Characters' wedding won't cool passion on steamy 'Hearts Afire'

February 04, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

"Hearts Afire" is within weeks of creating a TV variation on the old shotgun wedding.

On Feb. 22, the characters played by John Ritter and Markie Post will be married on the first-year, Monday-night CBS sitcom. This will legitimize a romance that quickly has become one of the hottest on TV.

From opening night in September, the characters played by Mr. Ritter and Ms. Post -- John Hartman and Georgie Ann Lahti -- have been unable to keep their hands off each other. The pilot episode concluded with the two -- he's a divorcee with two kids; she has never been married -- embracing in a hot tub.

Since then, the couple -- both aides to a conservative Southern senator -- have been amorous in their Washington office, in a car and just about anywhere else they could create some privacy. They put the lie to the Billy Crystal line: "Women need a reason to have sex, men need only a place." Georgie Ann and John both need only a place.

The intensity of their romantic high jinks has stirred numerous stories, including a mention in a TV Guide interview with then President-elect Bill Clinton. The creators of "Hearts Afire" are Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, longtime friends and political advisers to Mr. Clinton.

The controversy hasn't been so much over what the "Hearts Afire" couple have been doing but about the time of night they have been doing it. The show airs at 8:30 p.m. which once was considered part of the unofficial family hour, a concept now ignored by the networks. Still, some people have complained that John and Georgie Ann's ungoverned lust is a bit much so early in the evening.

Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason, whose social conscience is as well developed as her sense of humor and writing skills, has acknowledged the problem and has lobbied CBS for a later starting time, preferably 9:30.

This would seem to make the marriage an expedient Plan B.

Not so, says Ms. Post. "We were always going to get married."

If there were marriage plans, they were not mentioned last summer when producer and stars met the TV press to promote the show.

On the other hand, Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason has always been a champion of romantic sex among married couples. When she created "Evening Shade," in which Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner play a passionate, married couple with children, she said the primary reason was to show that sex could be just as exciting within marriage as outside it.

Ms. Post tried to be conciliatory toward critics of the show. "We know there are people who think we're too sexy. . . . For those people, our getting married might legitimize the romance. But Linda's attitude is there is nothing wrong with sex as long as it is loving, romantic sex. It should be pretty clear by now that our characters really love each other."

The bow to convention will have its limits. Viewers should not expect a traditional church wedding.

"It's not going to be Georgie Ann marching down the aisle in a big white wedding dress, I can promise you that," Ms. Post said. "It will be different."

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