Title card showing Sidney Shorr and Patti Morgan together
|Opening theme||"Friends Forever" performed by Tony Randall, Swoosie Kurtz & Kaleena Kiff (Opening version, eps. 1-20, 30-44; Closing version, eps. 1-20); also by Gladys & Bubba Knight (Opening version, eps. 21-29; Closing version, eps. 21-44)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||44|
|Executive producer(s)||George Eckstein (1981–1982)
Rod Parker & Hal Cooper (1982–1983)
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Original run||October 28, 1981– June 6, 1983|
Love, Sidney was an American situation comedy which ran on NBC from October 28, 1981 until June 6, 1983. The series was based on a short story written by Marilyn Cantor Baker, which was subsequently adapted into a TV movie entitled Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, which NBC aired on October 5, 1981, a few weeks before the series premiered. The premise involved a gay man and his relationship with a single mother and her five-year-old daughter whom he invites to live with him. Tony Randall stars as Sidney Shorr, with Swoosie Kurtz as Laurie Morgan and Kaleena Kiff as her daughter Patti. The series was produced by Warner Bros. Television.
Love, Sidney was the first program on American television to feature a gay character as the central lead, although for the series, Sidney's homosexuality was almost entirely downplayed from its subtle yet unmistakable presence in the two-hour pilot.
Love, Sidney was a continuation of the television movie Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend. Randall played the title character, a well-to-do gay New Yorker in his 50s, who befriends a single woman, Laurie Morgan (Lorna Patterson) and the daughter she gives birth to. At the end of the movie, he is brokenhearted when the mother and daughter move to California. Laurie's daughter Patti is played in the later stages of the movie (once time lapses to her being five years old) by Kaleena Kiff, who retains the role in Love, Sidney.
With the debut of the series, Laurie Morgan (now played by Swoosie Kurtz) and Patti returned to New York when Laurie's marriage in California didn't work out. Sidney, Laurie and Patti were now all living under the same roof again, still in Sidney's Manhattan apartment. In the movie, viewers had seen Laurie work her way up in the ranks of show business; by the time frame of Love, Sidney, she had already become a known actress, primarily in television and commercials. She resumed her acting career in New York, appearing as vixen "Gloria Trenell" on the (fictional) daytime soap opera As Thus We Are. Sidney continued to be a doting father figure to precocious Patti, whose innocence filled his life with sunshine and provided him with the child he never had. Laurie and Sidney's relationship, from the outset, could be interpreted as running the gamut from being overprotective parents to that of brother and sister, with only fleeting displays of affection that could have suggested a more-than-platonic connection to the novice viewer.
More attention was paid in the series to Sidney's career as a professional illustrator; his frequent business deals were made with young ad agency director Jason Stoller (Chip Zien), who worked at Graham & Ludwig, Sidney's biggest account. Also showing up was Sidney's friend and neighbor in his building, local Judge Mort Harris (Alan North), who was dropped after the first season. At the start of the second season, the role of prominent neighbor was given to busybody Mrs. Gaffney (Barbara Bryne). She was the wife of the building's superintendent and was out on a neverending quest to gain Sidney's affections. Also added to the cast that season was Nancy (Lynne Thigpen), Jason's secretary at Graham & Ludwig.
Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend went into production during 1980. Network executives planned to turn the film into a weekly series if the film was a success in the ratings. However, after the film was complete, NBC continued to put off its premiere, to the extent that it did not even make it on the air during the 1980-81 season. By that time, the network decided to go ahead and begin development on the series, with the intention of airing the movie as an introductory to the new sitcom that would be on the 1981 fall schedule.
By the time Love, Sidney series was being cast, Lorna Patterson was no longer available, as she had already begun starring on CBS' Private Benjamin; Swoosie Kurtz took over the role of Laurie Morgan. Tony Randall, bitter about regular television roles after the cancellation of his last series The Tony Randall Show (1976–78), agreed to Love, Sidney on only one condition—that it would provide him extra income that would go toward the financing of the national theatre he wanted to open and run in New York City. The salary he made over the show's two seasons eventually paid off when his National Actors Theatre opened at NYC's Pace University in 1991.
When the series was announced, NBC received complaints from the Moral Majority and other special-interest groups upset about a positive portrayal of homosexuality. Initially, nothing in the series referred to its lead character's sexuality except oblique, coded hints. Despite the rather ambiguous nature of Sidney's personal life aside from Laurie and Patti (some critics defined the character as a "confirmed bachelor" in the wake of the show's early downplay of homosexuality), Love, Sidney ended up being a notably big hit in New York City, since the show's premise mirrored real life in that area, especially among their gay population. The show was also popular in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Elsewhere however, the show's performance per market ran the gamut from at most moderately successful to poorly rated all through the run. As the network's concern over special interest groups waned, indications of Sidney Shorr's orientation remained hush until an overhaul in the show's creative team in 1982 changed all that.
