Friday, March 01, 2013

In memory of Bonnie Franklin...

So sorry to hear of the passing of Bonnie Franklin. She was 69. In the mid ‘70s thru mid ‘80s she was the mom on ONE DAY AT A TIME. I had the pleasure of working with her on ALMOST PERFECT in the ‘90s and we remained friends. She also did a screenplay reading for me.

For whatever reason ONE DAY AT A TIME has fallen between the syndication cracks. You don’t see the reruns very often. And it’s a shame because you’re missing a terrific comic actress. What Mary Tyler Moore did for single women in the ‘70s, Bonnie did for single moms. Her character handled the struggles of single parenting with grace and humor.

Especially humor. That was an era in which many sitcoms had very dramatic premises. And dealt with tough social issues. The comedy had to really come from character. Lines were funny because the actor delivering them had just the right attitude, just the right light touch. Bonnie was the best. Her timing, delivery, and comic sense was impeccable. And she brought such warmth and strength to the part that you didn’t just laugh, you cared. If you were a teenage girl during the years of ONE DAY AT A TIME you wanted Bonnie Franklin to be your mom, even if you loved your real mom.

I got the chance to direct her in an episode of ALMOST PERFECT and marveled at how much extra she brought to her role and how effortless she made it seem. She was the consummate professional. A writer and a director's dream. 

She also sang, danced, was nominated for a Tony, appeared in movies, plays, and was very active in educational programs and local theater companies. She will be greatly missed.

I hope some cable channel does a ONE DAY AT A TIME marathon. Bonnie Franklin deserves a hallowed spot in television history. She already has one in my heart.

18 comments:

Mike said...

Exactly right. I was lucky enough to have two loving parents, but damn if I didn't imagine that life might be better sometimes if I had Anne Romano as my single mom. (Granted, I was younger than a teenager at the time but still...)

msb said...

Speaking of singing and dancing ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89DzMDC6gws

Rick Graziano said...

As a pre-teen and later teen boy, I had a crush on not only Makenzie and Valerie on the show, but also Bonnie...there was just something about that red hair.

Cap'n Bob said...

I liked her tap dancing but the show was not in my wheelhouse. She died too young, though.

Mitch said...

Your comment about ONE DAY AT A TIME falling between the cracks prompts a question, Ken. Have all your years in television, as a writer, a director and a show runner, given you any insight into why some shows remain perenially popular while others fade out? It doesn't necessarily seem to be question of quality. There are lots of excellent shows that rarely, if ever, see the light of day, while some not-so-excellent shows retain their popularity.

Roseann said...

I saw her on the Broadway stage in Applause. I forgot neither her performance or Lauren Bacall's either.

Mike Barer said...

Though somewhat overshadowed by the two strong actors playing her daughters, Bonnie was convincing as the mother facing the challenge of raising two adolescent children on her own.
This is a sad loss.

Anonymous said...

Strange feeling, as we start hitting middle age, our old familiar touchstones we think will be around forever begin to simply vanish. I was thinking about how much the academy awards have changed from 25 years ago, not the same quality level of people, then it struck me: a lot of those people are old or dead. Johnny Carson is gone. Carey Grant is long gone, and the once cool and dapper Jack Nicholson has turned into a burned-out Walter Brennan.
Getting older truly isn't for sissies.

http://ktla.com/2013/02/27/historic-khj-radio-tower-demolished-jim-castillo-reports/#axzz2MLJr1dBf

Storm said...

Oh, bugger. I knew she was ill, but I hadn't checked the news at all today, so this is the first I've heard of her passing. Yet Dick Cheney and that Phelps asshole continue to breathe air. There's some justice for ya.

