That Girl is an American sitcom that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. It starred Marlo Thomas as the title character Ann Marie, an aspiring (but only sporadically employed) actress, who moves from her hometown of Brewster, New York, to try to make it big in New York City. Ann has to take a number of offbeat “temp” jobs to support herself in between her various auditions and bit parts. Ted Bessell played her boyfriend Donald Hollinger, a writer for Newsview Magazine; Lew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp played Lew Marie and Helen Marie, her concerned parents. Bernie Kopell, Ruth Buzzi and Reva Rose played Ann and Donald’s friends. That Girl was developed by writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, who had served as head writers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (with which Thomas’s father, Danny Thomas, was closely associated) earlier in the 1960s.
That Girl was one of the first sitcoms to focus on a single woman who was not a domestic or living with her parents. Some consider this show the forerunner of the highly successful The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and an early indication of the changing roles of American women in feminist-era America. Thomas’ goofy charm, together with Bessell’s dry wit, made That Girl a solid performer on the ABC Television Network, and while the series, in the overall ratings, never made the top thirty during its entire five-year run, it did respectably well.
At the end of the 1969–1970 season, That Girl was still doing moderately well in the ratings, but after four years Thomas had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on. ABC convinced her to do one more year. In the beginning of the fifth season, Don and Ann became engaged, but they never actually married. The decision to leave the couple engaged at the end of the run was largely the idea of Thomas. She did not want to send a message to young women that marriage was the ultimate goal for them, and she worried that it would have undercut the somewhat feminist message of the show.
Every episode started with a small scene ending with someone saying “That Girl” as part of the dialogue and then the camera immediately focused on Marlo Thomas (although it is sometimes of an image of Marlo Thomas such as a picture or a reflection in a mirror). This was followed by the opening credits and intro.
Exceptions are as follows:
According to Marlo Thomas, she was approached by ABC executive Edgar Scherick, who saw her in a screen test for a failed pilot, but still wanted to feature her in a project. Scherick gave Thomas several scripts to read, none of which she liked, as they all focused on a woman who was either a traditional girlfriend, wife or secretary to someone else; Thomas wanted a show in which the main character was a young, modern woman focused on her own dreams and aspirations.
Although never officially credited as such (Persky and Denoff were the series’ creators and official executive producers), Thomas was also a de facto executive producer of the series through her Daisy Productions, which she formed specifically for the series; it was credited on-screen as the production company. She originally wanted to name the sitcom Miss Independence, the nickname given to her by her parents.
Manhattan exterior shots were filmed in several days. The apartment was located off the East River in the Upper East Side, in the upper 70s or lower 80s (streets) between York Avenue and East End Avenue. In the episode entitled “Señorita,” Ann Marie lists her address as 627 East 54th Street. In the second season episode “Nothing to Be Afreud of but Freud Himself”, Donald gives out her address as 344 West 78th Street, Apartment D. Ann Marie’s acting school was modeled after the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre on East 54th Street between First and Second Avenues. That Girl was filmed at Desilu-Cahuenga Studios (for many years called Ren-Mar Studios and now called Red Studios Hollywood), located at 846 North Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.
Five complete seasons of That Girl aired, with the series finale airing on March 19, 1971. Over the five seasons, a total of 136 episodes aired. Thomas’s sister Terre, her brother Tony, and father Danny Thomas all appeared in a 1969 episode called “My Sister’s Keeper”.
The only episode never shown during the series’ original network run was the pilot produced in 1965. The major differences were evident in its opening credits. Bessell’s character was Don Blue Sky, Ann Marie’s talent agent who was part Cherokee, and Harold Gould and Penny Santon played her parents. By the time the series aired on ABC, Thomas and Bessell were the only actors to receive top billing.
The pilot episode centered on Ann Marie’s attempt to adopt a stage name based on her agent’s suggestion. After her use of “Marie Brewster” (the names of her family and hometown combined) was met with disapproval from her parents phone belt for running, she decided to not make the change in the end. This storyline and numerous scenes were recycled into the 11th episode of Season 1 titled “What’s in a Name?” from November 17, 1966.
The pilot was included in the 5-disc set of That Girl: Season One, which was released by Shout! Factory in 2006. It has since been added to the series’ broadcast syndication package; it led off a New Year’s Day marathon on Me-TV at the start of 2012.
On January 1, 2012, That Girl returned to national television on Me-TV with episodes shown on weekday mornings and Sunday afternoons until September 1, 2013. On September 1, 2014, the show returned to Me-TV. Reruns have previously aired on TV Land from the network’s launch in 1996 to 1998.
Shout! Factory has released all five seasons on DVD in Region 1. Each release contains extensive bonus features including episodic promos, featurettes, commentary tracks and the original pilot episode.
In Region 4, Madman Entertainment has released all five seasons on DVD in Australia/New Zealand. On April 21, 2010, Madman released That Girl: The Complete Series, a 21-disc box set that features all 136 episodes, as well as extensive bonus features.
In 1973, Rankin/Bass produced That Girl in Wonderland, an animated television special in which Marlo Thomas reprised the role of Anne Marie. It aired as an episode of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. The special also featured the voices of Patricia Bright, Dick Hehmeyer, Rhoda Mann, and Ted Schwartz.
The series’ theme song and opening visuals have been parodied in pop culture several times. They appeared as a series of T-shirts, then as a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Danitra Vance in an African American remake “That Black Girl”, as a sequence on episodes of Animaniacs, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Clarissa Explains It All, Arthur, Friends and Roseanne.
It was also parodied in the pre-credits teaser of an episode of The Nanny where Maxwell’s guest-starring mother encounters Fran at the florist; in another episode of The Nanny, Peter Bergman, playing himself acting in The Young and the Restless casts Fran in the soap by asking for a co-star like “that girl!” while pointing to Fran.
The 2011 advertising campaign for the launch of Fox’s sitcom New Girl featured posters of that sitcom’s star, Zooey Deschanel, in the make-up, pose and graphic look of Marlo Thomas from the original “That Girl” series.
An episode from Ugly Betty had Fabia forcing Wilhelmina Slater into making an exchange: she’ll give up her wedding date to Wilhelmina in exchange for the services of Wilhelmina’s assistant, Marc St. James water bottles for sale, after Fabia evokes the opening lines.
In 1968, shortly after the feminist protest against bras and other feminine products at the Miss America pageant, Marlo Thomas began going braless on That Girl. “God created women to bounce,” Thomas said. “So be it.”
In season 7, episode 2 of Mad Men, That Girl, Episode 80 (“There Was a Time Ann Met a Pie Man”) which aired February 13, 1969 can be seen playing in Donald Draper’s home.