I'll Fly Away (TV Series 1991–1993) Poster

(1991–1993)

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Television At Its Finest
Texasguy16 May 2001
"I'll Fly Away" was and always will be my favorite show. Intelligent, well written, and beautifully acted, the show was much more than prime time entertainment and I was absolutely heartbroken when it was cancelled. I was ten when the series premiered, and my mother and I would watch it (and cry) every week. Though it has been years since I have seen an episode, I still never fail to feel a huge lump in the back of my throat at the thoughts of Lily registering to vote, or John Morgan telling his friends that his mother is a famous cowgirl. Each episode was like a small Horton Foote play, and to watch its characters grow over a long period of time was the show's greatest asset.

Though an enormous critical success, I find it tragic that the show has become such a forgotten treasure. In today's cynical world of post-O.J. Simpson, I will always remember "I'll Fly Away" for its shear hope, optimism, and unabashed honesty.

It is high time for this show to be brought back for reruns!!!

Forrest Bedford is an extremely flawed and conflicted character, and his relationship with Lily is deeply strained. Morally, he understands that segregation is wrong and that integration is inevitable, however he worries about the changes Civil Rights will bring as he is bound up with tradition. He beautifully illustrates the mindset of several white southerners as his dilemma is representative of the struggle of tradition vs. change that STILL plagues the modern south.
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10/10
Please release this on DVD.
tbstuytown15 March 2008
Every week I check the new DVD releases with hopes of seeing "I'll Fly Away." It's amazing what's available while "I'll Fly Away" sits on a shelf. The above comment describes it perfectly. It's history and entertainment. It could be used in schools when discussing the civil rights movement. In my opinion it's the best TV ever. PLEASE release this on DVD and market it so people watch it. This is an important series that should be seen. I almost bought this on line but something didn't seem right since I knew it not to be available. I called the company selling it and a person on the phone actually told me the quality is not too good and that it was recorded from T.V. Well, I did the same thing on VHS. I want high quality, complete set on DVD.
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The best series you've never seen
dannykauf16 October 2005
The quick summary is "To Kill a Mockingbird" made into a TV series, but this show is so much more. It's more sophisticated than Mockingbird in terms of moral ambiguity, political realities, and human relations. The black characters aren't merely background or props to test the virtue of the white characters as they are in so many well-meaning stories about race; They are fully fleshed-out people, with their own stories. Sam Watterson's character, unlike Atticus Finch, is flawed, human. He compromises,stumbles, fails on occasion, and this makes his struggles and progress all the more affecting. Some might complain that Regina Taylor's maid character is perhaps too noble, too perfect, but her dignity under trying circumstances moved me to tears almost every episode. The acting, writing, direction is consistently excellent. When will this landmark series be given the DVD box set it deserves?
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10/10
One of the highest quality TV dramas in the last twenty years.
JKMoviebuff25 August 2000
This was a sensitive, complex series about a family struggling with the complexities of life in a small Georgia town during the Civil Rights Movement. It was ably acted by the entire cast, beautifully written. Never cloying, always intelligent. Happily, after being shown on regular network television, it was repeated on PBS about a year later. A memorable, glowing work. The finale -- "Then and Now" was wonderful -- but you really should see the entire series to appreciate it fully.

I used to compare it to To Kill A Mockingbird, but realize now that was inappropriate, except in that it was set in the same kind of small town -- many years later -- as Harper Lee's masterpiece. And Forrest Bedford was no Atticus Finch. But nevertheless, I'll Fly Away did have that kind of timeless quality.
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This was truly television's finest hour...what a pity it is no longer with us!
saved4eternity1 June 2004
Television is often considered a medium that suffices to showcase actors and actresses who can not make it on the big screen and/or after they have seen their hey-day! Not so with the cast of I'll Fly Away, whose brilliant characterizations brought to life a time when change was coming for the better, but with it a whirlwind of emotions that swept up its populace in a way in which no other time has done since. The beautifully painted portraits were a study the human condition, from Forrest to Lily, and down thru the ranks of the Bedford children. To the great discredit of television, this series was cancelled when there was so much that was important left to say! This was a landmark series that should be brought to viewers on DVD if for no other reason than to afford it another opportunity to speak its solid values to those who have never seen it, and speak them again to those of us anxious to re-hear!~
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An incredible series that I'm amazed was originally on commercial TV.
brennerp18 July 2005
Respectfully, I disagree with the one comment posted so far.

