Grace Under Fire
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|Grace Under Fire|
The season 4 characters of Grace Under Fire (from left to right), Floyd, Nadine, Wade, Libby, Grace, Patrick, Quentin, Jean, and Russell.
|Created by||Chuck Lorre|
Jon Paul Steuer
Dylan and Cole Sprouse
|Theme music composer||Lennon–McCartney|
|Opening theme||"Lady Madonna" by Aretha Franklin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||112 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Original run||September 29, 1993– February 17, 1998|
Grace Under Fire is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from September 29, 1993 to February 17, 1998. The show starred Brett Butler, as a single mother learning how to cope with raising her three children alone after finally divorcing her no-good husband. The series was created by Chuck Lorre and produced by Carsey-Werner Productions.
Grace Under Fire was the highest rated new comedy of the 1993–1994 season.
Premise of show
Grace Under Fire, produced by Carsey-Werner International, was part of a wave of shows in the late 1980s and 1990s that were built around a comedian (and in some cases, closely based on his or her comedy routine). As for Carsey-Werner, many of their shows were based around non-traditional, non-nuclear families.
Grace Under Fire followed a similar formula; Butler starred as Grace Kelly, a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic. The show begins after the main character divorces her abusive alcoholic husband of eight years in an attempt to start life anew and prevent her children from making the same mistakes she did. The show revolved around Grace; her children, mischievous Quentin (Noah Segan, pilot; Jon Paul Steuer, seasons 1-3; Sam Horrigan, seasons 4-5), happy-go-lucky Libby (Kaitlin Cullum), and infant Patrick (Dylan and Cole Sprouse); her happily married best friends and neighbors, Nadine and Wade Swoboda (Julie White and Casey Sander); and the town's bachelor pharmacist, Russell Norton (Dave Thomas). All of them helped Grace keep whatever shreds of sanity she had left.
In the first three seasons, the show had a very blue-collar appeal due to Grace's chosen line of work, post-divorce; she operated pipelines at the local oil refinery, and had a second family of fellow crew workers down at the plant. Among them were heavy-set Dougie Boardreau (Walter Olkewicz), friendly Vic (Dave Florek), and Carl (Louis Mandylor). Their gruff boss was Bill Davis (Charles Hallahan). Both Bill and Carl were dropped after the first season; while Carl hadn't a permanent on-screen replacement, the crew's new boss was John Shirley (Paul Dooley) starting in the second season.
Russell's affection for Grace, and their on-and-off dating rituals, became a running theme in the series. While never fully attached, it was suggested that Russell and Grace may have done a lot of right for each other as a couple, especially given the nature of their no-good exes. In between their periods of dating, they often tried others; for a time in 1994, Grace dated Ryan Sparks (William Fichtner), a quirky chemist who worked in the oil refinery's labs. In season three, Grace entered into a relationship with suave plant executive Rick Bradshaw (Alan Autry). As with Ryan, the affair between Grace and Rick occurred despite their radically different places in the company ladder. When the fourth season opened, Grace moved on from the oil refinery and took an entry-level position with an ad agency, working her way up to being a white-collar professional. That job only lasted a year, but she then took on similar business work for a construction company owned by D.C. (Don "D.C." Curry). In the final season, Russell found some romantic interest in Dottie (Lauren Tom), a gossipping makeup artist.
Throughout the entire five-year run, Grace's ex-husband Jimmy Kelly (Geoff Pierson) showed up, sometimes causing problems and at others miraculously clean and sober, trying to win Grace back. A reconciliation never quite happened, but the two did settle on a good friendship for the sake of the kids. In the midst of Jimmy's attempts to get straight, his father Emmett (guest star Matt Clark) died and his mother Jean (Peggy Rea), Grace's mother-in-law, offered to move in and help Grace raise the kids (Rea had previously guest starred as Jean a few times since the series premiered). Russell eventually reconciled with his estranged dad, Floyd (Tom Poston), who ended up moving in with him and working with him in the pharmacy. Jean and Floyd eventually started going out. As far as Grace's own kin and past life went, she had a regular source of support from her sister Faith (Valri Bromfield) in the first two seasons. Another development came when Grace was contacted by her first child, Matthew (guest star Tom Everett Scott), whom she gave up for adoption before meeting Jimmy. Matthew had questions about his ancestry and ended up meeting his biological father.
In early 1998, Grace's old best friend Bev Henderson (Julia Duffy) came back to town and ended up moving in with the Kellys. In the intervening years, Bev had become quite successful and wealthy. She returned to her old home town to get in touch with her working-class roots. Grace and Bev's personal reunion was unexpectedly the last major storyline of the series. Although she was joining the cast full-time, Duffy only appeared in two network-aired episodes of Grace Under Fire before the series was suddenly canceled in mid-February.
