David Birney had faith in Bridget Loves Bernie even before fans did
Bridget Loves Bernie (1972) was tucked with loving care between CBS's All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but the series couldn't have been any more different from the two hit series it shared a Saturday with.
While Archie Bunker may have been the nation's biggest bigot, Bernie was one half of a mixed-faith marriage. The series followed the love affair between a Jewish man and a Catholic woman.
Bridget Loves Bernie had the main focus of showing the cultural and religious differences between the two main characters.
While following the nation's number one show, All in the Family, the cast of Bridget Loves Bernie had a huge audience during the first season. However, whether or not their format could hold fans for seasons to come was a different story.
In a 1972 interview with The Journal News, David Birney, who played the role of Bernie, said being on after All in the Family was both a blessing and a curse for the series.
"We shouldn't try to duplicate All in the Family," Birney said. "Our form of comedy should not become a rip-off. We deal with a Catholic-Jewish family who don't know much about each other, and our plots concern a gradual coming together."
Birney said he kept his fingers crossed during the first season of the series, hoping comedy plots based on silly situations and jokes wouldn't take over.
Where All in the Family was often satirical and confrontational, Bridget Loves Bernie had a more traditional sitcom format and featured a lighter tone.
"We're asked to play fast and bright, and that's not encouraging," Birney said. "But with so many people involved in the process, it becomes hard to get a viewpoint over. I just hope all the people don't worry it to death."
Being placed between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a new series must have been terrifying, but Birney had faith in his show — especially considering that at one point in time, the series was the highest-rated new show on TV.
At the time, Bridget Loves Bernie had a bit of controversy swirling around it. The series faced criticism for the portrayal of cultural and religious stereotypes, but Birney discounted these reports.
"I have had nothing but support personally and mixed marriages have been indicative of the times since World War II," Birney said in a 1973 interview with The Journal Herald.
As for marriages without the approval from both sets of parents is concerned, he said those types of marriages date back to the days of Romeo and Juliet. Birney always had faith in Bernie — even if the rest of the nation had mixed reviews on mixed-faith marriages.
"The show has been good to me because it has made me a very buyable commodity," Birney said. "People are interested in having me in their theaters and are willing to give me some of the things I like."