My wife and I discovered this series when it was on PBS. As stated, we are amazed that something this good was originally on commercial TV. Is it totally unrealistic that a maid would ultimately be that outspoken, and that a Southern white lawyer could slowly have his eyes opened? Maybe. But I think the key is that everything developed slowly, over time. There were no unrealistically sudden conversions.

Among the other things that impressed us: There were no easy answers; every episode, it seems, almost painfully explored issues with complexity. If you want easy answers, this is not the series for you.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was certainly a classic (although, as my 85 year-old father has observed, Gregory Peck played the same essential character in virtually every movie.) And it may be true that its characterization was true of the vast majority of even well-meaning southern whites. But I accept the possibility that, even in that time, at least one person of color "pushed the envelope". And that at least one Southern white of good heart found himself or herself slowly transformed.

If you can accept this, admire this series for its excellent performances and refusal to take the easy way out in any episode.
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10/10
Second Best Show Ever
mcdooley19 May 2006
My comment is simple. My favorite TV show ever (and I go back to about 1962 or 63 for television) is "Homicide: Life on the Street." Number two is "I'll Fly Away." It's just a masterpiece. I believe this is the first "10" I've ever given anything.

It's been awhile, so I'll forget some characters' names, and I'm too lazy to hit the back button and open a new window here. The youngest son was one those exceedingly rare little-kid characters in television or movies who acts precisely his age, as opposed to an obnoxious seven-going-on-seventeen. Francie was adorable and winning as his older sister and, again, absolutely believable as being her correct age, and in going through the crises of her particular age.

The actress who played Lily (I've got to hit that back button), their "colored" maid and the center of the cast, was the gem of the show. As so often happens, though, she never seemed to get anywhere after "I'll Fly Away." I thought for sure we had a real up-and-comer there. (And as I recall, so did many critics).

And oh yes, Sam Waterston had a life before "Law & Order" for you kiddies out there. To a degree I still think of Jack McCoy as the guy from "I'll Fly Away." Nowadays on television, his character's relationship with Lily, the maid, would be riddled with politically correct sensibilities, which is to say it would be pandering, one-dimensional and cloying. But no, Waterston is not some cartoonishly "evolved" white good guy; he's a convincingly complex southern liberal in the 1950s. At any rate, the relationship between Lily and Waterston's character is rich to watch unfold.

Is it out there somewhere on DVD or video? If so, rent it and get caught up in it like you would an HBO series. The story lines are continuous for the most part. The ratings for "I'll Fly Away" were just about zero for the first of its two season, on ABC, but it was one of those occasional noble instances by a network where they renew a losing show purely on the basis of its unanimous critical acclaim.
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I'll Fly Away
somedaysoon-319 April 2006
This show was probably one of the best if not the best TV shows ever to be on television. It was not on the big commercial stations because they were probably too chicken to air it. But I will be always in love with the show and its characters. (Have never really cared for Sam Waterson since) but I have followed Regina Taylor constantly. What a very great talent she is in so many ways. Her soul just pours from her eyes and mouth no matter what role she plays. There may have been hypocrisy in "I'll Fly Away" as some viewers have commented, but I cannot believe that Regina Taylor lent herself to anything that wasn't great!
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10/10
A Sam Waterston Fan-for-life
leroy-701-4480741 April 2010
This is my first posting to IMDb, so I had to make it for one of the truly outstanding TV series ever. What incredible television. To Kill a Mockingbird with layers of complexity due to very human interaction, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes not, but always moving. It was serious, without a sense of humor, and shown in the kiss-of-death Friday evening time slot; a veritable recipe for failure.