- Brett Butler as Grace Kelly
- Dave Thomas as Russell Norton
- Julie White as Nadine Swoboda (1993–1997)
- Casey Sander as Wade Swoboda
- Jon Paul Steuer as Quentin Kelly (1993–1996)
- Sam Horrigan as Quentin Kelly (1996–1998)
- Kaitlin Cullum as Elizabeth Louise "Libby" Kelly
- Dylan and Cole Sprouse as Patrick Kelly
- Walter Olkewicz as Dougie Boardreau (1993–1996)
- Dave Florek as Vic (1993–1996)
- Louis Mandylor as Carl (1993–1994)
- Charles Hallahan as Bill Davis (1993–1994)
- Valri Bromfield as Faith Burdette (1993–1995)
- William Fichtner as Ryan Sparks (1994)
- Paul Dooley as John Shirley (1994–1996)
- Peggy Rea as Jean Kelly (1995–1998)
- Tom Poston as Floyd Norton (1995–1998)
- Alan Autry as Rick Bradshaw (1995–1996)
- Don 'D.C.' Curry as D.C. (1997–1998)
- Lauren Tom as Dot (1997–1998)
- Julia Duffy as Bev Henderson (1998)
The show was the highest rated new show in its first season. In the month before Grace Under Fire first aired, Showtime broadcast the Carsey Werner-produced Brett Butler Special, a half-hour comedy performance by Butler.
- 1993–1994: #5 (17.9 rating)
- 1994–1995: #4 (18.8 rating)
- 1995–1996: #13 (13.2 rating)
- 1996–1997: #45 (tie)(9.1 rating)
- 1997–1998: #68 (tie)
Awards and nominations
Grace Under Fire was nominated for three Golden Globe awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series Comedy/Musical in 1995 and 1997 and Best TV Series Comedy/Musical in 1995.
Jean Stapleton was nominated for the 1995 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy series Emmy Award for playing Aunt Vivian in the episode "The Road to Paris Texas." Diane Ladd was nominated for the same award the previous year for playing Louise Burdett in the episode entitled "Things Left Undone" written by Brett Butler and Wayne Lemon.
Controversy and cancellation
After the first season, the creative aspect of the show experienced a revolving door of producers and writers. These changes were a result of creative clashes between the production team and Butler. Butler constantly fought for (and eventually won) more creative control for her character and show. These arguments led to the removal of the show's Creator/Executive Producer, Chuck Lorre, from production work, although he stayed with the show as a "comedy consultant." As with fellow Carsey-Werner shows Roseanne and Cybill, the back-stage conflicts of Grace Under Fire were well publicized.
As the third season concluded in the spring of 1996, Jon Paul Steuer left the series. Sources have speculated that Steuer's mother pulled him out of the show after an incident with Butler, who reportedly flashed her breasts at the 12-year-old actor. At the start of Season 4, Sam Horrigan became the third actor to play Quentin Kelly, and with him in the role, the character's age advanced to 16.
In the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, Butler was fighting a painkiller addiction, for which she eventually sought medical help. Cast member Julie White left the show after Season 4, also citing Butler's behavior as the reason. All the while, Grace Under Fire, which had been a Top 20 series for its first three seasons, began to take a significant drop in the ratings during season four, from 13th place to 45th.
Butler's first round of treatment and rehab delayed the start of the 1997–98 season until November. After Grace Under Fire resumed production on season five, a newly-clean Butler struggled to stay that way; the morale on the set was little better than in the previous season, due to the star's erratic behavior. Around the holidays, Butler relapsed again, and although the producers were as committed as ever to continuing the show, ABC was becoming concerned about Butler's overall health, and was less patient with her accelerated amount of missed tapings. Furthermore, the show's ratings continued to fall dramatically, which may have well been attributed to Butler's reputation in the press, the longer-than-usual hiatus the series took between seasons four and five, and the fact that the character of Grace Kelly no longer went through the kinds of struggles that had made the show successful earlier on. The addition of Julia Duffy several episodes into the fifth season was a last-ditch attempt to improve the ratings, but with Butler in her current state, the network was not inspired to continue on. Rather abruptly, with the February 17, 1998 telecast, ABC canceled the series. The three-month long final season averaged at #68 in the 1997-98 Nielsen rankings.
A Polish adaptation titled Hela w opałach (Hela Under Fire, Hela is short form from Helen) aired on TVN in September 2006.
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- Watson, Bret (June 30, 1995). "Nyet-Work Television". Entertainment Weekly.
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- Flint, Joe (1997-09-12). "Sad Fall From 'Grace'". EW.com. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- "Grace Under Fire | A Television Heaven Review". Televisionheaven.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- "Brett Butler's Problems Halt `Grace Under Fire'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
- Lowry, Brian (February 17, 1998). "Why 'Grace' Tumbled Under Fire". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- "BBC - Comedy Guide - Grace Under Fire". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2005-01-28. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Москва Нью-Йорк Лондон. "Кинокомпания Амедиа". Amediafilm.com. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Grace Under Fire at the Internet Movie Database
- Grace Under Fire at TV.com
- Polish version official website (Polish)
- Fame, Fire and Surrender: Interview with Brett Butler