Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bonnie Franklin, 1944-2013: The Dimming of Another '70s and '80s TV Star

Just the other day, I was watching an old episode of The Love Boat (they air weekdays at 11 here in Australia), one that featured Nanette Fabray and Rose Marie. A quick Wikipedia consultation led to the surprising revelation that both Fabray, now 92, and Rose Marie, now 89, are still living -- as is the entire main Love Boat cast, by the way.

How strange, I thought to myself. How many '70s and early '80s classic TV shows feature an entire cast of regulars that's still alive, if not kicking quite so forcefully? One Day at A Time (1975-1984), in which Fabray appeared as the grandmother, for one. Now sadly, I can't say that anymore. Bonnie Franklin, who played Ann Romano, mother of the TV characters played by Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips, died on March 1 of complications from pancreatic cancer at age 69.

I'd read that Franklin was ill, but when my friend Lori broke the news to me on Facebook, I still felt a surge of shock run through my body. She'd only been diagnosed last September. I can't say that I knew much about the Emmy/Tony nominee's career before or after the show that made her a TV star, and I was never as much of a fan of One Day at a Time as I was of CBS's other Sunday-night sitcom staples of the era (The Jeffersons and Alice), but I'm glad that Franklin got to make a brief TV comeback in her later years.

In 2011, she appeared in an episode of Hot in Cleveland as the disapproving Polish mother of a guy that her former TV daughter, Valerie Bertinelli, was dating. And last year, she appeared in a story arc on The Young and the Restless as a nun who befriended an amnesiac Victor Newman (Eric Braeden). Though her comeback was cut short, we'll always have nine years of One Day at a Time episodes by which we can remember her.

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