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A TV adaptation of the Tracy/Hepburn classic. Adam Bonner was a young assistant DA while his wife, Amanda, was a junior partner in a law firm. Their jobs often put them in conflict within the courtroom and, by extension, at home. Amanda (and the series) was also a crusader for women's rights. Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
"Adam's Rib" (the movie) is my least favourite of the Tracy-Hepburn films, because it's fundamentally dishonest. Tracy and Hepburn play husband and wife on opposite sides of a murder trial: Spence is the D.A. prosecuting a woman for attempted murder, whilst Kate is the defending attorney. I consider this movie dishonest because it tries to have things both ways: the defendant is clearly guilty, BUT the audience want to see Hepburn one-up Tracy ... so, she wins the case in court (where it counts) but then privately he makes her realise that she's wrong. The short-lived TV series "Adam's Rib", inspired by this film, is likewise dishonest for similar reasons.
The 1972 musical "1776" is one of my all-time favourite movies, and the TV series "Adam's Rib" (which went into production only a few months after "1776" wrapped) must have seemed like old-home week for several people involved in that movie. Ken Howard and Blythe Danner, who starred as Thomas Jefferson and his short-lived wife Martha in '1776', are once again cast as husband and wife in this sitcom called ... 'The Jeffersons'? No; "Adam's Rib". Peter Stone, who wrote the brilliant screenplay for '1776', and Peter H. Hunt, who directed that film, are on hand here as the head writer and principal director of "Adam's Rib". So, why isn't this TV series anywhere near so good as "1776"?
"Adam's Rib" (the TV series) takes the basic premise of the 1949 movie, brings it into the present (1973), and tries to make it 'relevant' (bad mistake). Howard and Danner make a great team; both have patrician good looks and keen intelligence. He's tall and ruggedly handsome. She's blonde and meltingly beautiful. In this series he's Adam, a strait-laced assistant D.A. who plays by the system's rules. Danner portrays his wife Amanda, a junior partner in a private practice. He's a slightly stodgy conservative and she's a crusading liberal, so there are no prizes for guessing who comes out on top in every episode.
This **could** have been a good series if it had handled topical themes intelligently, but too often it went for superficial treatment. In one episode, Amanda tries to get into a posh restaurant, but she's refused admission because she's wearing a trouser suit; the dress code requires ladies to wear skirts or dresses. Amanda goes swanning into her husband's office, complaining that this policy is discriminatory and is therefore illegal. Her husband the D.A. has more important things to deal with, such as prosecuting murderers and rapists. So, what does Amanda do? She goes out and buys a dress for 'a very large woman', then she comes back to her husband's office and she demands that he put it on! Apparently this will be a blow for women's rights. To show he's a good sport (or maybe that he's completely whipped), Adam puts on the frock. (Ken Howard is well over six feet tall; I assume that the dress he wears in this episode was custom-made for him.) Then he swanks about in his office, wearing a frock in front of his staff, so that the audience will realise he's a nice guy, or something. End of episode.
That sort of rubbish was absolutely typical of this series. The makers of "Adam's Rib" wanted credit for tackling important issues such as gender equality, but instead of dealing with intelligent solutions (such as wage parity), they decide that the way to achieve gender equality is by putting men into frocks.
Thankfully, the annoying character played by David Wayne in the film version of "Adam's Rib" has been changed beyond recognition into an almost entirely different character in this TV series, played by Edward Winter. A serious problem was the casting of Dena Dietrich as Adam's cynical office assistant. The brief run of this series on American TV coincided with a very successful TV commercial, in which Mother Nature (also played by Ms Dietrich) is fooled into mistaking Parkay margarine for 'my own sweet butter'. Ms Dietrich's presence in "Adam's Rib" inevitably provoked wisecracks along the lines of: 'What's Mother Nature doing in a law office?'
"Adam's Rib" (the TV show) had lofty ambitions but it fell far short of meeting them. As much as I'm a fan of Blythe Danner, this was far from her finest hour. Many years after this show was cancelled, series creator Peter Stone had another go at recycling a Tracy-Hepburn movie, turning 'Woman of the Year' into a Broadway musical. It was better than this TV series.
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