'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' ran between 1987 and 1991. Each of the 5 seasons had 13 episodes. Production on 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' started in 1986 with the 13th episode wrapped in November 1986. Brandon Tartikoff of NBC came to Jay Tarses "and said he wanted to do a series about a modern urban woman, a child of the ‘60s coping with the ‘80s . . . I said I would do it with Blair Brown. And he said, 'You've got a sale.'"
Blair told Steven Rea of 'Inquirer', "But it's 20 years from 'Mary Tyler Moore' (1970-77). It's such a different world, such a different audience. You never doubted for a second that Mary would do better and better and better, she'd make more money, find that guy waiting down the road . . . She was obviously going to get that house and that station wagon and have those kids and we'd love her all the more.
"Now (in 1987) you can't paint such a Pollyanna story. Life is sort of more complex than that; it doesn't have that predictable happy ending. That doesn't necessarily mean that the ending is grim . . . Some people initially thought Molly Dodd was unnaturally pessimistic and down. I didn't feel that about her. Because of the nature of the character, she's a survivor.
"You're taking a look at a person who is also older than Mary Richards, who's coming around to 35, who's saying, 'The things I thought I was going to have and be I don't have, I'm not. So what do I have? Where am I?' A lot of the baby boomers are realizing that achieving what they set out to do isn't, in the end, all that satisfying. They're reassessing their lives, and that's what Molly Dodd is doing. Reassessing."
Jay Tarses thought up the idea of 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd'. He told the Associated Press, "I think 'Molly' is such an elusive show. I think it's really hard to capture what it is in words. It's a lot of things to a lot of people. I just think it's something very special and personal to me. I care about it desperately." Jay also mentioned, "I wanted to make her a woman at a crossroads, a woman whose life hadn't worked the way it was supposed to. There have been some derailments in her life. I want the show to be like 'Nicholas Nickleby,' not having the same people every week. And I wanted Molly to have different jobs. I wanted people to tune in and find her in a state of flux."
Blair Brown played Molly Dodd, "a 35-year-old divorcee seeking self-definition". She told 'Rolling Stone', "Like Molly, I was part of the generation that thought we were going to save the world. Then when we discovered we couldn't save it, I guess we figured we could buy it. In some ways, 'Molly Dodd' is a show for all the people who thought they were going to end up yuppies and aren't.
"For me, Molly Dodd is the story of what happens to someone who reaches the midpoint of life and realizes a lot of her big dreams are not going to come true. It's about someone from a generation that had such high hopes for itself but that is now faced with compromise. What Molly ends up realizing, what a lot of us are realizing, I think, is that life is a work in progress."
In 1983, Blair could be seen in the TV mini-series, 'Kennedy', written by Reg Gadney. Blair played Jacqueline Kennedy. She recounted, "There are people who still approach me and mention my playing Jackie. They all want to know if I met her and if she liked what I portrayed. I haven't met her. However, I did a great deal of research and the more I found out about Jackie, the more protective I became of her. Perhaps that's what people related to in my performance."
The first 13 half-hour weekly episodes of the summer series 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' was originally shown sandwiched between 'Cheers and 'L.A. Law'. Blair recounted, "We finished it last November (in 1986) because it was supposed to be a mid-season replacement but Brandon wanted to make sure we were on the right spot, so it ended up on Thursday nights because he thought the kind of audience that likes 'L.A. Law' and 'Cheers' would like this."
Jay added, "NBC decided to test it but said they wouldn't go by the test results. But when it did test badly, they held it up. They said, 'We don't want to put this out into a hostile environment. We know it's good. We know there are things in it that are brilliant. But we think it has problems, and we want to protect it.'" 'The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd' eventually went on air between May and August 1987.
The first 12 episodes of season 2 were shown between March and June in 1988. Jay asked Howard Rosenberg of the 'Los Angeles Times', "A 28 share. Is that good? Were we in the Top 10? What was the drop-off from 'Cheers?' If you count the audiences for every performance of 'Macbeth' that's ever been given, you still won't reach as many people as you get for a TV program that's considered a failure."
