1 9 8 4 – 1 9 8 9 (USA)
122 x 30 minute episodes
Kate and Allie ran on CBS from 19 March 1984 to 22 May 1989 and was the brainchild of Sherry Coben who came up with the idea for the series while attending a high school reunion. There she noticed that a couple of divorcees who seemed unhappy and dissatisfied found comfort in sharing with each other.
She worked on a script for a situation comedy (originally titled Two Mommies) and pitched it to CBS. They liked the script because it dealt with single parenthood – a real issue of the day.
Susan Saint James liked the script and the part of Kate but stipulated production before a live audience and a New York shooting location as conditions to come aboard.
Saint James’ close friend Jane Curtin was convinced to accept the part of Allie, and the series debuted with a script by Coben which sets the series’ premise: two divorced women who have known each other since childhood decide to move into a large Greenwich Village apartment together and raise their three children as a family unit.
Kate and Allie was an instant success, ranking fourth the week it debuted. The characters and the issues they dealt with obviously appealed to the programme’s audience.
Kate is a woman recently divorced from her unstable and somewhat flighty part-time actor husband, Max. She has one daughter, 14-year-old Emma.
Allie is also recently divorced from her successful, but unfaithful doctor husband, Charles. She has a 14-year-old daughter Jennie, and a seven-year-old son, Chip. Neither Kate nor Allie have ruled out remarriage but view their new situation as a provisional reprieve, a time for both women to come to know and appreciate themselves.
On one level the series dealt with practical problems faced by divorced women with children: adjusting to a new lifestyle and to living closely with new people, dealing with children’s issues, beginning to date again, securing financial stability etc.
On another level, the series dealt with the larger issue of gender identity at a time when gender roles were in transition. Allie Lowell has submerged her own identity in that of her husband and most of the series’ trajectory tracks her journey toward autonomy.
Kate McArdle, on the other hand, has a stronger sense of her own identity, but must constantly struggle for equality at work and for the assurance that her goals will be respected in any new relationship.
Episodes began with a conversation between Kate and Allie designed to enhance the audience’s understanding of both women or to provide back story. Similarly, each episode ended with Kate and Allie discussing and bringing closure to the events just depicted.
As the series evolved the same kind of supportive friendship developed between the two daughters who initially disliked being forced together.
After directing one hundred episodes and having Allie accept the wedding proposal of likable character Bob Barsky, Bill Persky left the series, feeling that Kate and Allie had now fulfilled its premise.
The needed respite had worked for Allie, who was now able to enter a meaningful relationship as a fully autonomous individual, sure of herself and of her own goals.
While Kate still had not met a man whose life goals matched her own, she and Allie owned a successful business, and the audience was sure that she would not succumb to a marriage which downplayed her personal desires.
Despite these developments, the series continued, and Linda Day became the new director. The new team did not meet with the same success as had the first though. With the series’ original premise fulfilled, plots lacked the same objective and lost the relevance and vitality of earlier episodes.
In part to address this situation, early in the new season the writers created a device to bring the two women together again: Kate moved out of the old apartment and in with Allie and Bob (who accepted a sportscasting job that would take him away on weekends).
By this time, however, Emma was out of the series, ostensibly away studying, and though Jennie remained an active and visible character, she too had moved out of the household to live in a university dorm.
The friendship between Kate and Allie lost its earlier dynamism now that Allie was married. Kate appeared as an intrusion into the household rather than a necessary part of it. After its sixth season, the series was not renewed.
Susan Saint James