Despite shaky ratings, ABC execs liked IT’S A LIVING enough to renew it for a second season in 1981, albeit with a few changes. Susan Sullivan, Wendy Schaal and Bert Remsen were out, and the show was renamed MAKING A LIVING (rumor has it because the original title sounded too much like hookers turning tricks).
Former MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN star Louise Lasser was given top-billing as a new waitress, the recently-widowed, often-clueless Maggie McBurney, who was like an extension of Mary Hartman and a precursor to Golden Girl Rose Nyland. Lasser is an acquired taste and many fans express a dislike for this particular season because of her. Back in the day, I was delighted to read of her addition in the TV Guide Fall Preview issue because I had loved her as Mary Hartman. So, I never missed an episode during the original airings, when ABC aired it Saturday nights, then Fridays, but endlessly pre-empted it, resulting in a dismal 88th place in the Nielsen ratings for the 1981-82 season, and eventual cancellation.
In retrospect, these episodes are a come-down from Season One. Lasser isn’t the problem, as she is given a few “Mary Hartman-isms” to utter every episode and they are very amusing. In an attempt to take the “jiggle” out of the series, the writers have basically neutered the man-crazy Cassie, so Ann Jillian has to work with a watered-down character who has lost a lot of her zing. The girls all experience romance this season, but it is all very bland and the humor is sorely lacking. The show just isn’t FUNNY enough and it pains me to have to write that. Nevertheless, this season does contain my favorite episode of the entire series, “Horsing Around” which allows Louise some hilarious character moments, as well as “Off the Top” in which the staff are facing unemployment and we see a well-edited scene of cross-cuts with each waitress trying to sell their skills to an off-camera job counselor—great stuff!
The characters are not as well-defined as they were the first season, and Susan Sullivan’s grounding presence is missed, but the talented cast works hard to elevate a lot of this year’s mediocre scripts. It’s probably not as good as you remember it, but still nice for a nostalgic buzz back to a simpler time.
**NOTE: Episode 4 "The Wedding" is mistakenly replaced here with Season 3's "The Wedding Show". If you are looking for Season 2's The Wedding you will find it listed in Season 3 instead as Amazon has mixed up the two episodes**.