It's a Living on Tubi

Caproni

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You heard me right!

It's a Living is currently available to view on Tubi. I heard it from a mutual friend on Facebook and I added Tubi to my smart TV that day.

Now don't get too excited; only the first three seasons are available right now. Of course, they could eventually add the last three seasons to the lineup, but this gives us enough to enjoy for now. I'd love to have a nice copy of this series (naturally it would be on a bootleg) to add to my collection.

It's an amusing little comedy.

Thoughts?

I'm especially fond of the first season which stars a pre-Falcon Crest Susan Sullivan.

 
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Daniel Avery

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You and I have similar (read: great) taste in comedies. :D

I have the Logo Channel on my cable system, and they also air this show....but they give it the worst time slots (like, overnights, or at best early morning) so I don't get to binge-watch it like I'd like to. I was a big fan of the show when it was in first-run syndication. I will give Logo credit for airing the whole series (that is, the ABC seasons and the syndicated seasons), but they don't seem to have much faith in the show, given the lousy time slots.

So I've only seen bits and pieces of the two (?) seasons produced for ABC, but it appeared from what I saw that SS (as Lois) was kind of the 'lead' waitress, with the others less-emphasized in season one. When ABC revamped it (even calling it Making A Living, which is the most bland name they could have come up with) and hired Louise Lasser to be their new waitress it was certainly a change. Lasser's character was appropriately daft and yet likeable, whereas Lois had been stronger and smarter. I think they wanted it to be more of an ensemble but Lasser's character was obviously the most fun for the writers to write for. Jan, Dot, and Cassie were still fun, but it wasn't until the show was revived in syndication (with Amy and Ginger brought on) that it became more of the ensemble effort that worked best for the show.

My favorite of the bunch was actually Nancy. Her bizarre dresses were always a source of laughs. Marian Mercer was always excellent, even when Nancy was at her cartoony meanest to the girls. I also loved Sonny's innate ability to choose the most inappropriate songs to play/sing in the dining room. Inevitably one of the waitresses would slam the lid of the piano's keys on Sonny's hands.
 

Caproni

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You and I have similar (read: great) taste in comedies. :D

I have the Logo Channel on my cable system, and they also air this show....but they give it the worst time slots (like, overnights, or at best early morning) so I don't get to binge-watch it like I'd like to. I was a big fan of the show when it was in first-run syndication. I will give Logo credit for airing the whole series (that is, the ABC seasons and the syndicated seasons), but they don't seem to have much faith in the show, given the lousy time slots.

So I've only seen bits and pieces of the two (?) seasons produced for ABC, but it appeared from what I saw that SS (as Lois) was kind of the 'lead' waitress, with the others less-emphasized in season one. When ABC revamped it (even calling it Making A Living, which is the most bland name they could have come up with) and hired Louise Lasser to be their new waitress it was certainly a change. Lasser's character was appropriately daft and yet likeable, whereas Lois had been stronger and smarter. I think they wanted it to be more of an ensemble but Lasser's character was obviously the most fun for the writers to write for. Jan, Dot, and Cassie were still fun, but it wasn't until the show was revived in syndication (with Amy and Ginger brought on) that it became more of the ensemble effort that worked best for the show.

My favorite of the bunch was actually Nancy. Her bizarre dresses were always a source of laughs. Marian Mercer was always excellent, even when Nancy was at her cartoony meanest to the girls. I also loved Sonny's innate ability to choose the most inappropriate songs to play/sing in the dining room. Inevitably one of the waitresses would slam the lid of the piano's keys on Sonny's hands.
I like that you and I share similar tastes in what we watch on TV. It gives me great pleasure to share ideas with someone such as yourself on a site such as this one. I look forward to it.

My cable provider doesn't include Logo TV, so the only time I ever got to watch It's a Living was on YouTube, and for a long time there weren't too many clips of the show available there. I first heard about the series after watching Mae West, an early eighties television film starring actress Ann Jillian as the incomparable Mae West. Compelled, I decided to do some digging on Ann Jillian, and naturally I stumbled across It's a Living.

Thus my fandom with the show was birthed.

