May 24

That TV Show



When I was a young woman, I just loved That Girl.  I’d rush home from school to watch.  Later, several of us would watch in the common room of our dorm at college.

Over the years, I’ve owned video tapes, DVDs.  My mom bought me an episode guide for Christmas one year – which I still have.

I was absolutely excited last week when I found Season 1 is available on Amazon Prime – for free.  Just the perfect way to spend these rainy afternoons we’ve been having.

Each episode begins with a pre-credits teaser in which an odd incident occurs or a discussion foreshadows the episode’s story. The scene almost always ends with someone exclaiming “…that girl!”, just as Ann wanders into the shot or the character notices her. The words “That Girl” would appear over the freeze-frame shot of Ann. The opening credits during the first season featured Thomas, in character, strolling the streets of New York.



Here’s the very first episode:


That Girl starred Marlo Thomas as the title character Ann Marie, an aspiring (but only sporadically employed) actress, who moves from her hometown of Brewster, New York to try to make it big in New York City. Ann has to take a number of offbeat “temp” jobs to support herself in between her various auditions and bit parts.


Ted Bessell played her boyfriend Donald Hollinger.  Many times during the show, Ann would say “Oh, Donald”.  It’s become a catchphrase in our family.

I was so sorry when he died in 1996.  It seemed like we were losing a family member.


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8, 1996— Ted Bessell, the actor who starred with Marlo Thomas in the television comedy series ”That Girl” and was a director of the ”Tracey Ullman Show,” died on Sunday at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center. He was 57.

The cause was an aortic aneurysm, his family doctor said.

Mr. Bessell’s acting career spanned three decades, with appearances in at least 30 television productions including ”Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” ”Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and ”Don’t Drink the Water.” Perhaps his best-known role was as Donald Hollinger, the steady but suffering boyfriend of Ms. Thomas’s character in ”That Girl,” from 1966 to 1971.

”To this day when I’m walking in the street, people stop and ask me, ‘How is Donald?’ ” Ms. Thomas said today.

Ms. Thomas said Mr. Bessell was discussing a feature film remake of the series in which the two main characters, now 25 years older, would meet again and fall in love. ”That Girl,” set in New York City, was one of the first on television to focus on the life of a single woman.



That Girl also included a wonderful array of guest stars including Bernie Kopell, Ruth Buzzi, Dabney Coleman, Rob Reiner, Richard Dreyfuss, Carroll O’Connor, Teri Garr, Ethel Merman, Rob Reiner, Bill Bixby, Dick Shawn, Gary Marshall, Sid Caesar, Barry Williams, Vic Tayback, Larry Storch, Danny Thomas, McLean Stevenson, Avery Schreiber, Monty Hall, Jack Cassidy, Carl Reiner, Pat Boone, Russell Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Kenneth Mars, Regis Philbin, Joe Flynn, James Gregory, Reva Rose and Dick Van Patten.

Back to my show and my youth…


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