It’s A Living was one of the few things that brought me pure joy last year and I discovered it by accident, via a private Facebook group where the poster likened her poolside ensemble to the outfits worn by the cast, Los Angeles cocktail waitresses at a “posh” hotel restaurant.
See where its earworm of a theme song landed on our countdown of top themes in this section of Comedy March Madness
Airing 1980-1982, the sitcom followed the travails of the restaurant’s all-female waitstaff and its manager, who navigate patrons and their personal lives. Initially, the series starred Marian Mercer, Barrie Youngfellow, Ann Jillian, Susan Sullivan, and Wendy Schaal, before being (slightly) retooled and replacing Sullivan and Schaal for Maggie McBurney and Louise Lasser. (Gen-Z and ’90s Kids will be thrilled to see a pre-Full House Gail Edwards).
The writing is tight on this frothy fantasy of the workplace in the ’80s. Recalling more than one madcap scheme from 1980s TV has me wondering if the plot is It’s A Living or legendary sitcoms Designing Women and The Golden Girls. The show boasted plots such as “The Intruder,” when the ladies crash Lois’s house for a pajama party, only to face the neighborhood cat burglar. Or when the restaurant chides the waitresses for “gaining a few pounds” and insists on weigh-ins before shifts to stay on payroll, and Lois swiftly puts an end to the offensive policy. Or the many, many hasty proposals. Can you imagine Dorothy or Julia faced with such demands? Does a week pass without a marriage proposal for Blanche Devereaux? It’s a credit to the show, that it could stand amidst quality, beloved sitcoms of previous eras.
For the curious: the sitcom is set at Above the Top, located on the top floor of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Today the Westin-owned property has a revolving upscale bar on its 35th floor, LA Prime, which lists its attire as “casual,” but I would feel out of place in denim shorts, as the hotel appears to have all the grandeur the sitcom promised. (At least according to the photos posted by hotel guests. A comment in that thread called the lobby a “dystopian hellhole.”)
Like many of our favorites here (Party Down, for one), It’s A Living was never a hit while it aired, but found an audience in syndication, from 1985-1989. A two-bite check at Logo landed the series on YouTube, where I binged the first two seasons on a Friday night, and I am so grateful I did.
We’re not above electioneering here (or even putting our thumb on the scale… you can vote for this underrated slice of 1980s (and the rest of the bracket) below…