Those reviews that pan the show for not being true to a particular interpretation---as if every household must hew to the same story line---of civil rights history do history and storytelling an injustice. The show is simply the story of a household set against the backdrop of the civil rights era south. Forrest Bedford (Waterston) has put his wife into a sanitarium, cheats on her at least once, treats his black maid somewhat tyrannically, tries to be a good D.A., and occasionally gets it right. Neither Atticus Finch nor KKK. The maid, Lilly Harper (Taylor), is mostly a governess to Bedford's three children: an older son (London) who plays the role of naive white do-gooder whom Lilly doesn't much care for, a spoiled middle daughter who can be oblivious to what's going on around her, and a younger son who, to Lilly's own surprise, has Lilly's heart. Lilly herself leads a double life: maid-governess to a white lawyer's family, civil rights worker and single mother at home; and these lives are very separate. Sometimes Lilly's life in the civil rights movement intersects with Forrest's life as DA, and the result is extraordinary because of the private experiences of both in the same Bedford household! As complex as real life indeed. Who cares if it's real history. I can get real history elsewhere.

I told my grad school apartment-mate about it at the time, and we both ended up glued to the television Friday evening for two years. We may have had better things to do at the time, but we didn't. The series was aired on PBS a year or so later with a two-hour "what-happened-down-the-road" episode added to the end. I'm moved thinking about it to this day, especially the relationship between Lilly and the little boy, John Morgan---best described as a young Bobby Kennedy---which was at once endearing and difficult.

Watch it and be redeemed. Truly a masterpiece that couldn't emerge from the muddle. Because of this show I've been a Sam Waterston fan ever since, although his character on Law & Order is very one-dimensional by comparison. I wish Regina Taylor had done more since.
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10/10
How on Earth is this not available on DVD or online?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
MarcCollins26 October 2015
One of the best written TV shows ever produced and it sits in a vault somewhere instead of being released. I would happily pay the same price as for a modern TV series. So would many others who value quality over quantity.

What possible reason is there for not releasing it when it seems every piece of crap show ever made is available. This is truly a crime against art that there is no way to view this series.

To Kill A Mockingbird extended, modernized and yet remaining faithful to the original. What more could anyone ask for in a drama series?

Who is responsible for this crime? Please come forward and explain yourself.
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The battle for Civil Rights in the South
babs1111 September 2011
I long for this show to come out on DVD. It is still as I recall one of the very best shows on TV. What is the problem??? There is certainly a wide audience who want to own and see it again. It is timely because it is of an important time period in the US and now with the Martin Luther King Memorial being dedicated in DC is a perfect time to help this generation learn about what life was like for a segment of our population.

The cast, the actors, the dialog were all spot on encompassing family, work, community and country reactions to the questions raised by the Civil Rights Act.

If you don't believe me, just catch the numbers reading and seeing the movie The Help. I can't wait to own that on DVD as well as SOMEDAY "I'll Fly Away".
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10/10
I hope this show makes it on DVD someday (it doesn't seem to be available anywhere).
cliclou26 December 2010
I remember seeing this show on French television when I was a teenager, more than 10 years ago, and loving it. It ranks as one of my all time favourites and I never quite forgot it. I, too, when I see Sam Waterston on Law & Order always think of him as Forrest Bedford. But I got to thinking about this show again when I saw Regina Taylor in a movie recently, and I wish I could watch it again, but it does not appear to be available anywhere on DVD, not even on Amazon. Sad !