It's a Living aired for two seasons on ABC from 1980 to 1982. Together, the two seasons totaled just twenty-seven episodes, which wasn't much more than a full season's worth of episodes at the time. The first season starred Susan Sullivan as Lois Adams, but she left the show (for reasons I cannot clarify), and she was replaced by Louise Lasser as Maggie McBurney for the season season. The second year was the network's attempt to edge the sitcom as more of an ensemble, but as you said, they still seemed the most interested in writing for the "head waitress," who was Louise Lasser this time.

The abbreviated thirteen-episode first season felt the effects of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike in 1980. ABC decided to retool the show extensively, even rebranding the show Making a Living. This version of the show was not popular either.

Apparently, the show was shuffled around on the schedule during its two-season-tenure, and it failed to find an audience. It received mixed reviews and poor Nielsen ratings, and it eventually got the axe after twenty-seven episodes. The short-run series would prove popularity when it starting airing reruns in 1983, and following Ann Jillian's public announcement of having breast cancer in 1984, the producers of Golden West Television to bring It's a Living back in first-run syndication to produce new episodes. A number of sitcoms had found a healthy second-life in first-run syndication, among them Mama's Family, Charles in Charge, and Nine to Five.

It's a Living enjoyed a successful revival in popularity during its syndicated life. Crystal Bernard was brought in as naive Texas waitress Amy Tompkins to fill the gap left by Louise Lasser's exit. Ann Jillian would leave the show in 1986 (she had only agreed to do one year in syndication), and she was replaced with Sheryl Lee Ralph as Ginger St. James. With the key roles in place, the series would continue and produce close to another one-hundred episodes before finally concluding in 1989.

I must agree with you about the favorites. Marian Mercer is hilarious, and she plays the role to the hilt. It wouldn't be the same without her. She's so subtle and delicious. I'm also big fans of Ann Jillian and Barrie Youngfellow, who I remember seeing as Joan Crawford in The Scarlett O'Hara War.

I remember asking my parents about It's a Living several years ago. Considering I'm far too young to have seen any of the shows were discuss here on SC during their original runs, I figured they would have been able to shed some light on any memories they possibly had of the show. To my surprise, neither of them remembered it at all. Well, my mother had no recollection whatsoever, but my father did have some vague memories of Ann Jillian and her being a TV sex symbol in the early eighties.

I have hunted all over the internet for a copy of this series on DVD. I have found no luck. There's some copies of the first three seasons circling out there now, probably copied from Tubi, but I really want all six seasons.
 
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Daniel Avery

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If you are really (and I mean really) a big fan of Ann Jillian, you might be able to find a few episodes of Jennifer Slept Here floating around YouTube. It was a short-lived sitcom about a nerdy teenaged boy who regularly chatted with the ghost of a sexy movie star who haunted the house where he and his family lived. It was as bad as it sounds.

But about It's A Living...it was a product of the same production company that was cranking out hits in the early-1980s like Soap and Benson, which explains why the show always seemed so well-timed and polished. Though Witt-Thomas also had Susan Harris involved in some of their shows (most notably The Golden Girls) I don't think she had anything to do with this show, but Stu Silver, who worked for W-T-H, is credited on Soap, Benson, and IAL. Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon also have creator credits for this show as well as Mama's Family and countless other sitcoms of the period. So IAL certainly had the pedigree. When Benson ended in 1986 (?), they inherited a lot of the producers from that show, too.

I think what attracts me to this show more than anything is how likeable the characters are, especially in the syndicated years. Even when the plot was thin, I liked seeing how everyone interacted and joked around. Workplace comedies like this have to rely on characters being developed through subplots rather than the main plot, since the main plots have to service the fact that they're working, not just sitting around discussing their lives.

Every time I see that iconic building in a shot of the LA skyline I see "The It's A Living Building" even though I know it's actually the Bonaventure Hotel. It's actually across from the "Sumner Group Building" from Knots Landing!

Oh, and I love the theme tune.
 

Caproni

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If you are really (and I mean really) a big fan of Ann Jillian, you might be able to find a few episodes of Jennifer Slept Here floating around YouTube. It was a short-lived sitcom about a nerdy teenaged boy who regularly chatted with the ghost of a sexy movie star who haunted the house where he and his family lived. It was as bad as it sounds.

