Women On The Verge | EW.com


Women On The Verge

Lifetime's "Any Day Now" proves there's more to ratings than 18-to-34-year-old males. Whether there's room for a second female network is the question.

Touring the L.A. set of the Lifetime hit Any Day Now is like wading through an earthquake-stricken Melrose Place. Scattered haphazardly between the country blue kitchen of fortysomething homemaker Mary Elizabeth (Annie Potts) and the Birmingham, Ala., law office of her best friend Rene (Lorraine Toussaint) are remnants from the soundstage’s previous tenant: an archway bearing the words ”Amanda Woodward Advertising,” a row of barstools from the Upstairs jazz club, Michael Mancini’s framed medical license peeking out from a pile of cheap watercolors. Oddly enough, even the soap’s recurring shrink, Dr. Visconti (Mark Taylor), can be found wandering about: An actor, he also works as Day’s dialogue coach. ”Walking in the first day, I half expected to see Heather Locklear,” says Taylor of Any Day Now’s move to Melrose’s old digs in late July. ”My second thought was, Where the hell’s the pool?”

It’s not like Potts and Co. need it: Day (which returned for its second season Aug. 15) is making a considerable splash on its own. Since its debut in August ‘98, Lifetime’s smart, poignant drama has drawn raves for tackling what no show on the diversity-challenged, youth-obsessed broadcast nets would dare: the sticky subject of race relations as told through the eyes of two Southern women, one white, one black, and both old enough to parent the kids on Dawson’s Creek. ”As you get older, there aren’t as many worthy suitors,” says Potts, 46, who had decided, before reading Day’s pilot, to take a break from series TV after two failed entries (ABC’s Dangerous Minds and Over the Top). ”But just when I thought I had sworn off love, it found me.” Toussaint, 39, and a veteran of Murder One, was equally enamored: ”Certainly as a black actress, I’d never encountered a character as dimensional as Rene. I read half the script, called my manager, and said, ‘I know it’s the middle of the night, but I was born to play this. Get to work.”’

The actresses’ instincts proved sound. Day has become Lifetime’s No. 1 series, and its second-season premiere nabbed an impressive (for cable) 1.8 million viewers, 800,000 more than last year’s average. That’s good news not only for 15-year-old Lifetime, which saw its ratings jump 10 percent in the past year (with 73 million subscribers, it ranks sixth among all cable nets), but also for women’s programming in general. Says media analyst Kathy Haesele of Advanswers: ”Lifetime saw an underserved audience and served it. Now everyone wants a piece of the pie.”

Competition for mature female eyeballs is heating up faster than you can say ”Finally, real women that viewers can relate to.” Besides NBC’s Providence, which shot out of the gate in January, the networks have a slew of female-centric series waiting in the wings this fall, including CBS’s Judging Amy, about a thirtysomething lawyer-turned-judge (Amy Brenneman) who moves back in with mom (Tyne Daly) after leaving her husband. ”People said, ‘The network’s not gonna go for it — there’s no male epicenter,”’ says NYPD Blue alumna Brenneman, who doubles as an exec producer. ”But I think [execs] are finally realizing there’s an audience for shows where women do something other than function in relation to men.”