and we received not one iota of publicity
from NBC. In an age where successful comedy meant three-cameras, on
tape, performed before an audience (shows like Cosby), we were anathema, shot
on film, with a single camera and no laugh track. Four weeks later,
Nick and Hillary disappeared.
Before the demise, though, John Tinker, Channing Gibson, Bruce and I had
a lot of laughs, concocting funny stuff for Steve Collins, Blythe Donner,
Mary Beth Hurt, et al, to do.
The first episode is printed here. Re-reading now, after all these
years, the script still makes me laugh. But then again, maybe that’s
why I don’t do comedy.