‘Mad About You’: Helen Hunt Almost Didn’t Get Cast as Jamie Buchman

Mad About You is a sitcom about New York newlyweds that originated in the 1990s. Paul Buchman, portrayed by Paul Riser, is a filmmaker who marries Jamie Stemple, played by Helen Hunt. The storyline, according to IMDb follows the day-to-day events of their lives all the while sparring with each other, their families, and anyone else they have to deal with.

Considered a comedy and a romance, the series aired from 1992 to 1999 and was reprised in 2019 for a revival season looking at where the Buchmans are 20 years later. The popular series was the idea of Riser’s who created the series along with Danny Jacobson. The choice for the male leading role was easy with Riser being the creator. And while Helen Hunt earned four consecutive Emmy awards for her role as Jamie, she almost didn’t get the part.

Helen Hunt smiling in front of a blue background
Helen Hunt | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Helen Hunt’s background and how she met Paul Riser

Born in Culver City, California, Hunt is the daughter of an acting coach father and a professional photographer mother. The 57-year-old landed her first role at the tender age of 10, according to Biography, in the movie made for television, Pioneer Woman. She was well into her acting career by the time Mad About You came about having appeared in a variety of TV series growing up and earning a recurring role on the medical drama, St. Elsewhere in the ’80s.

Hunt first met Riser while he was working on the pilot script for the show. She was sharing a house with a good friend of Riser’s wife, Paula Ravets, according to Mental Floss. Riser and Ravets were newlyweds, themselves, at the time. Hunt was wanting to concentrate on her career aspirations in film. But, reading Riser’s pilot changed her mind pivoting her toward another TV role with it coming down between her and one other actress for the part.

Teri Hatcher came close to landing the role, but in the end, it was Hunt

Another California-native, Teri Hatcher also read for the part. The former NFL cheerleader had appeared as a showgirl in the mid-80s on the show, The Love Boat, according to IMDb. She then appeared in guest roles on multiple television shows including MacGyverL.A. Law, and Murphy Brown. But in the end, it was Hunt who earned the role through one scene of the pilot with her imitation of Reiser trying to decide what to eat which she performed, “brilliantly.” The loss worked out for Hatcher too, as she landed the role of Lois Lane on another new series, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, premiering in 1993.

Hunt had predicted that Mad About You might last on the air for about five years. That fifth season ended with the Buchmans having a baby and the show went into its sixth season ending with a finale that Reiser wasn’t happy with. According to Mental Floss, which quoted a Los Angeles Times interview with Hunt, the episode, called “The Finale” only served as a “very perfunctory ending.”

The show returned for yet a seventh season, which turned out quite profitable for Reiser and Hunt, each with a salary increase per episode to $1 million. Previously, each had earned a mere $250,000 per episode.

Awards and accolades

Along with Hunt’s four Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, the show was nominated for a total of 34 Primetime Emmy Awards, netting 12 wins. Hunt also earned three Golden Globes, three American Comedy Awards, three Q Awards, and one Screen Actors Guild Award for her role. In 1995, the show itself also earned the Golden Globe for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy.

Hunt’s career took off in the ’90s not only due to her role in Mad About You but also on the big screen. She earned the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1997 for her role in As Good As It Gets, working with Jack Nicholson, who won Best Actor the same year. Hunt also garnered a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for the role.