George Eckstein was the original executive producer from the time of Love, Sidney's premiere. While the series performed well enough for NBC to warrant it a second season, they pushed for changes in order to improve the show's chances for lasting success. At the start of the 1982-83 season, the network hired the veteran producing team of Rod Parker and Hal Cooper to take over the show. Parker and Cooper, together with existing producers Ken Hecht and Sandy Veith, made many changes, including two new regular cast members and a switch to more meaningful, moralized stories which bordered on the "very special episode" format. The first eight episodes of the second season also featured a remixed version of the theme song, sung by Gladys and Bubba Knight; with the November 27, 1982 episode ("Jan, Part 1"), the original version of the theme was reinstated for the title sequence only, while the closing credits retained the outro track recorded by the Knights.
There was one new aspect the producing team veered toward a little more gradually, mostly since it was still a new, uncharted topic on television at the time: the exploration of Sidney's sexuality. It was clear that they wanted to go for it, first with the addition of Mrs. Gaffney, who had designs on Sidney. More hints made their way into the stories until May 1983. In a special hour-long episode aired on May 16, Sidney agrees to go out on some dates with new co-worker Allison (Martha Smith). Their courtship ends up fizzling out because of a lack of passion on Sidney's part. He insists that since his heart had been broken so greatly by his past long-time love, he could never love another again. After Allison breaks down into tears following their conversation, she is left alone by Sidney in his living room, and as she prepares to leave, cries, "If only she [Sidney's past love] knew what she was missing." The camera then pans over to Sidney's fireplace, showing a man's photo. It was this same photo that, in the pilot movie, was that of Sidney's former lover Martin when it was more openly revealed. (It is never made clear whether Martin died or left Sidney. Sidney says he went away, but Sidney tends to use euphemisms.) The following episode, the next to last in the series, had an acknowledged gay character as a guest star, a psychiatrist who befriends Sidney after the latter talks him out of suicide.
The full-out pursuance of gay themes, in relation to Sidney Shorr, never moved further for the TV series, as NBC did not pick up Love, Sidney for a third season.
Season 1: 1981–82
|Nº||Title||U.S. air date|
|1||"Welcome Home"||October 28, 1981|
|2||"A Piece of the Rock"||November 4, 1981|
|3||"The Party"||November 11, 1981|
|4||"The Cat Burglar"||November 18, 1981|
|5||"Just Folks"||December 2, 1981|
|6||"Run With It"||December 9, 1981|
|7||"Fiddler Under the Roof"||December 16, 1981|
|8||"Hello, Yetta"||December 30, 1981|
|9||"Charlotte's Web"||January 13, 1982|
|10||"The Price of Security"||January 20, 1982|
|11||"Grade Expectations"||January 27, 1982|
|12||"Sail Away"||February 3, 1982|
|13||"Laurie's First Date, A.D."||February 10, 1982|
|14||"Is There Life After Show Business?"||February 17, 1982|
|15||"Puppy Love"||February 24, 1982|
|16||"Laurie's Commercial"||March 3, 1982|
|17||"The Torch"||March 17, 1982|
|18||"Patti's Roots"||March 31, 1982|
|19||"Visitors From Smoot"||April 7, 1982|
|20||"Sidney and the Actress"||June 16, 1982|
|21||"The Activist"||September 8, 1982|
|22||"Father's Day"||September 15, 1982|
Season 2: 1982–83
|Nº||Title||U.S. air date|
|23||"Pros and Cons"||October 2, 1982|
|24||"The Accident"||October 9, 1982|
|25||"Sidney's Spree"||October 16, 1982|
|26||"Sidney's Cousin"||October 23, 1982|
|27||"The Anniversary"||October 30, 1982|
|28||"Rhonda Rabbit"||November 6, 1982|
|29||"Sitcom"||November 13, 1982|
|30||"Jan" (Part 1)||November 27, 1982|
|31||"Jan" (Part 2)||December 4, 1982|
|32||"Sidney's Hero"||December 11, 1982|
|33||"Ballet"||December 18, 1982|
|34||"One Is Enough"||March 28, 1983|
|35||"Show Biz Mamas"||April 4, 1983|
|36||"Blinded"||April 11, 1983|
|37||"Sidney's Bar Mitzvah"||April 18, 1983|
|38||"The Movie"||April 25, 1983|
|39||"Sidney's Art Show"||May 2, 1983|
|40||"The Revolutionary"||May 9, 1983|
|41||"Alison" (Part 1)||May 16, 1983|
|42||"Alison" (Part 2)||May 16, 1983|
|43||"The Shrink"||May 30, 1983|
|44||"Surprise Party"||June 6, 1983|