But about It's A Living...it was a product of the same production company that was cranking out hits in the early-1980s like Soap and Benson, which explains why the show always seemed so well-timed and polished. Though Witt-Thomas also had Susan Harris involved in some of their shows (most notably The Golden Girls) I don't think she had anything to do with this show, but Stu Silver, who worked for W-T-H, is credited on Soap, Benson, and IAL. Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon also have creator credits for this show as well as Mama's Family and countless other sitcoms of the period. So IAL certainly had the pedigree. When Benson ended in 1986 (?), they inherited a lot of the producers from that show, too.

I think what attracts me to this show more than anything is how likeable the characters are, especially in the syndicated years. Even when the plot was thin, I liked seeing how everyone interacted and joked around. Workplace comedies like this have to rely on characters being developed through subplots rather than the main plot, since the main plots have to service the fact that they're working, not just sitting around discussing their lives.

Every time I see that iconic building in a shot of the LA skyline I see "The It's A Living Building" even though I know it's actually the Bonaventure Hotel. It's actually across from the "Sumner Group Building" from Knots Landing!

Oh, and I love the theme tune.
I saw a couple of episodes of Jennifer Slept Here and Ann Jillian, her self-titled sitcom, on YouTube. I'll give them a gander and she what they're about. I don't expect either of them to be necessarily good, but considering I'm becoming a casual fan of Ann Jillian, I don't think it would hurt for me to at least give them a shot.

Have you ever seen her play Mae West? The whole movie was once on YouTube, and I know there a bootlegs over it everywhere.

It's a Living vaguely reminds me of The Golden Girls, if only in pieces. Although the setup couldn't be different, it does structurally remind me of the later show. The font used for the credits certainly fuels this comparison, too. I knew the names Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon looked familiar; I should have remembered them from their work on Mama's Family.

I like what you said about the characters (and the actors) seeming to be very close both on-camera and off. You can't fake that. Not well anyway. I think that's where I draw the biggest Golden Girls comparison because both shows have some weak moments in terms of the writing, but you can tell that the actors all get along and genuinely like one another. That matters to the success of the show. And I'm using "success" in its most general terms.

That's interesting that their restaurant is right across from the Sumner Group.
 

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That font/chyron is one of the sure-fire signs that the show is from the Witt-Thomas-Harris stable. Soap and Benson had it, and of course Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Nurses, etc. They also had this trademark of using one still image (usually a funny one) from that episode as background as the closing credits rolled over.

Like all restaurant-centered series, there are some continuity questions about just how Above The Top (their restaurant) ran itself. No one ever referred to any other waitresses, host/hostesses or chefs working with them, which implied they did not offer breakfast at all. The same four waitresses were always working together--no staggered days off where three of the four are there. In the early years you see the waitresses wear one uniform for the lunch crowd (more provocatively cut, with burgundy and black) and a different one for dinner (black and white). Later, we only see the black/white uniform, even as they were depicted as serving lunch. So they worked roughly 10am-9pm, seven days a week?? No wonder Nancy was always such a grouch. :D
 

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That font/chyron is one of the sure-fire signs that the show is from the Witt-Thomas-Harris stable. Soap and Benson had it, and of course Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Nurses, etc. They also had this trademark of using one still image (usually a funny one) from that episode as background as the closing credits rolled over.

Like all restaurant-centered series, there are some continuity questions about just how Above The Top (their restaurant) ran itself. No one ever referred to any other waitresses, host/hostesses or chefs working with them, which implied they did not offer breakfast at all. The same four waitresses were always working together--no staggered days off where three of the four are there. In the early years you see the waitresses wear one uniform for the lunch crowd (more provocatively cut, with burgundy and black) and a different one for dinner (black and white). Later, we only see the black/white uniform, even as they were depicted as serving lunch. So they worked roughly 10am-9pm, seven days a week?? No wonder Nancy was always such a grouch. :D
I had noticed that the outfits went to always black-and-white in the syndicated years. Maybe that had to do with some of the budget cuts that surfaced during the syndicated years?
 

