1995 was an incredible year for sitcoms... unfortunately, very few of the astronomical number of sitcoms made it past their freshman season. Among the few survivors were "The Naked Truth" and "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," both of which went though incredibly awkward transitions from ABC to NBC.
When this series premiered, it was radically different from the rest. Delving into the uncharted territory of "tabloid journalism," Tea Leoni starred as Nora Wilde, a Pulitzer-nominated photographer who, after losing her funds in a nasty divorce, reluctantly wound up working at The Comet, a "National Enquirer"-like tabloid newspaper. Celebrity cameos and inside-jokes abounded, and Leoni was heralded as the "new Lucille Ball" (a moniker that suited her zany antics). Among celeb cameos were Anna Nicole Smith (Nora was sent out to steal her urine for pregnancy testing), Tom Hanks (who got to be oddly perverse), Rip Taylor (in one of his funniest roles ever) and Michael York as Nora's ex, Leland.
The Comet was run by ruthless Camilla Dane (the irrepressible Holland Taylor) and owned by Sir Rudolph Halley (charasmatic Tim Curry, who made several guest appearances). Other photographers included Nicky Columbus, a handsome love-interest for Nora; T.J., a black dude who seemed blind since he was always clad in dark shades; and the aptly-named "Stupid Dave" Bippenwhacker, a developmentally challenged paparazzi member. Regularly seen were Mr. Donner, the owner of Nora's building (it should be noted that she originally lived in the same set that was used for "One Day at a Time" and the final seasons of "Gimme a Break") and her former step-daughter, Chloe -- who doubled as her best friend, since they were similar in age.
ABC rather abruptly pulled the plug on the series, but NBC gave it a new lease on life. Nearly a year after ABC aired the unofficial "season finale," "The Naked Truth" returned to the air on NBC. Gone were both Mr. Donner and Chloe, and added to the cast was Les Polanski (George Wendt), a meat-mogul who bought The Comet from Sir Rudolph Halley. While the series quickly slipped back into a groove (thanks in no small part to frequent guest-shots by Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal as Nora's parents, who eventually bought the apartment across the hall from Nora's), the outrageous antics from the season on ABC were significantly toned down as they molded it into the standard "girl-in-the-big-city-working-for-a-paper" niche that most of the other NBC sitcoms were into at the time. Dave was no longer "Stupid Dave," he was Dave Fontaine, who was slightly smarter than he'd been the previous season. Camilla and Les had a brief but torrid affair and the season eventually ended on a high note. As "The Naked Truth" finished its abridged second season, George Segal struck gold on "Just Shoot Me," another NBC girl-in-the-city-working-for-a-magazine series.
When the show returned for season three, gone was the majority of the cast. Camilla moved to editor The National Inquisitor and dragged Nora and Dave along with her. Now Dave was no longer "stupid" at all -- he was brilliant, in fact (I had a real hard time buying that transition). George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore were never mentioned again (though Dave did eventually move into their apartment, where Nora revealed that the former tenants were murdered -- "and you can thank me for that too"). New to the cast were Tom Verica as her new love-interest, Jake Sullivan; Amy Hill (who I ADORE but is certain death when it comes to series) as belligerent Suji; the illegitimate son of Bing Crosby, Bradley (Chris Elliot); and fastidious fact-checker Harris (Jim Rash). Unfortunately, the celebrity cameos completely deteriorated by this point, the writing was sub-par and the show was stuck on Monday nights with other soon-to-be canceled series "Suddenly Susan," "Caroline in the City" and (the hilarious) "Fired Up." As the third season progressed, Dave was eventually altogether written out of the show; then-unknown Sarah Silverman made an unfunny guest-appearance as an Alyssa-Milano-like former child star; and the possibility of a love-connection between Jake and Nora was quickly put to rest when Jake began having a secret affair with Camilla (though NBC aired the episodes totally out of order, creating confusion for viewers). As another commenter noted, the third season was "ugly." NBC pulled the plug for good long before the season had finished, and many of the episodes remained unaired until USA ran the series briefly during their USA.M. comedy block.
Ironically, the *tabloids* cited Leoni for the demise of the series -- they said that she'd become increasingly unruly since getting together with David Duchovney (whom she soon married -- and who provided one of the funniest jokes in the second-season finale). I can't blame her personally but instead I blame the constant retooling of the initial gem-of-a-show, coupled with increasingly bad writing. The final episodes of season three were among the best (for whatever that's worth) but NBC didn't even bother to air them.
Overwhelmingly fantastic first season, but as another commenter put it, in order of seasons, it went "the good, the bad and the ugly."
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