THAT GIRL ran from the mid-sixties into the early seventies and presented the comic misadventures of one Ann Marie in her struggle to make it on her own as an actress in New York City. It has been rightly hailed as a feminist forerunner and certainly went a long way toward implanting the equality of women in my young male mind but beyond all of that, it was a damn funny show about some very likable people. Marlo Thomas stepped out from her father Danny’s rather extensive shadow as Ann while former bit part actor Ted Bessell developed a unique style as her writer boyfriend, Donald. More than on most shows, Donald and Ann were both portrayed as equals with him getting into as much trouble as she…sometimes more. Ann’s parents recurred throughout the run with vaudeville veteran Lew Parker as her father
(played stereotypically New York Jewish for some reason. In the original pilot even moreso by Harold Gould!) and Rosemary DeCamp as her understanding mother. At various times there were neighbors, friends and agents played by, among others, LOVE BOAT’s Bernie Kopell, Ruth Buzzi, Reva Rose and a beardless George Carlin!
Ann’s career tended to take the fore in plots that dealt with auditions, plays, commercials and model shoots. The standard joke was that she lived in a pretty nice apartment for a struggling actress (who took odd jobs between acting gigs) and never seemed to wear an outfit more than once. Donald (Ann always called him that, not "Don" or "Donny" or even "Bobo") was a successful magazine writer who wanted to be a novelist. He was quite square by sixties standards and straight-laced perhaps beyond all reality but it fit in with this show.
In the show’s final season, the pair got a little hipper with new hairstyles and more "with it" clothing. Ann and Don actually got engaged and even the catchy instrumental theme song finally got words! The series ended with them still unwed. Marlo has said (and rightfully so based on the track record of other series) that their marriage would be the kiss of death for the relationship and the series.
While Ted Bessell was alive, there was talk of a possible reunion. Marlo had gone on to a marvelous career as an author and a humanitarian and Ted had become a successful director. In fact, at one time, he was set to direct the big-screen version of BEWITCHED (as released, although very different from what he had envisioned I'm told, the film is dedicated to him). I exchanged several letters with Marlo Thomas in the early eighties by writing her in care of Phil Donahue (figuring—apparently correctly—that husband Phil could just hand her the letter and she was more likely to see it) and continue to admire and appreciate her. There was a great book about the show (see above) and I bought the 3 tape VHS set a few years back. Eventually, THAT GIRL became the first TV series where I purchased all of the DVD seasons! While nostalgic, I was pleased to find that most of the episodes still held up when I renewed my acquaintance with Ann Marie, television’s first liberated woman…you know…THAT GIRL!