An Anything But Love Letter to the Late Richard Lewis

I was 10 when Anything But Love came out. I’m fairly certain it drew my love map in indelible ink, and Richard Lewis  — whom we sadly lost Wednesday — held the pen.

Picture it: suburban Connecticut, the late 1980s. A pre-teen girl who loves books and can’t get enough TV starts watching a Tuesday-night sitcom, mainly because it comes on after Roseanne. From Episode 1, something is different. The male lead is a bit of an oddball. He wears all black. He self-deprecates at every opportunity. But there’s just something about him, and when he and the female lead start bantering moments after they meet on a plane — a plane he’s convinced is going to crash, by the way — I’m all in.

That guy, of course, was Lewis — a very successful standup comedian in his own right when he was cast in the ABC series, but I didn’t know that at the time. As the weeks passed and I got to know Marty Gold (his character) and Hannah Miller (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) better, I fell in love with them as they fell in love. First they were friends, getting to know each other as they worked side-by-side at a Chicago magazine. Then they were best friends (no offense, Mrs. Schmenkman) who danced around their feelings for two seasons then ultimately parlayed them into a relationship in Season 3.

The show was sweet and funny, thanks to the chemistry and humor between Curtis and Lewis. Their burn was slow; it meandered a path full of neurotic jokes and pompous romantic interlopers. And my middle-school self — please be gentle with her, she thought Days of Our Lives was the pinnacle of romance — was confused.

Lewis’ Marty wasn’t dashing. He wasn’t gallant. He certainly wasn’t strapping and storybook. (Remember, these were the days of Baywatch.) But he was funny and smart, and you knew exactly how he felt about Hannah every time he looked at her. I didn’t have the words to express it then, but I sure do now: Marty, his big suits and his bigger brain were sexy as hell.

The show ran four seasons; I watched all of them. Though Anything But Love never had a proper series finale, Hannah and Marty definitely got their happily ever after. And Lewis went on to have a robust TV, film and standup career; appearing on the small screen as recently as this season of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Ten-year-old me couldn’t have known that she, too, would meet a quiet, self-deprecating, sexy as hell guy at her college newspaper years later. She couldn’t have known that she and the guy would become best friends, start dating and establish journalism careers before they got married and had a great kid. But she’d definitely recognize how Lewis’ understated, lovable performance in a show no one talks about anymore set the tone for what to look for in a happily ever after.

I like to think she’d thank him.