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Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You' revival: 'My guess is it won't happen'

Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt and Ellen Degeneres on Mad About You, 1998. NBC PHOTO: Alice S. Hall.
Published Jul. 10, 2018

Paul Reiser has some bad news for Mad About You fans hoping for a series revival.

"It's kind of stuck in the business end of it now," the comic, actor and co-creator of NBC's Emmy-winning sitcom said by phone Monday. "Sony is trying to figure out from their end; that's where I just walk away and go, call me when you figure it out. I don't know what happens at that level. They make their deals with whoever they make their deals with. So we'll see if it happens. It may not happen. It likely won't happen. My guess is it won't happen."

Reiser, 62, was calling from his home in Los Angeles to talk about his July 27 stand-up performance at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. But his bearish outlook on a potential Mad About You revival was revelatory, given recent speculation — including from Reiser himself — that it could work, especially in the wake of successful revivals of Will and Grace and Roseanne.

Before that, Reiser and co-star Helen Hunt hadn't seriously considered a reunion since Mad About You ended in 1999. Both have stayed busy, with Reiser creating and appearing in a handful of streaming shows (Netflix's Stranger Things, Amazon's Red Oaks, Hulu's There's... Johnny!), films (Whiplash, Concussion) and his reinvigorated stand-up career.

"Helen and I, we've been getting together regularly since the show's off, which is almost 20 years," he said. "And we were always very clear, it was absurd to even think — 'Would you ever go back and do it again?' It's like, no, no, never. Why would you do it? We ended it the way we wanted to, we did everything we wanted to do, and we wrapped it up in a nice ribbon."

In April, Entertainment Weekly reported that Reiser and Hunt had closed a deal with production company Sony Pictures Television to reprise their roles. Later that month, Deadline reported that showrunner Peter Tolan (Murphy Brown, Rescue Me) had signed on to write and showrun.

"We all jumped in and said, 'Yeah, let's do it,'" Reiser said.

What changed? For Reiser, it was all about hitting upon the right concept. His youngest son is heading to college this year, and he was intrigued by the idea of exploring a similar storyline involving Paul and Jamie Buchman and their daughter Mabel (played as an adult in the series finale by Janeane Garofalo). Turning Mad About You's newlyweds into empty-nesters offered creative potential, he said.

"People said, 'empty nest,' and it's such a cliche word," he said. "But I started realizing what it actually means, when suddenly, the thing that you've kept busy with for the last 20-X years, raising your children — when that's gone, suddenly you're back and you have just each other again. In a way, we thought, 'Oh, that's actually a pretty cool parallel.' So we started playing with ideas and we said, 'Wow, this could be fun.'"

If a Mad About You revival does happen, "it wouldn't go to NBC, probably," he said. "In a dream world, it would be on a streaming (platform). I don't know if we're going to do it, but if it did come back, I would much rather do it on a streaming platform than a broadcast."

If it turns out neither happens, he said, so be it.

"We signed up, and then it's gotten stuck in the business end of it," he said. "It's like, 'You know, guys, I was very happy not doing it for 20 years, and then you invited us back. And now if you can't make it happen, it's not a big deal.' Things happen, they don't happen. There's so many moving parts when you're working with a studio or broadcaster."

Which is why he's happy he's always got stand-up.

"Sometimes you think of a joke at 7 o'clock, you tell it at 8 o'clock," he said. "And that's a great feeling. You just go, 'I want to tell people tonight what I just thought of, because it made me laugh.' You don't have to test it on a test audience. That is your test audience."

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