There also appears to have been a movie made, where Lilly comes back after thirty years: "I'll Fly Away: Then and Now". I never got to see it, I don't think. I really wish it was possible to watch.
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Cast list
heatglodz7 July 2007
I absolutely loved I'll Fly Away but sometimes find myself thinking Im the only person who ever watched it. All my friends don't know or remember it. I think the relationships between blacks and whites were portrayed in a sensitive yet realistic way. Regina Taylor was brilliant!! I had forgotten her name unfortunately, so I opened up the I'll Fly Away page for information. I was surprised that her name did not even appear on the 1st page of the cast list! I don't understand why Regina Taylor's name is not first on the list. After all the film was mostly from her perspective and about her experiences! It looks to me she has been relegated to the bottom of the list for some weird reason, its not like the list is even in alphabetical order!
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Wonderful in my Opinion
davidsin6214 November 2005
I totally disagree with the presenting opinion on the front page. I also have a passion against those that must compare one product to another when determining one's quality instead of seeing one project for itself. IFW was not a strict biography! The story line is not the most palatable for the American public because it shoves the ugliness of our history in our face! Thus, if it took just the slightest edge off reality in order to have more people watch, it must be done. Obviously, not enough was smoothed since audiences were still not willing to embrace such ugly history shown in such a wonderful show. I found it riveting when it began in 1991 as a 29 year old white man from SC.The weaving plot lines and willingness to utilize the small, quiet, and innovative "less is more" scenes were wonderful. I raise this show up as what could have been some of the most important television of the last 20 years....only if people would have pushed themselves past their inhibitions and watched it! Waterston and Taylor were magnificent! A 10!
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10/10
Patterned after "Mockingbird", but not a clone
dland21 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There are differences between "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "I'll Fly Away", but I find that the similarities make them very much "birds of a feather." They are set 26 about years apart. TKAM famously begins, "Macomb was a tired old town, even in 1932, when I first knew it." It's harder to pin down the time of IFA, but several sources place it in 1958. I thought that we saw John F. Kennedy assassinated in an episode, but I don't rightly recall. Forrest Bedford would have been about ten years older than Scout, Jem and Dill were in 1932 -- right between the ages of the kids and "Boo" Radley.

Beyond the differences, it's the setup and the subject that are paired: a single lawyer father (virtually single, in the case of IFA, until they killed off Gwen in order to clear the way for a guilt-free romance with Miss LeKatzis) in a Southern town with a black housekeeper, a couple of kids, and the ever-present tensions between black and white.

Then there is the matter of the housekeeper's name: Harper Lee. Lilly Harper. Coincidence? I rather doubt it.

I also think it is not coincidental that both works were set about exactly 30 years in the past, about the distance in time between their settings.

As PBS always says when they air it, it was "too good for television." I agree, and cherish my aging VHS copies and hope they'll eventually be available on DVD.
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fantastic
teddy_preston24 March 2003
i remember watching this show when i was 12 and i still remember it now and it was so brilliant. As a kid i suppose i didnt understand the show to its full extent but nevertheless i stilled cried my eyes out several times. One show i remember the most is when francie gets her period stood at the front of the class room and everyone laughing. The humiliation alone would kill me and she ran home to lilly who sorted it all out. Fantastic!
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The South as Contradiction
wjf@bellsouth.net10 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The South, having lived here 43 years, is a bundle of contradictions when it comes to race relations.

Older whites in the South still embrace concepts of segregation, while younger ones in all seem more balanced, and as a result you have much more crossing between cultures in all aspects of society.

I keep checking this miniseries thinking maybe its on DVD. Yes, I want to buy it - not because its great cinema, it isn't, but because rarely there are performances that get at the heart of the problem that whites and blacks have in the South - and no, I don't think the series is historically factually in showing the penetrating depth of segregation, but for outsiders, those not raised in the South or exposed to Southern views on racism, this is a good primer.

The relationship between the maid and the little boy she helped raised, and who played with her own child, was believable. The relationships between the son (Jason/Jeremy London) with his best friend was believable. And as a lawyer looking at it with that perspective, the issues were believable (especially the voting fraud) without being so over the top that you really couldn't see how they got there.

The series has real value, solid acting and several moments that do tell the truth about the South - albeit in a sanitized way.
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8/10
Pre-Law and Order Sam Waterston!
ShelbyTMItchell28 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Waterston's Forrest Bedford seems more of a gentleman and really family man then the arrogant and win at all costs, Jack McCoy which he would portray later on.

As Bedford wants to do the right thing. But the civil rights movement prevents him from doing so. As his maid Lily, who becomes involved in her own civil rights involvement. Helps to see his eyes and heart in the long run.

The Bedford children change with them. With the oldest teenage son, spoiled middle child, and adorable younger child.

As the show was on the kiss of death Friday night slot and never moved out. NBC never gave it the right to grow or Waterston would not move onward to McCoy which he is now best known for.
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This is no 'Mockingbird'
lauraman0125 January 2001
It's some years since I saw the series, but I clearly recall making the comparison with 'To Kill A Mockingbird' at the time - and unfavourably, too.

