Helen Van Slyke's 1976 novel 'The Best Place To Be' was made into a 2-part TV movie in 1979. "Time," Ross Hunter explained, "not money, is the element that separates movies made for TV and a real, honest-to-God feature. You can always cut budgets, but you can’t cut time...We devoted 10 weeks to this picture. If I’d made it for theaters, we’d have had 7 or 8...By comparison 'The Best Place To Be' was leisurely. Most TV pictures are made in 15 to 17 days. People on the set don't know each other. The actors don’t know the director. There’s no time for rehearsal. Fortunately, I was able to rehearse the cast a full week."
Helen left her post at Helena Rubinstein (a cosmetics company) in 1970 to pursue writing, "I knew that writing was what I wanted to do." Doubleday acknowledged "she is one of the few writers who really likes to write." Of writing, Helen shared, "I am a morning person, so I get up at 7:00, and write from 8:00 to 1:00(p.m.), seven days a week. On a good day, I average 10 pages. I am a rather spontaneous writer: no formal outlines. I shuddered when I heard Truman Capote talk about a 3rd or 4th draft, I just couldn’t work that way. I feel that...a successful novel must create characters that the public can identify with. I call my novels old-fashioned, because they are not about 'the lunatic fringe', but about believable people and situations."
Donna Reed was 58 in 1979. She observed, "I sense that things are changing for women a lot...As most actresses who pass 40 know, television is a vast wasteland for women. It’s a golden age for men between 40 and 60. I don’t know why it isn’t for women. The great roles and performances happen in that time. Do you realize in this I actually have a mother. All the time I did my series (in 1958-66) I never had a mother. I played a strong woman who could manage her family. That was offensive to a lot of people. I’ve enjoyed 'All In The Family' and 'Maude'. I can’t say that I like – I call it emotional violence against each other. I can’t say that I like that."
Of the 74.5 million American households in 1979 that owned a television set, some 205 million people were counted living in those households. They were said to spend an average 6 hours and 30 minutes a day watching TV. Ross pointed out, "From the mail we get, the public wants to hold on to the old faces more so than before; they want romantic love stories again. If the public really means what they say, then they’re going to watch our show."
Part I of 'The Best Place To Be' was shown on a Sunday in May 1979. It was the 19th most watched program that night. Ross believed, "If we don’t start making television shows for adults and women we’re going to lose the audience. I believe it’s women who select the TV channel and the movie." Part II was shown on a Monday. It was the 2nd most watched program that night. "(Helen's) books are so adaptable to the screen, her characters are shaded so well...We should be able to hit every type of audience with this movie," Ross remarked.
Of casting, "I wanted Donna Reed...When I called her she said she was happily married and living in Tulsa Oklahoma. I said, 'Let me send you the script.' I expected to not hear from her or, to hear from her in a few weeks. Two days later she called and said she was on her way to Beverly Hills. We met at the Polo Lounge and made the deal. It was that simple."