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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

That Girl: Season One (review)

Oh, man, do I remember watching reruns of That Girl as a kid and thinking, Wow, she works in Manhattan! She has her own apartment! I wanna be That Girl when I grow up! Sure, Mary Tyler Moore had already come along by that point and I was watching reruns of her show, too, but those two were it when it came to smart career gals with lives on their own on TV to inspire a little kid like me. Still, I approached That Girl — finally on DVD! — with some trepidation, wincing in anticipation of the kitschfest I was certain I was in for. But you know what? No snark is required here to get a real kick out of the big-city adventures of wannabe actress Ann Marie, a girl from Westchester trying out this newfangled feminist independence thing. I mean, sure, these 30 episodes — the entire first season, which aired from September 1966 through April 1967 — are dated, very much products of their time. The episode in which Ann’s parents (Lew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp) come running in the middle of the night because they believe that Ann has done the horizontal bebop with her boyfriend, Don (Ted Bessell), is actually more than a little creepy today — the humor comes from the convoluted plot machinations required to get Ann and Ted innocently into the same room at a romantic inn and not from the weird obsession her parents have over Ann’s sex life. Of course, Ann does not have a sex life: even a modern independent career gal wouldn’t do, you know, that before she was married. That’s the mindset of the show: Ann is allowed her freedom, grudgingly, because she’s a “good” girl, not a “bad” one. Still, Marlo Thomas is delightful as Ann — sweet, but not naive; there’s a sly undercurrent to her performance that is all about pushing just hard enough to defy the juvenilization of adult women without being so audacious as to alienate the minds she was trying to change. And the tales of her life are genuine and feel important, if only on the small scale of one person’s life, and not like the throwaway nonsense that characterizes most sitcoms. Even the laugh track is unobnoxious. The 5-disc set also includes the original pilot episode, a new featurette and interview with Marlo Thomas, audio commentaries on some episodes from Thomas and series creator Bill Persky, and more.


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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