7 May 2002 | consortpinguin
An Overlooked Gem
`Goodnight, Beantown' was one of those comedies that you might call `too good for television.' Everything about this show -- the plot, the acting, the characters, the scripts, and even the Boston scenery boosted this short-lived series head and shoulders above the other sitcoms of its day. Unfortunately, the network pigeonholed it into the Sunday Night `death slot' and cancelled the show before it had a chance to catch on.
`Beantown' revolves around the newsroom of a mythical Boston television station. Veteran journalist Matt Cassidy (Bixby), whose credentials in the industry include Vietnam War reporting and many awards, is stunned to learn that his boss will bring in another reporter to `co-anchor' the evening news with him. Meanwhile, outspoken divorced redhead Jennifer Barnes (Hartley) and her daughter Susan move into the apartment across the hall from Cassidy, making a bad first impression. The next day when Matt runs into his new neighbor going in the same direction to work, he is once again stunned to learn that Jennifer Barnes is his new co-anchor. And of course the two generate a lot of laughs through too much togetherness both at home and at work.
Despite the show's comic premise, some of the episodes are based on real-life news issues. For example, when Matt exposes a well-known doctor for prescribing drugs much too generously, he goes to jail rather than obey a court order to reveal his sources. In another, Jennifer poses as a prostitute for a story about a police sting, facing a very irate John who she thought was a detective.
A running theme is Susan's schemes to romantically match her handsome bachelor neighbor with her single mom. Susan ensures that dedicated yachtsman Matt discovers her mom's shared interest in sailing and the three enjoy a lovely day of sailing around scenic Boston, which must have been filmed on location. I think the most enjoyable episode was their last show in which the very independent Matt gets engaged to a wealthy Boston socialite with very definite plans for his future.
Everything about this show, even the other denizens of the newsroom, add dimension. It is anything but predictable, unlike `the Mary Tyler Moore Show.' Interestingly, not long after her performance as Jennifer Barnes, Mariette Hartley got a gig as a real newscaster on the CBS Morning Program.
I think `Goodnight, Beantown' was a real winner that could have enjoyed great ratings and a long run if only the network had given it the support it deserved.