Three years after ABC cancelled the show, IT’S A LIVING was one of the first sitcoms to find new life in the first-run syndication market. Back in the ‘80s, this trend gave a second chance to shows the networks had axed, like TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, 9 TO 5, CHARLES IN CHARGE, PUNKY BREWSTER, and the most successful—MAMA’S FAMILY.
This third incarnation of the show is the best of the “new era” that ran for four more seasons. Louise Lasser and Earl Boen are gone, and in their place are newcomers Crystal Bernard as country bumpkin “Amy Tompkins”, who fills the ditsy waitress role vacated by Lasser, and Richard Stahl as “Howard”, easily the best and funniest of the three chefs to appear on the series. His antagonistic ways with Nancy (the great Marian Mercer) are a hoot, as she pines for him in a way that is kind of like a G-rated version of The Ropers from THREE’S COMPANY.
Having Season 3 for download means that all the Ann Jillian episodes are now available. When the series was resurrected, Jillian only agreed to one season (probably as a favor to the producers to get the show “up and running” again, since hers was the breakout character). Behind the scenes, she was undergoing a very public battle with breast cancer and had gained weight since the ABC era. So “Cassie” is not portrayed as the sexpot she was in the beginning. She still has a razor-sharp tongue, but she’s softened her edges in the interim. The show won’t be the same when she’s gone next season.
My favorite episode of the season is “Gender Gap” which Logo TV won’t run these days because it’s not politically correct (get over it). The A and B stories in this episode kind of dovetail in a way that didn’t always happen in the scripts. Nancy must fire one waitress and hire a waiter to avoid a sex discrimination lawsuit; while Sonny’s unaware that he's dating a transsexual, played by Fern Fitzgerald "Merilee Stone" on DALLAS (but the girls know). The plots this year are more adventurous than they were during the ABC run, and feature more serious topics like stalkers, jewel heists and hostage situations in the restaurant (look for a pre-SEINFELD Michael Richards playing one of the terrorists).
The cast is energized, the sets looks brighter and cheerier than they did in the ABC years, Sonny has trimmed back the '70s afro, and the show hasn’t yet become as formulaic as it will when Sheryl Lee Ralph shows up, so enjoy these 22 episodes of a great harmless, guilty pleasure from the ‘80s!
**NOTE: Episode 9 "The Wedding Show" is mistakenly replaced here with Season 2's "The Wedding". If you are looking for Season 3's "The Wedding Show" you will find it listed in Season 2 instead as Amazon has mixed up the two episodes**.