Bonnie Hunt just wants “a show that will last more than one season,” she said.
This year she got her wish. During a year in which ABC struggled, Life With Bonnie shined, and right after the February sweeps, it earned an early pickup for next season.
Still, the road to Ms. Hunt’s pickup was filled with plenty of potholes. Though she is proud of the four other sitcoms in which she has appeared (Grand, Davis Rules, The Building and The Bonnie Hunt Show), they all faltered. Nevertheless, to Steve McPherson, president of Touchstone Television, “Without exaggeration, Bonnie is one of the most brilliant comedians in the world. She is exceedingly funny, both in real life and on screen.”
While Ms. Hunt’s other series may have been critically acclaimed, Mr. McPherson said that she has succeeded with the audience this time because “We did not try to cast her into a role. Bonnie Molloy is her vision. She now has a platform to do what she does best. She’s a hero to women. She’s every woman’s mother, daughter, sister and friend.”
Executive producer Don Lake said that the audience, which ranks as ABC’s most upscale for a comedy this season, identifies with Ms. Hunt’s performance because “she is so genuine and real and honest. And she’s an incredible actress and comedian. I would put her up there with Lucille Ball.”
Ms. Hunt herself has noticed that “America has an emotional response to my character. She’s not organized. She’s not perfect, but she’s like every woman who has a sense of herself.”
On a program that has a reputation for deviating from the script, Mr. Lake maintains that what distinguishes Bonnie as a comedic actress is her mind. “She is so fast. She thinks on her feet,” he said. “Not only does she improvise when she is playing the talk-show host, but she improvises with the family-and she even helps her fellow actors shine.”
Ms. Hunt, the first woman to serve as a writer, producer, director and star of a series, appears to genuinely relish the challenge that her semi-scripted program offers.
“We have the freedom to take risks,” she said. “The improvisation is not a competitive sport. It’s teamwork. And I love the challenge of staying in character when someone throws in an improvisation.”