1 9 7 2 – 1 9 7 3 (USA)
24 x 30 minute episodes
This sitcom from CBS/Screen Gems starred Meredith Baxter as Bridget Theresa Mary Colleen Fitzgerald – a young school teacher from a wealthy Catholic Irish-American Republican family.
Bridget taught fourth grade at the Immaculate Heart Academy (the same school she attended as a girl) in mid–Manhattan.
Cultural and ethnic hilarity ensued when Bridget married a hard-working Jewish taxi driver and struggling young writer, Bernie Steinberg (David Birney).
Bridget’s parents, Walter (David Doyle) and Amy (Audra Lindley) Fitzgerald lived in a luxurious penthouse apartment at 1041 Central Park West. Walter, a staunch Republican, owned a company called Global Investments.
Sam (Harold J Stone) and Sophie (Bibi Osterwald) Steinberg ran Steinberg’s Delicatessen on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, located next to Goldstein’s Bakery. Moe Plotnic (Ned Glass) was Sophie’s brother and ran the catering end of the deli.
Bridget and Bernie set up their home in an apartment above the delicatessen.
Father Michael Fitzgerald (Robert Sampson) was Bridget’s older brother, a parish priest at the Immaculate Heart Church.
The widely divergent ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds of the Steinberg and Fitzgerald families and their attempts to reconcile for the sake of the young couple provided most of the plot situations.
The series scored highly in the ratings at first but was cancelled after one season, either because the writers were running out of ideas or because of the controversy it caused, focusing as it did on the religious divide.
So evidently convincing was the pairing, however, that Bridget and Bernie fell in love in real life too, Meredith Baxter and David Birney marrying in 1973.
The series had been the first on US television to show a married couple canoodling in bed – obviously, it was a particularly nice feeling. As Meredith Baxter-Birney, the star went on to headline in Family Ties.
If the Bridget Loves Bernie premise sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it was a TV adaptation of Abie’s Irish Rose, a comedy play that ran for more than 2,300 Broadway performances from 1922.
The play became a novel in 1927, a silent movie in 1928, a radio series in 1942 (taken off the air following protests about the ethnic stereotyping) and a talking movie in 1946, produced by (but not starring) Bing Crosby.
The premise became even more familiar in 1989 when American viewers had to suffer yet another variation on the theme, Chicken Soup, a very short-lived debacle for ABC, which, despite featuring British-born Lynn Redgrave in the cast, has never been screened in the UK.
Fr. Michael Fitzgerald
Harold J Stone
Uncle Moe Plotnick