In 1988, the United States presidential election year, CBS commissioned 7 episodes of the TV sitcom, 'Coming of Age'. The original idea for 'Coming of Age' went on air in the 1987 season finale episode of 'The Golden Girls' which dealt with the 'Empty Nests Syndrome'. However 'Coming of Age' appeared "to have been born under an unlucky star." 

After 3 episodes, 'Coming of Age' was dropped from the Tuesday prime time lineup. The show finished the 1987-1988 season attracting only 9.6% of the 88.6 million American homes with TV sets. The remaining 4 episodes were shown in October and November 1988 sandwiched between 'Newhart' and 'Murphy Brown'. However another 8 episodes were ordered, with only 4 episodes went on air between June and July in 1989. 

Set in an Arizona retirement village, Paul Dooley played a retired airline pilot and Phyllis Newman played his wife. Phyllis told 'Daily News', "I have to admit that the term, 'retirement', bothered me. So many people think it means that once a certain birthday has passed, the life they led is no longer theirs for the living. But the show makes it clear that retiring from your job doesn't mean retiring from life."

On 'Coming of Age', "My husband on the show, Dick, played by Paul Dooley, had been an airline pilot and when he reached 60, company policy required him to retire. It wasn't anything he did." Phyllis observed, "And more people are living longer and many of the situations on the show are, or will be, familiar to our audience. While Ginny, my character, is more flexible about moving into the community, Dick resists everything at first.

"Women tend to adjust more easily to such situations. For a man, his work is often his identity: Dick could say, once, 'I'm a pilot'. He's no longer a pilot, but he can't quite accept that. Women don't usually identify so much with their professions. It’s up to Ginny to show him that there is and always was more to him than his job." Phyllis also made the observation, "One problem that sometimes occurs when men lose their jobs is that they also have a temporary loss of sexual performance. We deal with that on the show. Well, after seeing how we handle this, I can tell you no one will doubt that sex after 60, is not only possible but that it can still be very good."

Before 'Coming of Age', Phyllis was in New York taping for a daytime soap opera, "I was supposed to do just 5 episodes of 'One Life To Live'. I played Renee Devine, an ex-madame from Las Vegas who dressed to kill. The character just took off, and the producer wanted me to sign a contract. I didn't want to commit myself, so they kept having me come back. Then I was asked to come out (to Hollywood) and read for this show ('Coming of Age'). A lot of other women were reading for it. I had to read for everybody. The producers, Universal, CBS. Then back to NewYork, and I didn't have the part. When I didn't hear, I didn't think I had it. Then I was called back to read with Paul Dooley."

Paul Dooley recounted, "I just done a little bit of everything. What I like best about being an actor is the variety of going from film to television to stage to whatever it happens to be. I even enjoy doing radio. I do a lot of radio commercials because it's something I like a lot. I've been an actor 35 years (since 1953). To pay the rent I have been a nightclub comedian and a clown and a magician and a juggler. And I've worked in operas in non-singing roles.

"And I dressed as a gorilla in front of supermarkets and sat in front of gas stations dressed in various uniforms and costumes and telling people they'd be getting free coupons or free lollipops if they come in and buy something." Paul said, "I've always lived in New York City . . . but I've also traveled around the country a lot. So I've done summer stock and off-Broadway, and I joined the improvisational theater Second City at one point in my career."   

On reflection, Phyllis made the comment, "I think that's true of most people in our business (show business). We tend not to think of retiring because we're always thinking of what we'll do next. If you have to be retired from a job, think of it as an opportunity to do something else. The key is to anticipate having something to do." Paul remarked, "It's funny. Here I am playing a guy who's winding down. In real life I've got a rejuvenation, a new family and a new job.

"In this ('Coming of Age') my character is retired, which is why he's unhappy. He complains about the heat of Arizona and the boredom of retirement. I find the character enjoyable. He has his frustrations, but he doesn't insult people. Most of my conflict is with Alan Young . . . My favorite thing in acting is to do more with less. And if I could do a role without any dialog, I'd be very happy. So I kind of like to play these people who are a little uptight and truncated and speak in monosyllables.

"The whole reason I wanted to do movies was to do silent pictures. Of course, the silents were long gone." Phyllis believed, "We have a lot of people, with a lot of experience, and a lot of wisdom gained over many years in the workplace, and this is a national treasure which we are, to a great extent, wasting. There must be a way for these people to continue to make their contributions." 'Coming of Age' was created by Emily Marshall.

Reporter Sell Groves made the point, "Change isn't about to happen. It's already happening." Phyllis added, "True. Somehow, we still think of grandmothers as white-haired ladies who, when they’re not cooking in big kitchens, are sitting in rocking chairs and knitting the family’s winter wardrobe. I haven’t seen a grandmother like that for years."

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