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I think producers quietly ditched the burgundy version because they were demeaning. The show was much more profitable in the syndicated years, so money was not an issue, really. The dresses looked more like something they'd wear in a cocktail lounge, not an upscale restaurant. Also, the burgundy number was from the early eighties when people were not as sensitive to women's dignity in general. When they returned in syndication, some of those attitudes had evolved a bit. Not entirely, but baby steps.

I recall an episode where all the waitresses had to be weighed (by Nancy!) periodically since one of their job requirements was to be a certain weight. One of them (Dot, I think) had gained two or three pounds too many, and the wacky sub-plot of the episode was her attempting to avoid the dessert plates at the restaurant and snacks for fear of being fired. I'm foggy on who else was involved, but I think it was Lois (Susan Sullivan's character) who voiced the appropriate objection to the whole weight requirement. Nancy, in her usual "compassionate" way, pointed out that they were paid much, much more than the average waitress to work there, and the weight requirement was the price they paid to earn so much. I can't imagine such a plotline occurring in the syndication years, especially with the 1-2 punch of Jan and Ginger striking back against authority. By the end, neither one of them seemed to have an ounce of respect for Nancy's bullying tactics which had worked so well in the past.
 

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I think producers quietly ditched the burgundy version because they were demeaning. The show was much more profitable in the syndicated years, so money was not an issue, really. The dresses looked more like something they'd wear in a cocktail lounge, not an upscale restaurant. Also, the burgundy number was from the early eighties when people were not as sensitive to women's dignity in general. When they returned in syndication, some of those attitudes had evolved a bit. Not entirely, but baby steps.

I recall an episode where all the waitresses had to be weighed (by Nancy!) periodically since one of their job requirements was to be a certain weight. One of them (Dot, I think) had gained two or three pounds too many, and the wacky sub-plot of the episode was her attempting to avoid the dessert plates at the restaurant and snacks for fear of being fired. I'm foggy on who else was involved, but I think it was Lois (Susan Sullivan's character) who voiced the appropriate objection to the whole weight requirement. Nancy, in her usual "compassionate" way, pointed out that they were paid much, much more than the average waitress to work there, and the weight requirement was the price they paid to earn so much. I can't imagine such a plotline occurring in the syndication years, especially with the 1-2 punch of Jan and Ginger striking back against authority. By the end, neither one of them seemed to have an ounce of respect for Nancy's bullying tactics which had worked so well in the past.
I tend to always think because a show wasn't with a network and instead in syndication that the budget was sliced. That doesn't necessarily make it true I don't guess, but that's just the way my mind tends to think of the situation.
 

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So I had the chance to watch a spate of episodes this morning and though there was a lot of fun to be had, one scene sticks out that just tickled me.

Sonny is doing his usual, obnoxious lounge-singer schtick. He has this gift for taking a recognizable song, putting that silly piano stuff behind it and making it unrecognizable until nearly the end. In this case, it's the theme from The Patty Duke Show. After finishing, he goes on a tangent about how silly the concept of 'identical cousins' is. It had to be identical twins, he theorizes. And then he goes on about how much more talented the sister who played Cathy was, as opposed to Patty Duke. I'm sure you know how absurd this commentary is, but it's absolutely the kind of stuff Sonny does, and he is dead serious.

Throughout Sonny's piano playing and subsequent chatter, there's been a customer facing him, seated at the table closest to his piano. After he declares Patty Duke's "twin sister" was the more talented of the two, the woman gets up in a huff. She turns and we see it's Patty Duke who's been sitting there the whole time. She grabs a handful of cash from Sonny's tip glass (as 'reparations'?) and walks out. It's a brilliant little moment, and the fact that she never says a word (and Sonny still has no idea who she was) makes it all the funnier. It has no bearing on anything else in the episode--just a fun little cameo.
 

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Bit of a time capsule here....
Family Feud decided to do a theme week of celebrity editions featuring the casts of "city" shows versus "country" shows. I give you.....

It's A Living versus Dallas! (well the first twenty minutes, anyway)

My only regret is not seeing Nancy Beebe jumping Richard Dawson's bones on national television :cool1
 
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