DVD review: ‘That Girl’ engages without committing

Women often moan that men aren’t willing are able to commit — but look who’s talking, at least when it comes to That Girl? The vintage sitcom matched zany, aspiring NYC actress Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) with the gentlemanly Donald Hollinger (Ted Bessell) in its first episode in 1966, but by the series’ end in 1971, they still hadn’t married.

Oh, they did get in engaged in Season Five, new on DVD this week from Shout Factory. But that didn’t lead to a wedding — just a long series of sometimes wedding-related events over the season’s course, such as Donald botching his proposal by giving Ann a “used” ring.

Thomas, who was an executive producer on the show, reportedly resisted having the two wed — even though the series was ending — because it would send a message to America’s girls that their main goal in life was getting married. Funny, but for many girls that still hasn’t changed, and BTW, the klutzy and forever girlish Ann Marie wasn’t the best role model for being a mature, independent woman who didn’t need men.

That Girl still offers ample frothy fun as it winds down, but it just goes to show how treacherous TV can be when a series keeps going, and going, and going. Either let a couple get together, or break them apart, but don’t let them linger in limbo for too long. Because if a series lasts, as That Girl did for 136 episodes, you’ve got a problem.

ABC’s fine new Castle is too new to succumb to this, and besides, it’s busy deftly sidestepping what looks like an inevitable romance between impudent crime novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and tough NY murder detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Instead, they stay wary yet secretly intrigued rivals, while in love-life terms, he goes on his merry playboy way and she keeps all men at a distance (more back-story needed here, please).

The ’80s’ Moonlighting also was adept at such banter-driven interplay and a rivalry between sleuths, though Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis’ detective characters did give in a bit, having a fling, at least. But other shows have allowed male-female stars who’d kept a distance actually and finally to tie the knot — only to see the shows die. One was I Dream of Jeannie. Another, Get Smart. They came, they wed, they went.

Come to think of it, maybe Marlo Thomas was onto something by balking at talking wedding vows. But since her series was ending, anyway, I don’t see what harm would have been done by letting longtime lovebirds get hitched at the end. Besides, am I a romantic? Busted!

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