FAY: Witt, Thomas, & Harris Before SOAP

Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! I’ve long since wanted to dedicate a post to Fay (1975-1976, NBC), the controversial ten episode sitcom that was created by Susan Harris and starred Lee Grant as a 43-year-old divorcée. I wrote about the series following a screening of two installments over my spring break in 2014.


Here’s an excerpt: “This ten episode wonder, created by Susan Harris, can best and succinctly be described as a more liberal and mature rendition of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Lee Grant starred as Fay Stewart, a 43-year-old divorcée who left her husband and became a secretary at a San Francisco law office. Joe Silver starred as her ex-husband, Jack, and Audra Lindley (the future Mrs. Roper) played Fay’s neighbor and best friend, the modern-thinking Lillian. Other characters included Fay’s 23-year-old daughter and her new husband, Fay’s two bosses, and Fay’s black co-worker and friend. Fearful that the risque subject matter may alienate its audience, NBC reshuffled the intended airing order of the installments, putting the less controversial ones first. This turned out to be a mistake, as the series was off the air by the end of October due to low ratings. Grant, who insists that she learned of the cancellation by a stagehand, publicly criticized NBC and gave them the bird on The Tonight Show. Repeats, along with two previously unaired installments, aired that summer. For her work in these ten short episodes, Grant was nominated for an Emmy Award. Of all the shows I screened over Spring Break, this series impressed me the most.” Check out my thoughts on the two installments, Episode 3: “Mom’s Realization” (Aired: 09/18/75) and Episode 10: “Not Another Mother’s Day” (Aired: 06/02/76), here.


Since viewing those two shows, I’ve had the pleasure of acquiring a copy of the movie Man Trouble, which was put together in the early ’80s and consisted of four Fay episodes edited into one narrative. In addition to “Not Another Mother’s Day,” the film featured “Danny Falls In Love,” in which Fay’s boss falls in love with her, “Mr. Wonderful,” in which Fay is hit on by her best friend’s fiancé, and “Jack Remarries,” in which Fay’s ex-husband announces his plans to marry. Unfortunately, none of these four episodes are hysterical; it seems that the more controversial episodes — those with which NBC had a problem (like “Not With My Husband You Don’t” and “Fay And The Doctor”) and avoided airing due to the recently enforced Family Viewing Hour — were not used. (Surprisingly, the film didn’t feature the purportedly extraordinarily written pilot either.) So, I’m still holding out hope that one day I’ll see the rest of the series, especially the episodes that helped give Fay its fascinating reputation. (If anyone out there can help me out, please don’t hesitate to let me know!)


In the meantime, I pieced together the segments from an episode included in the film, Episode 4: “Mr. Wonderful” (Aired: 09/25/75), which guest stars Renee Taylor and Pat Harrington, and aired the day after Grant’s infamous appearance with Johnny Carson. This may not be exactly what aired on NBC, but it’s everything from the installment that made it into Man Trouble.



Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Hercules!