Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Keeping in mind the very close relationship between TV producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and the Bill Clinton administration, it should be no surprise that the Thomasons were the creative forces behind the CBS sitcom Hearts Afire, a "politically topical comedy series" that premiered September 14, 1992, less than two months before President Clinton sailed into the White House. Originally set in Washington D.C., the series starred John Ritter as John Hartman, chief of staff to ultra-conservative Southern senator Strobe Smithers (George Gaynes); and Markie Post as Georgie Anne Lahti, globetrotting ultra-liberal journalist. Hard up for a job, Georgie Anne swallowed her pride and applied for a job as Senator Smithers' press secretary. Although she and Hartman argued over practically everything both inside and outside the political beltway, it was clear that they were extremely attracted to one another. Things intensified when circumstances obliged Georgie Anne to move into the house occupied by the divorced John and his sons Ben (played first by Justin Burnette, then by J. Skylar Testa) and Elliott (Clark Duke). Also in the cast during season one were future Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thornton as John's lifelong pal and fellow senatorial aide Billy Bob Davis; Wendie Jo Sperber as Billy Bob's sarcastic and politically ambitious wife Mavis; Doren Fein as the Davis' daughter, Carson Lee; Beth Broderick as the spacey, well-endowed Dee Dee Starr, secretary (and mistress) to Senator Smithers; Beah Richards as Miss Lula, Georgie Anne's childhood nanny, who moved into the Hartman household to look after the kids; and Adam Carl as Adam Carlson, Smithers' none-too-bright office assistant. Making occasional appearances this season was Ed Asner as Georgie Anne's ex-convict father George. The "will they or won't they" element surrounding John and Georgie Anne's romantic relationship became "they Will!" toward the end of the first season, when the couple decided to get married. The following season, the series underwent a major format change, as John, his wife Georgie Anne, and his sons left Washington behind and moved back to John's hometown, somewhere in the Deep South. Here the couple purchased a dying newspaper, "The Daily Beacon," which soon became a conduit for John and Georgie Anne's diametrically opposite political views. Also making the move southward were Billy Bob, who had divorced Mavis, and Carson Lee. Added to the series at this point were Dr. Madeline Stoessinger (Conchata Ferrell), a glib, left-of-center psychologist who signed on as the Beacon's advice columnist, and also served as a verbal sparring partner for Billy Bob; Leslie Jordan as Lonnie Garr, the newspaper's timid print setter, Debbie Gregory as local gal Vicki Bumpers; and Mark Harelik as wealthy, bombastic Reed Folsom. And though the character of Dee Dee had been written out of the show, Beth Broderick returned in a new role: Lee Ann Folsom, Dee Dee's sister and Reed's wife. The cast was further increased the following season when Georgie Anne gave birth to a daughter. Its title lifted from Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's the Way of the World"," Hearts Afire ended its CBS run on February 1, 1995.
columnist, Deep-South, newspaper, political-advisor, press-secretary, Senator