Brandon reasoned, "Wednesday night at 9 o’clock, if it were to deliver the same kind of shares that it was getting on Thursday night, dropping some 10 and 12 points off of 'Cheers', that would be a hit for us. If it gets a 25 share off of 37 on Thursday night, that is what I consider viewer rejection of the show … and giving up too many rating points on a night when we could dominate by simply putting 'Night Court' back there." There were said to be 88.6 million American homes in 1988 with TV sets. Each episode reportedly costed $550,000 to produce.
Jay recognized, "(TV is) a business. A business of numbers. If we don't get numbers, we're gone. Simple as that." Jay believed Brandon "seems to be so concerned with statistics and so concerned with being No. 1 and pulverizing the opposition, he may be disregarding some barometers that are very clear. That there are shows of quality that do have an audience, maybe not a 35-share audience, but a bunch of people who are being deprived of some television shows because of numbers that I don’t believe are really true."
Brandon argued, "If there is that loyal core that will follow this show almost anywhere, if they show up anywhere close to the numbers it had on Thursday night, this could be God forbid for Jay Tarses, he might actually have a commercial show on his hands. I don’t know what he'd do with it." 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' finished the 2nd season attracting 16.1% of the 88.6 million American households with TV sets (roughly 14.3 million homes in the U.S. were counted watching).
Between April 1989 and April 1991, 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' became a made-for-cable show. It was shown on Lifetime, which was formed in 1984 when the 2 cable networks Daytime and Cable Health Network (both began in 1982) decided to merge. Switching from network to cable also meant changing the show's filming location from Burbank, California to Queens, New York. Pat Fili of Lifetime told the press "It really put us on the map. We couldn’t have bought that publicity. The creative community – they'd never heard of Lifetime before. Now I go out to Los Angeles and people call us."
It was understood the budget of 'The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd' on cable was to be around $400,000 to $500,000 an episode. Blair confessed, "If I meet one more person on the street who says, 'Oh, I love your show, but I don't get cable', I’ll just scream." Jay acknowledged, "I'm concerned that this show won't reach all the people who want to see it. See, it involves spending money and all this stuff, and I don't know how much they can afford to pour in. They can buy a lot of syndicated shows, but when you do first-run programing, it's a pretty good chunk of their budget."
It was reported on cable "the show is filmed in fewer hours than it was in California, and there are fewer, longer scenes." Cable analyst Larry Gerbrandt told the press, "All cable networks tend to expand beyond their niches if they want to keep growing.'' At the time, there were said to be 47.9 million Lifetime's subscribers with "Lifetime's penetration of total U.S. TV households passed the 50% mark."
Pat Fili maintained, "To me, this ('The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd') is the kind of show that cable is all about. It's not a broad-appeal show, it's a narrow-appeal show." Jay told 'Rolling Stone', "I mean, we got millions and millions of people to watch 'Buffalo Bill' (1983-84 co-starring Geena Davis as Wendy Killian). More people, in fact, probably saw any single episode of 'Buffalo Bill' than all the live performances of 'Hamlet' in history combined. But in prime time that's just not enough. It's a tremendous numbers game. You gotta have, like, 25 million people watching your series on any given night just to be doing okay. So the inclination on the part of the networks has always been to rely on the tried and true. The formula stuff."
On network television, Jay remembered, "They kept saying, 'Give us a story. Why can't you give us a story?' There is a story. It's the story of a woman's life. It's a show about a doomed romance. A romance that can't live and won't die . . . I think we've hit on something very current, something very undefinable. It's compelling. A lot of people are going to see themselves in this show. I don't mind if people look at this and say, 'Gee, this makes me uncomfortable.' I don't care if they laugh, if they cry. I'd like 'em to do it all."