• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #112: Jamie Buchman


As good as it gets

I'll admit it: I enjoyed Mad About You. Sure, it's fairly standard sitcom fare, and its depiction of complex affection between a young married couple came at an awkward spot between the earnest family fables of the 1980s (The Cosby Show, Family Ties) and the snarky insult comedy of the 1990s (Friends, Seinfeld). It was a good vehicle for Paul Reiser's hand-wringing self-deprecation, but even more so for Helen Hunt's neurotic Jamie Buchman.

The Buchmans, Paul and Jamie, were very much in love. The show was never about whether they would get together, or about their parenting style (until the jump-the-shark introduction of daughter Mabel), but about that interstitial period of a marriage, after the honeymoon and before the Lamaze, when the drama and the comedy is all about two people trying to integrate disparate lives into some kind of functioning whole. Simple questions, like who walks the dog and what's for dinner and is three weeks too long without sex, these were the very real minutiae of the Buchmans' world, and it should be familiar to many. Of course there were silly plots and goofy resolutions, but the exploration of the underlying work of marriage, of how often it bears no resemblance to romantic ideals, was the foundation of a very watchable show.

As I mentioned, I liked Jamie more than Paul. She was real, not a barbie doll or a sexless matron, neither whore nor madonna, just a woman trying to make a go of her career and building a life with the odd man she fell in love with. She had plenty of her own quirks, and her own mistakes drove the action as often as Paul's, yet there was an inner strength to her, a kind of insistence that things work out, that served as the bedrock of their relationship. I enjoyed that this was a marriage of equals, that both were screwed up and flawed, but that together they stood a chance. For all its warts, the show got that right.

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