ODAAT came on the air just as my mother, all of about 27 at the time (I was 7) divorced my jerkass bio-father and moved from California to Ohio, where she had family and started life over again, including going to college as she had originally planned (but was not "allowed"). This seems like no big deal now, but in the mid-70s, it was quite shocking and daring. Oh, my mother's joy and relief the first time she saw that show; somebody GOT IT, somebody knew how hard it was to start over with a kid in tow! Anne Romano was her hero, and she tried her best to follow her example of standing up for yourself, as a woman and a person, facing idiocy with disdainful laughter, rolling with the hard times, not letting anyone tell her what she could or couldn't do because she was a woman and a mother. And like Anne Romano, she taught that all to me, and tried her best to make sure that I wouldn't face the same restrictions and ignorance she did as a girl.

Anne Romano was my mother's hero and mine, and so was Bonnie Franklin... and it's taken her loss to realize it. And I can't stop crying.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

chalmers said...

I think shows that succeed in syndication tend to be the ones either about children or those without children.

"One Day at a Time" was in the middle. At the outset, the girls drove most of the action, but the crux of the show was Anne's reaction to their problems and situations. Significant time was also devoted to Anne's relationship, friendships and career.

"Family Ties" started like that too, until Gary David Goldberg saw Michael J. Fox's talent and revamped it into a tradtional show about Alex. Because of the change, FT was a hit in the kid-oriented syndication hours whereas ODAT didn't have that youth appeal but also seemed out of place among the grownup syndication hours, as opposed to "M*A*S*H" or "Cheers."

Second, as the poster above was inspired by what was at the time a groundbreaking premise, as time went on, the situation became so normal in society and on TV, that the premise lost its unique punch.

I remember several sharp exchanges concerning Anne's decision to revert to her maiden name. Where does that occur now? On the "Parks and Rec" wedding epsiode, Ben pranked Leslie by "insisting" that she take his name, until he came clean and they both laughed about how ridiculous the idea was.

Finally, for various reasons, the show revamped itself several times. When these changes would happen in a new season, they weren't so jarring. In syndication, one week you might be watching Anne dating Richard Masur, a few weeks later, the girls might be married and how did Glenn Scarpelli get there?


LAprGuy said...

I remember ONE DAY AT A TIME being slightly past my bedtime, so if I got watch it I must have sneaked into the family room. But I eventually watch all the episodes when CBS stripped them into mornings ... definitely one of those series where I "learned about life by watching TV."

LAprGuy said...

(Crud - I hate typing on an ipad.)

D. McEwan said...

A lovely tribute to a good actress and fine human being. I only watched the first season of One Day at a Time, but my growing tired of it quickly had everything to do with my tastes and nothing whatever to do with Bonnie's unmistakable talent. I am sorry for your - and all of ours - loss.

Breadbaker said...

A dear friend of mine remembers seeing Bonnie singing the title song in Applause! on Broadway and so I hunted this down on YouTube. Despite the weird 70s clothing, this is a star in the making. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89DzMDC6gws

chuckcd said...

Liked the show and LOVED Bonnie Franklin.

Jeffrey Mark said...

She will be extremely missed. I was a huge fan of One Day At A Time and stayed with the show during it's long run. One of her best episodes where she really stretched out was when her daughter Julie moves out and moves in with her boy friend. It was a two parter and Bonnie showed her acting chops with perfection as a very concerned parent. Another one of the good one's gone. Too young indeed.

Dan C. said...

I was an avid fan of One Day at a Time, but being a young man always had my eye on Barbara. Suprisingly the only scene I really remember well was of Anne in Schnieders apartment having consumed a bottle of liquor and commenting on how her teeth itched and her hair hurt... but I digress.
Now I read that Valerie Harper has terminal cancer. Another of my favourite 70's/80's sitcom actresses leaving us. Any rememberances of Valerie Ken? Fond I hope?! (or at least wait until she's died before lighting up the torches)

Cue The Bunny On The Rainbow said...

From the AV Club--a very young Bonnie in a Crisco sponsored short: http://www.avgeeks.com/wp2/youre-the-judge-2/