The problem was that the series was unable to tell the truth, that, at the time in which the series was set, almost all white folk in the South, liberals and conservatives alike, believed strongly in segregation. And were not in the least ashamed of the thousand small, everyday ways in which Jim Crow, social perhaps even more than legal, gave them a position of superiority.

In 'Mockingbird', the Gregory Peck character was just about right: he was sympathetic to, and worked hard for, the man unjustly accused and his family - and was shown bitterly opposed to lynch law.

But he scrupulously refrained from calling any Negro 'Mr' or 'Mrs'. And none were shown entering his house by the front door.

In 'I'll Fly Away', however, one constantly got the feeling that the producers wished to deny that their hero could combine a desire for justice with a revulsion for integration.

The relationship with the Negro maid was another difference between film and TV: however great a role Calpurnia - you remember that name! - played in the Finch household, both she and Finch knew the boundaries and stuck to them. Without discomfort on either side.

But they couldn't show the Waterston character comfortable with employing a second class citizen, so they introduced a false, apologetic note into his relationship with his maid, to the detriment of the drama.

The essence of which should have been the tension between the man's professed beliefs, in equality under the law, the Constitution, etc, and what he actually did. What Myrdal famously called 'The American Dilemma'.

The series was made not long after the release of another, better known, screen treatment of desegregation - 'Mississippi Burning'. This was, of course, also a historical travesty, and pretty poor drama, too - but it got me (and lots more) interested in the Philadelphia, Miss murders, and that period in general.

I had been hoping that IFA - given its lead actor, for one thing - would be able to capture the feeling of living in a society whose mores and institutions seemed almost as distant as the Civil War. I was sadly disappointed.

(I liked, when eventually I got it, the reference in the Waterston character's name, though - to the founder of the first Klan!)
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Regina Taylor Stole The Show
richard.fuller125 August 2004
I would see this show on the educational network years after it had been cancelled.

Regina Taylor, as the maid, Lilly Harper, would essentially steal the show. Long after all the critical acclaim had died down, I would watch this show to see how it was.

Basically inaccurate in the truest Hollywood sense. While Taylor would manage to still depict the behavior of a Black woman in the sixties, still segregated and supressed, there would be other moments that had to ring of defiance, where the audience could cheer for the bold Black character.

Typical television, but pure make-believe.

To make matters worse, the show would have the Precocians; those darling little children that seem to infiltrate everything HOllywood.

Our eldest child would be gorgeous and naive, but ready to learn about the outside world.

Our middle child, a girl, would be worldly beyond her years (they always were) and would call a spade a spade.

By far the worst moment was when the 'older woman' neighbor lady would speak to these two children who were sitting in the front yard.

The girl would whisper to her brother 'she wants your body'. Utterly revolting dialogue and plot development.

Sam Waterson was Hollywood's poster child for his heart on his sleeve. You could see his pain all over his face. Nice to make his character usually leaning in the right direction by having nearly 25 or 30 years history to his advantage.

The youngest child was the most innocent, who would ask those questions that you couldn't answer.

"Why is our skin color different? How are we different?"

the remarkable thing about this show was the understanding of Taylor. As hard as I tried to discredit the depiction of the maid and how she spoke to him, I never could.

Perhaps if I saw the show again and paid attention to it more, I could notice some discrepancies, but at the time I grew bored with it for its teen aged angle with the older son, his friends and his football training.

You sat watching all of this carrying on at night with the coach wondering what in the world is going on?

HOllywood generally does depictions like this because if you say you understand nothing, then you are admitting some level of narrow-mindedness, but looking back, there wasn't much I recall from I'll Fly Away that made sense.

They were just people walking through a situation most of the time.

About the time I'll Fly Away would go off the air, Picket Fences would begin on CBS. I'll Fly Away had been on NBC.

Picket Fences was again the same Hollywood formula, bit heavier on the laughs now with its Jewish lawyer, but the same lineup in those kids.

I think the daughter now became the oldest one, the middle boy was full of information and the youngest was the innocent moppet,this time fair-haired with ears sticking out.

Now Kathy Bates would be doing the Same Waterson bit. Talk about Hollywood Rehash.
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