1 of 2 | John Pankow returns as Ira Buchman in 12 new episodes of the 1990s sitcom "Mad About You." Photo courtesy of Spectrum Originals
Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Actor John Pankow hopes the new episodes of Mad About You will delight original fans of the 1990s sitcom, while introducing the quirky Buchman family to a younger generation.
Six new episodes of the half-hour show are to debut Wednesday via Spectrum Originals' on-demand service. Series star Helen Hunt directed the first episode and her co-lead Paul Reiser wrote all of the screenplays with show-runner Peter Tolan. Another six installments will be ready to stream on Dec. 18.
"It's been a blast," Pankow, who plays Ira Buchman, recently told UPI about reuniting with his screen family after a two-decade break.
"It's like we just took a month off and here we are. It doesn't feel like much time has passed, if any. It's surreal."
Mad About You initially ran on NBC 1992-99 and followed the marriage of Ira's Manhattan filmmaker cousin Paul Buchman (Reiser) and his career-hopping wife Jamie (Hunt.) They were new parents to daughter Mabel when the show wrapped up.
Now their only child is off to college -- New York University, five blocks from home, but still.
"The show is perfectly suited for a reboot. It's like tuning in to the next big, big chapter of their lives," Pankow said.
"For Paul and Jamie, the characters are able to explore what that does to their relationship, what it does to the family and Abby Quinn is so fantastic as their daughter. You completely believe that she is their kid. The writing is so good. They really made her half Paul, half Jamie."
The revival finds Ira deliriously happy as the boyfriend of a beautiful Italian woman and the owner of a successful restaurant where Paul, Jamie and Mabel frequently eat.
"I love that story-line and I love having Antoinette (LaVecchia) on board," Pankow said, further describing his co-star as a "spectacular" actress who "fits comfortably into the Mad About You world."
Avid fans will no doubt want to know if Ira's bliss might once again be disrupted by his irresistible, but havoc-wreaking ex-wife Marianne, played by Cyndi Lauper.
"I've heard no plans," Pankow laughed.
The characters of Paul and Ira, who grew up together in Brooklyn, maintain their close and playful relationship in the new episodes.
"In all sitcoms, there is a kind of escapism provided because every one of us watching has a kid inside them, whatever age we are," Pankow said. "These writers tap into the energy that comes from that -- there's a joy and a lot of fun."
The actor acknowledged that what is considered acceptable in comedy has drastically changed in recent years, but emphasized that doesn't restrain the kinds of jokes Mad About You tells.
"There are big stand-up comedians that bemoan the fact that there is less terrain that they can cover. For this, it's not a super-risque show," he said, adding the show is also politically non-partisan.
"It's only political in the sense that it is dealing with the politics of how we all negotiate our lives in this very different world 20 years later."
The introduction of Mabel -- an independent, funny woman raised to right wrongs where she sees them -- offers the show a generation gap to mine for stories and humor.
"The parents are always playing catch up in this brave new world... and that provides ample opportunity for comedy," Pankow said.
Newcomer Quinn didn't see the series in its original run, but binged as many episodes as she could before she auditioned, so she could incorporate elements of Mabel's adoring, but high-strung parents into her own character.
"I am a newer character, even though you did get to see Mabel as a baby and in the last episode as a 20-something (in a flash-forward scene,)" the actress told UPI in a separate interview. "It's been a really interesting experience of filling in the gap for the Mabel that you haven't seen."
Paul's well-intentioned but disastrous visit to Mabel's college film class in one episode shows the importance of diversity, female empowerment and social justice to today's students.
"A lot of it comes down to the writing and, luckily, they are incorporating that in the show," Quinn said.
"While still being funny and still being the same Mad About You, they are also trying to reach a younger audience and make sure they are having conversations about inclusivity and topics that a 19-year-old would be learning her freshman year of college. It's cool because she gets to bring all of that home and talk about it with her parents."