TV | Pop Culture | 90s

Steve Buscemi Holds Grudges, And 9 Other Things To Know About "Mad About You"

Is there a more underrated sitcom from the 90s than Mad About You? Paul and Jamie gave us laughs for seven seasons, and frankly they deserved more.

Here are some things about the show you may not have known.

1. thirtysomething

Paul Reiser and Danny Jacobson pitched the show to NBC as a story about a "couple in private." They figured there were enough shows about people in social settings, and they wanted something different.

"When you leave the party or the dinner, it's you and your wife in the car," NBC executive Jamie Tarses recalled of the pitch.

Reiser and Jacobson also compared their show to thirtysomething, but said it would be "shorter and funnier."

2. Skeptical Helen

Daily Mail/NBC

Helen Hunt almost turned down the role in Mad About You, wanting to focus on her movie career instead. However, when she read the pilot script, that all changed.

"Paul had said he wanted to do a show about the moment when a couple has left a party and just gotten behind closed doors and then the truth comes out," Hunt told The New York Times in 1994. "To do a whole series about moments like that—that was the only kind of show I could see that would warrant five years of work."

3. Super Teri

ABC

Before Helen Hunt landed the role of Jamie, it almost went to Teri Hatcher. However, when Hunt perfectly imitated Reiser when trying to decide what to eat (a scene in the pilot,) she stole the part. It worked out for Hatcher, however, who landed the role of Lois in Lois and Clark.

4. Chemistry

The Tempest

Mad About You had one redeeming quality, and that was the Hunt and Reiser's chemistry.

"The testing on Mad About You was not great," Preston Beckman, NBC's then-executive vice president of programming and planning, said. It seemed that the only scenes anyone responded to were the ones that had the duo. Other than that, "you just felt like no one cared."

5. Name Game

Amazon

Landing a name for the show wasn't an easy task. It wasn't allowed to be called Reiser, so its working title was The Paul Reiser Project.

"Paul's manager pushed hard for it to be called The Paul Reiser Show," Warren Littlefield said. "I told him no, the show is about this couple. Don't ask me again."

Co-star Richard Kind says he found out about the name in a parking lot one day.

"One day I pull into a parking space, and I see a thing that says Mad About You," Kind recalls. "And I go, 'Oh, my God! That’s a great name!' And I run in and I go 'Guys! Guys! I’ve got it! I’ve got the name: Mad About You!' And they go 'Yes. That is the name of the show.'"

6. No Babies Allowed

NBC

The show's creators knew one thing from the beginning of the show: once the couple had a baby, the show was over. They wanted the series to end with the sound of a crying baby. However, NBC had a different plan. At the end of the sixth season, Paul and Jamie welcome a daughter and the show continued for another season. The network always wanted a baby to be involved in the show.

7. Bad-Blood Buscemi

In the first season of Mad About You, Steve Buscemi appears as a former fellow student of Paul's who blamed him for dropping out of school. Buscemi's character was mad that Paul had used the last editing machine, which meant his assignment was late, which meant he had to drop out, which meant he had to work in a subway toll booth.

According to Buscemi, this was actually similar to a grudge he held with Paul Reiser. In 1978, Buscemi was pursuing a career in comedy, when finally it was his time for his big break. He was about to take the stage when Reiser walked into the comedy club and Buscemi was immediately replaced. Buscemi says this incident caused him to give up on comedy and focus on acting instead.

On the last day of shooting, Buscemi went up to Reiser and said "This is kinda what happened with you and me." Reiser had no clue.

8. Ursula Buffay

Warped Speed

Though Lisa Kudrow is known mainly for her role as Phoebe Buffay on Friends, she got her start on Mad About You. Kudrow was offered the role of Karen (which later became Ursula), but her agent advised her not to take it. However, Kudrow needed the money, and she also thought it was "the best show on television," so she took the part.

9. Dark Turn

Pop Sugar

Jacobson left the show after three seasons, which saw Larry Charles take over as show runner. However, he wanted there to be a little bit of a dark element to the show.

"I was not interested in further perpetuating the romantic myth of marriage," Charles said. "They had supposedly been married four and five years by then. Well, you've become bored with each other by then, you're onto each other's shtick already ... My goal was to strip away the artifice of the couple and show them for what they really were. And I had two great actors to work with."

NBC wasn't thrilled about this choice, but the actors were fine with it.

"We wanted to see the couple in trouble," Hunt said. "We wanted to see them struggle with infertility, the dark side of motherhood—all of those things that we or our friends [experienced] we wanted to express through this show."

10. He Said, She Said

People

When the show got moved from Thursdays to Sundays, Reiser was not impressed. He said the move meant the show "lost its moment of heat." He was so upset, Reiser didn't show up to NBC's official presentation of the fall scheduling lineup. NBC says there was a one week delay in filming the start of the fourth season because Reiser and the other producers were "sulking" over the timing change. Reiser insists this is not the case, and that they were just waiting for Helen Hunt to return from filming Twister.

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