1 9 7 4 – 1 9 7 5 (USA)
Feminism fueled this series about a woman enduring the end of her marriage with the aid of a liberated female therapist.
Originally, the show aired at 3:30 pm, sandwiched between Another World and Somerset. It was slightly risque (for the time, at least) and attracted quite a sizable college-aged and teenaged following as a result.
The series premiered on 7 January 1974 (replacing the ill-fated Return To Peyton Place) with a special 90-minute episode which featured two couples in bed together after lovemaking.
Although not shown, it was implied that they were naked under the covers, and that was a first for US daytime television.
The original major storyline involved Chris Kirby (Jennifer Harmon), a 30-year-old woman who faced the need to go out into a world that was foreign to her (because her marriage to Larry had been protecting her from it), get a job, raise a child by herself, find a new place to live, learn to date again, and learn what it meant to be suddenly single.
Other couples experiencing their own issues included Peter (Steve Elmore) and Joan (Tricia O’Neil) Willis, Fran (Fran Brill) and David (Allan Miller) Bachman, and Monica (Joan Copeland) and Terry (Peter Brandon) Courtland.
Characters often started out one way but metamorphosed into people who wouldn’t have been at home in the previous storylines. For example, feminist Dr Julie Franklin (Rosemary Prinz), who had counselled Lori on how she could and should become independent, decided her life would be complete by marrying Dr De Angelo (George Welbes).
Peter Willis, the male chauvinist pig who flirted with the ladies while his wife Joan sought solace in alcohol, somehow transformed into being everybody’s confidante whose big problem was having a wife who did not want a baby. The storyline twisted again and ended with the two having a baby, but not before the pregnancy was threatened by German measles, which, it turned out, Joan didn’t have after all.
And just why did the thrice-wed Monica turn mother figure and adopt a critically ill man abandoned by his gangster stepfather?
Former prizefighter Armand Assante and Lauren White made their daytime TV debut as Johnny and Maria McGhee, and Lynn Lowry was wonderful as home-wrecker Sandra Henderson.
One element of the series was so consistent that it became an in-joke among the show’s staff. Anyone leaving the show invariably had his or her character “transferred to Detroit,” as was the case for Michael Landrum when he was written out as Larry.
That was a better fate than what happened when Allen Miller had to leave unexpectedly in the summer of 1974. His character David went into bankruptcy, then had a heart attack and died, leaving behind his grieving wife, Fran.
Unfortunately, How To Survive a Marriage was burdened with a concept of non-story. The formula never varied: introduce a character, introduce her problem, have everyone else in the story talk about that problem – usually something socially relevant like women’s liberation, male impotence, fear of child-bearing, entering the swinging singles life etc.
The problems just mounted up. No story. Occasionally someone’s problem was solved, thank God.
Michael Landrum (1)
Ken Kercheval (2)
Dr Tony De Angelo
Steve Elmore (1)
Berkeley Harris (2)
Dr Charles Maynard
Dr Julie Franklin
Lori Ann Kirby
Suzanne Davidson (1)
Cathy Greene (2)
Joshua T Browne
F Murray Abraham
Dr Robert Monday