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Grace Under Fire is a television series which ran on ABC from 1993 to 1998. The show starred Brett Butler. It began on September 29, 1993. It was the highest rated new comedy of the 19931994 season.

Premise of show

Grace Under Fire was produced by Carsey-Werner International. Grace Under Fire was part of a wave of shows in the late 1980s and 1990s that were built around a comedian (and in some cases, closely based on his or her comedy routine). As for Carsey-Werner, many of their shows were based around non-traditional, non-nuclear families.

Grace Under Fire followed a similar formula; Butler starred as Grace Kelly, a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic. The show begins after the main character divorces her abusive alcoholic husband of eight years in an attempt to start life anew and prevent her children from making the same mistakes she did. The show revolved around Grace; her children, mischievous Quentin (Jon Paul Steuer), happy-go-lucky Libby (Kaitlin Cullum) and infant Patrick (Dylan and Cole Sprouse); her happily married best friends and neighbors, Nadine and Wade Swoboda (Julie White and Casey Sander), along with the town's bachelor pharmacist, Russell Norton (Dave Thomas). All of them helped Grace keep whatever shreds of sanity she had left.

In the first three seasons, the show had a very blue-collar appeal due to Grace's chosen line of work, post-divorce; she operated pipelines at the local oil refinery, and had a second family of fellow crew workers down at the plant. Among them were heavy-set Dougie Boardreau (Walter Olkewicz), friendly Vic (Dave Florek), and Carl (Louis Mandylor). Their gruff boss was Bill Davis (Charles Hallahan). Both Bill and Carl were dropped after the first season; while Carl hadn't a permanent on-screen replacement, the crew's new boss was John Shirley (Paul Dooley) starting in the second season. In season three, Grace entered a relationship with plant executive Rick Bradshaw (Alan Autry), despite their radically different places in the company ladder. As the fourth season opened, Grace moved on from the oil refinery and took an entry-level position with an ad agency, transitioning her way up to being a white-collar professional. That job only lasted a year, but she then took on similar business work for a construction company owned by D.C. (Don "D.C." Curry).

Throughout the entire five-year run, Grace's ex-husband Jimmy Kelly (Geoff Pierson) showed up, sometimes causing problems and at others miraculously clean and sober, trying to win Grace back. A reconciliation never quite happened, but the two did settle on a good friendship for the sake of the kids. In the midst of Jimmy's attempts to get straight, his mother and Grace's mother-in-law, Jean (Peggy Rea) offered to move in and help Grace raise the kids beginning in the third season. While Grace was having a long-term affair with Rick, Jean found some new loving of her own in the neighborhood, being courted by none other than Russell's dad, Floyd Norton (Tom Poston). As far as Grace's own kin and past life went, she had a regular source of support from her sister Faith (Valri Bromfield) in the first two seasons. Another major development in season four brought Grace's first child from a man she never wed, son Matthew (guest star Tom Everett Scott). He showed up on her doorstep wishing to know if Grace had been responsible for his screwed-up life. Deep down though, the only thing he wanted to do was get to know his mother. In the final episodes in early 1998, Grace's old best friend Bev Henderson (Julia Duffy) came back to town and ended up moving in with the Kellys. In the intervening years, Bev had become quite successful and wealthy. She returned to her old home town to get in touch with her working-class roots. The last major Grace Under Fire storyline centered around Grace and Bev's personal reunion.


The role of Nadine was originally offered to Sheila McCarthy, who declined the role since she did not want to commute between her home in Toronto and the Los Angeles filming location.

Noah Segan appeared as Quentin Kelly in the pilot, but as he became unavailable when ABC picked up the series, Jon Paul Steuer moved into the role.

Ratings and recognition

The show was the highest rated new show in its first season. In the month before Grace Under Fire first aired, Showtime broadcast the Carsey Werner-produced Brett Butler Special, a half-hour comedy performance by Butler.

Grace Under Fire was nominated for three Golden Globe awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series Comedy/Musical in 1995 and 1997 and Best TV Series Comedy/Musical in 1995.

Jean Stapleton was nominated for the 1995 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy series Emmy Award for playing Aunt Vivian in the episode "The Road to Paris Texas." Diane Ladd was nominated for the same award the previous year for playing Louise Burdett in the episode entitled "Things Left Undone."


Grace Under Fire has been a top-20 hit for the first three seasons.

1993 - 1994: #5

1994 - 1995: #4

1995 - 1996: #13

1996 - 1997: #45 (tie)

1997 - 1998: #68 (tie)

Controversy and cancellation

After the first season, the creative aspect of the show experienced a revolving door of producers and writers. These changes were a result of creative clashes between the production team and Butler. Butler constantly fought for (and eventually won) more creative control for her character and show. These arguments led to the removal of the show's Creator/Executive Producer, Chuck Lorre, from production work, although he stayed with the show as a "comedy consultant." As with Roseanne and Cybill, the back-stage conflicts of Grace Under Fire were well publicized.

In the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, Butler was fighting a painkiller addiction, for which she eventually sought medical help. During Butler's addiction and subsequent treatment, clashes with other cast members occurred. Butler allegedly flashed her breasts at actor Jon Paul Steuer, who was 12 years old at the time and was playing the son of Butler's character. Sources have speculated that Steuer's exit from the show in 1996 was because his mother pulled him out after the incident with Butler. At the start of Season 4, Sam Horrigan became the third actor to play Quentin Kelly, and with him in the role, the character's age advanced to 16. Cast member Julie White left the show after Season 4, also citing Butler's behavior as the reason.

Butler's first round of treatment and rehab delayed the start of the 1997-98 season until November. After Grace Under Fire resumed production on season five, a newly-clean Butler struggled to stay that way; the morale on the set was little better than in the previous season, due to the star's erratic behavior. Around the holidays Butler relapsed again, and although the producers were as committed as ever to continuing the show due to great ratings, ABC was becoming concerned about Butler's overall health, and were becoming less patient with her accelerated amount of missed tapings. Rather abruptly, with the February 17, 1998 telecast, ABC cancelled the series.

It can currently be seen on the Oxygen Network in the United States and TVtropolis in Canada.

International remakes

The show was remade in Russiamarker as Lyuba, Children and the Factory in 2005.

A Polishmarker adaptation titled Hela w opałach (Hela Under Fire, Hela is short form from Helen) is being broadcast by TVN from September 2006. After airing 3 seasons and 41 episodes show went on year and a half long hiatus in autumn of 2007. New episodes are due to be aired starting in April 2009. The title character's full name Helena Trojańska (played by Anna Guzik) may be translated as Helen of Troy. The series is praised the light and liberal approach in depicting lower class life, in opposition to its major competitors like Plebania (The Parish) broadcast by the public TVP. Piotr Gąsowski playing one of the main characters was nominated to a prestigious Telekamery 2007 Award.


  2. Television Heaven

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