It's A Living - From The Land of Forgotten Television
The show follows the lives of the waitresses at the posh restaurant Above the Top, located at the top of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California. At the helm was supervisor Nancy Beebe (Marian Mercer), the restaurant's maître d’, who sometimes fraternized with the girls but usually gave orders. More often than not, the scheme of the week involved Nancy in some way, which upset her because all she wanted was an orderly wait staff. Adding to the chaotic working environment was a wisecracking pianist named Sonny Mann (Paul Kreppel), who made rude comments to the women, Nancy included, and got insulted in return. The kitchen was the domain of Chef Mario (Bert Remsen); then Dennis Hubner (Earl Boen) and finally Howard Miller (Richard Stahl), who eventually married Nancy.
While the show was never a hit on network TV, its fortunes would later turn around in 1983, when all 27 episodes went to syndication. The series began to attract a following along with surprising ratings for the reruns, which prompted the producers and Golden West Television to bring the series back. Another factor in its sudden rediscovery was Ann Jillian's public disclosure that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, the same year as the announcement to bring the show back.
In 1985, the show was revived under its old name for the syndicated market. Most of the cast remained intact from the former version. A new waitress, Amy Tompkins (Crystal Bernard), arrived at the restaurant and was immediately accepted by the group. When Jillian decided to leave the show in 1986 (she had agreed to do only one season in syndication; plus, she wanted to continue her treatments for breast cancer), her character was replaced by Ginger St. James (Sheryl Lee Ralph). With these core cast members in place, the show continued to produce episodes for syndication until it ended in 1989. - READ MORE
It's A Living Trivia
It's A Living was retitled, "Making A Living" for the second season only and then returned to its original title when it was reborn in syndication.
The restaurant on It's A Living was located at the very top of a first rate, high rise hotel called "The Bonaventure".
Ann Jillian got her first acting role on "Leave It to Beaver" on the episode titled, "Wally, the Businessman". She was 10 years old at the time. In 1988, Ann won an Emmy for her performance as herself in a TV movie about her life titled, "The Ann Jillian Story".
It's A Living didn't do very well in the ratings during its first two seasons on network television so ABC canceled the series. The following year (1983), It's A Living reruns did very well. Ann Jillian also announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, becoming one of the first celebrities to do so. Her brave disclosure also moved viewers to want to see her on It's A Living. The producers of the show decided that there was enough interest so they put the series back into production more than three years after it was canceled and it aired in syndication for four more seasons!
When It's A Living returned, it had most of its original Cast. That's pretty unusual after a three year hiatus. Ann Jillian unfortunately had to leave the series after one season to concentrate on her fight against breast cancer but It's A Living went on with a new actress (Sheryl Lee Ralph) in the lead role.
There were several reasons why It's A Living didn't do well during its first two seasons on ABC. Its time slot was changed five times in two seasons! Viewers had trouble finding the series and many dropped the show when it moved opposite a show that they liked better. In its first season, it was up against the premiere season of the hit series, "Magnum P.I.". In the second season, it had more heavy competition from "Walt Disney". It's A Living also lost a major sponsor (Proctor and Gamble) due to what they felt were oufits that were too revealing and a controversial segment in the pilot episode where one of the waitresses (who was a virgin) was agonizing whether she should go on a vacation with a new boyfriend because it could lead to sex. The other waitresses heartily encouraged her to go and not worry about it. That was certainly no worse than anything on other shows like "The Love Boat" or "Three's Company". Of course, most of those other shows were much higher in the ratings and maybe that caused their sponsors to ignore a minority of their customers complaining. - READ MORE
The series' first two seasons produced 39 episodes. However, when it aired in syndication, it produced 81 additional episodes, making the final episode count 120 episodes.
In 1985, the show was revived under its old name for the syndicated market. Most of the cast remained intact from the former version. A new waitress, Amy Tompkins (Crystal Bernard), arrived at the restaurant and was immediately accepted by the group. When Jillian decided to leave the show in 1986 (She only agreed to do one season in syndication, plus she wanted to continue her treatments for breast cancer), she was replaced by Ginger St. James (Sheryl Lee Ralph), the first black waitress to be showcased on the sitcom. With these core cast members in place, the show continued to produce episodes for syndication until the show was ended in 1989. - READ MORE
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