How Marlo Thomas Convinced Execs to Create ‘Revolutionary’ Female Lead

That Girl broke ground in television, and it returns to TV in a special marathon on Sunday, January 1 on Antenna TV. Ahead of its return, Marlo Thomas tells TV Insider what she did to make sure Ann Marie was different from women anyone had ever seen on TV.

“There’d never been [a show about] some young girl in her 20s moving to the big city with her eyes wide open.” Thomas starred as aspiring actress Ann Marie. Thomas, in the enviable position of being sought by TV executives, bargained for a strong female lead.

“I said, ‘You know, all these scripts, the girl is the wife or secretary or daughter of somebody,’” she recalls. “‘Have you ever considered doing a show where the girl is somebody?’”

Thomas’ spunky Ann Marie and an optimistic feminist legacy resulted. The episode airing on Antenna TV’s “Fresh Start” marathon on Sunday, January 1 is just a taste of the show’s nostalgic worth.

That installment — the series’ second — is titled “Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye”; it captures the hilariously halting start of Ann’s bid for independence as she leaves her parents’ home in the suburbs for a New York City apartment. First airing on September 15, 1966, it followed the premiere, in which Ann decided to pursue acting stardom.

As the story unfurls, capable Ann finds a waitressing job — but is distracted when her mother shows up at her doorstep after a fight with Ann’s father. Our heroine handles such love with her hallmark humor and pivots to book an acting gig… as a mop on a children’s program.

The show’s five seasons brim with Ann’s embrace of work life and romance with her boyfriend, journalist Donald (Ted Bessell).

“We tried to make it honest, and we never put girls down,” says Thomas, who insisted the series not end with Ann and Donald’s wedding. “I said, ‘If you get married at the last show, you’re saying that’s the only happy ending. I can’t do that.’ When Ann said, ‘I don’t want to get married, Daddy,’ that was revolutionary.”

That Girl, Sunday, January 1, 10am/9c, Antenna TV

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