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Monday, May 2, 2016

'Grace Under Fire' S5: Little Grace Happy At Last

Product Details
This coverage of the 1997-98 fifth and final season of the ABC sitcom "Grace Under Fire" wraps up these posts on the Visual Entertainment complete series DVD collection of "Grace." These episodes leave the titular working-class single mother of three in a good place and producer Chuck Lorre and star Brett Butler enough material for the subsequent syndication runs of the show.

This post likely leaves Visual on the shelf until the releases of personally highly anticipated complete series DVD releases of the Donna Pescow '70s sitcom "Angie" and the Burt Reynolds '90s sitcom "Evening Shade" sometime in the second half of 2016.

Regarding "Grace," the former alcoholism (and related ex-husband) of everyone's favorite Dixie chick are now at most minor elements of the show. Further, every financial and personal setback no longer is a major crisis.

The season opens with Grace feeling the predictable strains regarding spending the work week at her big-city job and making the long commute back to her small community and her family on the weekends. This sets the stage for both her career that starts in the second episode and for the two new regular cast members.

Don "D.C." Curry plays aptly named construction company owner D.C., who hires Grace for the aforementioned new job. This work as the only woman and the only white person at this all-black company provides plenty of opportunities for good amusement. One of the best lines has Grace commenting that she thought that telling the men that she wanted to see them half-naked would have prompted them to remove their shirts.

Lauren Tom joins the cast as new hair stylist Dot, who also fills the role as new best gal pal to Grace following the departure of next-door Nadine. Dot dating best guy pal/pharmacist Russell further brings her into the action.

Another development that provides fodder for S5 episodes is the opening of a river boat casino. An episode in which a tornado blows through town is only slightly reminiscent of a early "Grace" episode and provides the basis for an ethical debate regarding what to do with a bagful of casino money that literally ends up on Grace's door.

For his part, 16 year-old Quentin starting a serious relationship sets the stage for stories involving his growing up. It also allows "Grace" to follow the '90s practice of adding former "Newhart" star Julia Duffy to the cast as an effort to freshen up a series. In this case, Duffy plays the former bowling-alley employee/current wealthy mother of the WASPy girl with whom Quentin is involved.

Oscar-nominated actress Diane Ladd earns the award for most notable guest star. She appears in the Christmas episode as the mother of Grace. The "sit" that provides the "com" in this one involves said maternal figure trying to feminize her happy to be a tomboy granddaughter Libby.

The award for best episode of the season goes to one in which gossip at which Grace is the center leads to rumors circulating like wildfire. The varying degrees to which these assertions are true provides terrific "com."

The season finale indicates that it is not intended to be a series finale in that it is neither monumental nor anti-monumental. It involves Duffy's Bev inadvertently disrupting the household of Grace on moving in an effort to return to her blue-collar roots. The "sit" this time is that Bev is oblivious regarding the impact of the high-class ways that have become second nature to her on the others with whom she is sharing her home.

The evolution referred to above demonstrates that future raunchmaster Lorre nicely guides "Grace" from a show with a great deal in common with the shriller and cruder "Roseanne," which also has the Lorre fingerprint, to one that largely accurately reflects the times. People go about their daily lives with most of their desperation being of the quiet variety.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Grace" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.