Mary Richards had nothing on Ann Marie

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

May 14, 2006|By DAVID ZURAWIK | DAVID ZURAWIK,SUN REPORTER

THAT GIRL: SEASON ONE / / Shout! Factory / / $39.98

Before Mary Richards, Murphy Brown or Carrie Bradshaw, there was Ann Marie. And 40 years after her debut on ABC, prime time's first independent woman is back in a delightful time warp of a five-DVD set that takes one straight back to the exuberance, promise and energy of being young in the go-go 1960s.

Marlo Thomas stars as the wannabe actress who moves out of her parents' home in Brewster, N.Y., to take up single life in Manhattan -- a move that was revolutionary for a young female character on network TV at the time. Remember this was four years before Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) was tossing her beret in the air in downtown Minneapolis as a chorus of singers reassured her that she was "gonna make it" on her own.

In fact, one of the revelations of That Girl: Season One is how heavily it influenced The Mary Tyler Moore Show -- from its opening credits featuring a high-spirited heroine on downtown streets, to its central story line of a young woman leaving home, coming to the city, trying to make it in the workplace and ultimately finding support, if not love, among new friends who are mostly female.

This is the first TV sitcom joyously, if fitfully, feeling the cultural ripples of the women's liberation movement.

"Good-Bye, Hello, Good-Bye," the second episode in the series that made its debut on Sept. 8, 1966, in the 9:30 Thursday night time slot after Bewitched, chronicles Ann's move out of her parents home to a tiny but charming apartment in Manhattan that costs only $50 a month (pure fantasy even then).

The series was originally called Miss Independence, and the early episodes are filled with pronouncements of self-reliance.

"Anything else I can do, Miss?" a helpful doorman (another fantasy) asks after ushering Ann into her apartment for the first time.

"Well, I'm sure there are about 4,000 things to do around here, but I can do them myself, Mr. Corcoran. Thanks and goodbye."

The half-hour is packed with developments -- from Ann's mother moving in with her daughter, to Ann taking a full-time waitressing job and landing her first acting role (as a mop on a children's TV show). She was always getting lousy acting jobs, but persevered in pursuing her dreams.

That Girl: Season One is the best kind of TV entertainment -- that which helps one understand how we came to be the way we are today.

* Special features:

The original That Girl pilot (revamped and recast except for Thomas), a series of over-the-top network promos for the series, an interview with Thomas on the making of the show, and commentaries from Thomas and co-creator Bill Persky on various episodes.

"That's what made it such a big hit," Thomas comments as the second episode shows Ann hailing a cab in front of Grand Central Station upon her arrival in New York City. "Thousands of girls wanted to go off to the city and try to make it on their own. Ann Marie did it."

ALSO ANTICIPATED

THE PRODUCERS / / Universal / / $29.98

The 2005 movie version of the Broadway play based on the 1968 Mel Brooks movie arrives on DVD Tuesday. It's a law of popular culture: The brilliance of the original idea generally diminishes through each new version. This DVD version of the film starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick is a far cry from the manic madness of the original movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Still, for those who can't get enough of "Springtime for Hitler"...

david.zurawik@ baltsun.com

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