Paul Reiser calls the new iteration of “Mad About You” a “continuation” of the ’90s-era sitcom about married New Yorkers Paul and Jamie Buchman (Reiser and Helen Hunt), which, for seven seasons, was a key cog of NBC’s vaunted “Must-See TV” lineup.
“We tried not to call it a ‘reboot’ or a ‘revisit,’ ” Reiser, 63, says of the new “Mad About You,” premiering with six new episodes Nov. 20 on Spectrum Originals (another six will follow Dec. 18). “I sort of have an allergy to nostalgia shows. Something that was good in its time doesn’t mean you necessarily want to go back. That was then, this is now.
“But we realized we wanted to work together again,” he says. “And when we landed on the kickoff — OK, if we start the season with the kid leaving, which we do, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is reality. You and me and these four walls. This could be interesting. Now what?’”
Reiser refers to the new show’s premiere, which opens 18 years after the original’s finale and finds Paul and Jamie, still living in the same apartment, sending daughter Mabel (Abby Quinn) off to NYU — five blocks away. What could possibly go wrong?
“That very much parallels my life,” says Reiser, who’s married with two sons. “How do you [and your spouse] find each other again? I went through that last year when my youngest son left for college. If you’re not busy worrying about, did he finish his homework and take a jacket and have lunch … then what are we again?
“It’s a really rich place to write from,” he says. “Now it’s years later [for the Buchmans] and there have been some bruises and maybe careers didn’t pan out like they hoped. You’re at a different point in your life and some of the sacrifices you had to make because you had a child informs that. As real and grounded as the original episodes were, that audience loved the show because they saw themselves in the Buchmans. They go, ‘OK, thank God other people are going through this. We’re not the only couple having this conversation.’ ”
Reiser says it took nearly three years to get the new “Mad About You” off the ground. Different potential homes had different expectations, “and then there were legal things I don’t really understand,” he says. “Sony owned the show so they had to figure out their business end … and Helen and I were very protective of the legacy, the brand — we were very proud of what we did for seven years and how it ended so we had to think long and hard before we decided to get back in. But it was crazy; when we shot the first episode … I couldn’t believe it was this easy. We fell right into it. It didn’t feel like we took 20 years off — it felt like maybe we missed a weekend.”
Reiser says it helped that the Buchmans’ apartment from the original NBC series was “exactly” re-created — “we’ve redecorated, because it’s 20 years later and hopefully they brought a new chair” — and that original cast members including Richard Kind (Mark Devanow), John Pankow (Cousin Ira) and Anne Ramsey (Jamie’s sister, Lisa) are back. They’re joined by new cast member, Broadway veteran Kecia Lewis (“The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Chicago,” “Leap of Faith”), who plays Mark’s second wife, Tonya.
“We recut the original theme song, which was recorded by Andrew Gold and then later on by Anita Baker,” Reiser says. “Kecia said, ‘I happen to sing a little bit’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I know you can sing’ so we have this duet of Lyle and Kecia which is really cool — and hopefully representative of a new fresh coat of paint on this show.”
Reiser says a “momentary downside” of the new “Mad About You” is that Spectrum is not available everywhere. “We’re hoping sooner rather than later to announce a second window — an Amazon or Netflix or some other platform — where people can see the show if they don’t have Spectrum,” he says. “It’s frustrating for me … but we hope to rectify that soon.”