The history of modern television is rife with wonderful, memorable series. Every genre has its own share of interesting programs. And then there are those that for whatever reason were not as memorable despite having their own flare. One of the shows that fits into that latter category is the short-lived political satire, Hearts Afire. This series, starring Markie Post and the late John Ritter lasted all of fifty-four episodes. It ran from 1992 – 1995, right around the peak of its more successful counterpart, Murphy Brown. It was likely the similarities to Murphy Brown that forced this sitcom to the curb. It could also be argued that while it did have its share of funny jokes, a good share of the show’s writing felt somewhat forced. Making things even more difficult for the show was the circumstances under which its cast came into it. These factors alone were enough to doom the show after just three seasons and make it disappear into the mists of television history. That is, until this year, when Mill Creek Entertainment resurrected the show in its entirety.
Hearts Afire ran a total of fifty-four episodes over the course of its three seasons. In that time, it had its own level of success. Though, it never reached the level of its counterpart in Murphy Brown. CBS ran both shows in the network’s prime time lineup. This is where the trouble for Hearts Afire begins. Hearts Afire came along right around the peak of Murphy Brown’s run. It was pretty obvious the network heads figured if one show about a strong female news personality would work, then another would if a couple minor tweaks were made. Thus, Hearts Afire was born. The tweak with this show was that instead of Candace Bergen, Markie Post was introduced as a former news figure who works at a politician’s office. Post’s Georgie Ann Lahti is a strong female figure along the lines of Murphy Brown. And that’s a good thing. The problem is her character’s lines (and those of the entire cast). The show had its own share of funny lines in each episode. And the chemistry between Ritter and Post was solid. But for every truly funny line, there were just as many lines that felt forced. It isn’t subtle, either. It’s pretty obvious where the lines become are forced. This taken into account alongside the blatant similarities to Murphy Brown did a disservice to the show.
The writing behind Hearts Afire was not terrible. But it was problematic. It caused some problems for the show. This problematic aspect aside, the show does deserve a certain amount of defense. The show’s casting came in under some difficult circumstances. The term difficult is not meant with a bad connotation here. Rather, it is meant more in the case of the actors already having established themselves in previous roles made making these new roles all the harder to portray to audiences who had come to know the actors in different roles. In the case of Markie Post, audiences already knew her as Christine Sullivan in NBC’s Night Court. And because he had not any major acting since the end of Three’s Company years before, most people knew him for the role of Jack Tripper. The only major acting that Ritter had done since then was the largely forgettable Problem Child movies in 1990 and 1991. This same kind of problem plagues so many actors to this day. Both Ritter and Post had both been pigeonholed of no fault of their own. The resultant effect was it made these new roles less believable to audiences that knew them for completely different roles.
If audiences can take into account that both actors were trying to branch out into something different, that will make it easier to put aside beliefs about the pair’s previous roles. And with any luck, it will allow viewers to let themselves get past some of the show’s writing problems, too. Getting past both of these obstacles, viewers will find that Hearts Afire has its own charm, and is worth an occasional watch. It is available now on DVD courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment.
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