Lovers and Friends (later retitled For Richer, For Poorer) was a soap opera that had run on the NBC television network, from 1977-1978. The series focused on the lives of two families that lived in the fictional wealthy Chicago suburb of Point Clair, Illinois. It was created by Harding Lemay and Paul Rauch who were both working on Another World at that same time.
Lovers and Friends
Both incarnations of the show was set in the fictional Chicago suburb of Point Clair, Illinois, and focused on the trials and tribulations of two neighboring families, the wealthy Cushings and the more middle class Saxtons.
Point Clair was a highly wealthy suburb, allegedly modeled after the real life community of Lake Forest, Illinois, the wealthiest of the North Shore suburbs in the Chicago Metropolitan area.
The Cushings were comprised of Richard Cushing (Ron Randell), a successful stockbroker (he ran a stock house called Cushing and Sons), who also had an affair with his secretary, Barbara Manners; his proper and high society wife, Edith (Nancy Marchand, Laurinda Barrett), who stayed in the marriage, even though she knew about and tended to tolerate Richard's infidelity; their college aged son, Austin (Rod Arrants) who was an alcoholic due to his despair of not being an artist and having his heart broken by Laurie Brewster, who had been forced by her mother Viola to take a European trip (to get her away from Austin's liberal leanings and his alcoholism); and their daughter, Megan (Patricia Estrin; Darlene Parks) who was unhappily engaged to wealthy and stuffy Desmond Hamilton (David Knapp). She was engaged to him, because she felt that was what was prudent for her upbringing and that she was afraid of defying her mother.
Also living with and offering some sage, down-to-earth advice and also a touch of humor to the often stuffy Cushing home was Edith's mother, Sophia Slocum (Margaret Barker). It was Sophia, who wasn't constrained by wealth or societal pretentions, who counseled Megan to look into her heart and to marry for love, and not for money or societal propriety, the way she and Edith had. These words of advice from Sophia helped Megan to break off her unhappy engagement.
Sophia was at first, the only one of the Cushings who welcomed the Saxtons outright. After a short amount of time and an initial bad impression, however, Austin and Megan unbent a lot around the new neighbors and would often spend more time at the down-to earth Saxton house, than at their own home, because they felt they could relate to the newcomers.
The loving and lovable Sophia, who also was more open and friendly than her daughter, would often talk with the Saxtons about life, and were real and honest.
The Cushing's new neighbors were the Saxtons, who were newcomers to Point Clair. The family moved into the house that had once been owned by Viola Brewster and she had sold, which appalled Edith towards her former neighbor of twenty years standing.
The father, Lester (John Heffernan; Albert Stratton) was a former factory worker and alcoholic, who had recently acquired a higher paying job as a warehouse supervisor, thanks to the help of his married daughter, Ellie Kimball (Flora Plumb) and her husband, wealthy attorney, George Kimball (Stephen Joyce), which also allowed them to purchase the house next door to the Cushings in Point Clair.
He was married to the compassionate Josie (Patricia Englund) and was the father of four other children, besides Ellie, the oldest daughter (who was very social climbing, and was similar in temperament to her snobbish neighbor, Edith). Rhett (Bob Purvey, David Ramsey, Tom Happer), the oldest son, a professional photographer who had been engaged to longtime girlfriend, Connie Ferguson (Susan Foster, Cynthia Bostick) until he fell in love with and eventually married his neighbor Megan Cushing; Jason (Richard Backus) who was somewhat conniving and scheming, always wanting to get ahead; youngest brother, Bentley (David Abbott) and youngest sister, Tessa (Vicky Dawson; Breon Gorman). Both Bentley and Tessa, who were in high school, felt out of place in wealthy Point Clair, and longed to return to Hammond, their former neighborhood in Chicago. However, they ended up adapting. Tessa found a grandmotherly figure in the widowed Sophia Slocum.
Also living with the Saxtons was their cousin Amy Gifford (Christine Jones) who was smitten with Austin Cushing and he with her. (Christine Jones brought the Amy Gifford character from Another World, hence the ties to Lovers and Friends. Jones would later return to Another World as Steve Frame's sister, Janice.)
Alcoholic Austin turned to his next-door neighbor, Lester Saxton (after his grandmother, Sophia, had told Lester about what Austin was dealing with), who had been through the same situations that Austin was going through, for guidance; and with his support and help, stayed off the booze and faced his problems in Point Clair.
Richard had wanted Austin to go into a wealthy sanitarium to dry out, but he stunned (and later impressed) his father by taking responsibility for his actions and remained in town to deal with his troubles, being helped along by Lester and Amy Gifford, who became his support system. This would help Richard become more friendly with his neighbors, although he knew that Edith would disapprove.
Edith had made her displeasure of the Saxtons living next to her well known, despite her family's acceptance of them, from the moment they moved into Point Clair. What mortified Edith most was that the Saxtons had moved into town the same day she was throwing an engagement party for Megan and Desmond. The noise they were making as they were moving into the house was interrupting her high-society party.
She would often use Ellie (due to her aspirations to become more socially acceptable) to prevent the Saxtons from becoming involved in her family's life and would often try to stifle the budding romance between Megan and Rhett. They eventually got engaged which stunned both families, although the only one (aside from Rhett and Megan) who was most pleased about the whole thing was Sophia, who was thrilled that Megan was following her heart and not what was societally accepted like she and Edith had.
For Richer, For Poorer
When the show was retooled into For Richer, For Poorer, several major changes had occurred. The show's setting was still Point Clair; Rhett's name had been changed to Bill and he finally married Megan; Edith Cushing's husband Richard died, leaving her a widow; the Cushings and Saxtons, although they were now related due to Bill and Megan's marriage, were no longer neighbors; and Amy Gifford married Austin Cushing. Also, Edith had really come around about her former neighbors. She was a lot more friendly towards them than she had been in the previous series.
Also in the story, in both versions of the show, was the Brewster family, who had sold the Saxtons their home, widowed mother Viola (Patricia Barry) and her daughter, Laurie (Julia MacKenzie). Despite his marriage to Megan, Bill's former fiancee, Connie Ferguson, announced that she was pregnant; the father was never revealed, but it was rumored to be Bill's.
Despite the story changes, the show didn't last and was cancelled in 1978.
When the series premiered as Lovers and Friends, the opening titles showed two large houses on a suburban street side by side, supposedly to show the Cushing house and the Saxton house as neighbors to one another. The program's title was then shown in script over the picture of the two houses.
When it was rebranded as For Richer, For Poorer, the titles were changed. It showed a road with two different worlds, on the left was a suburban neighborhood (similar to the street scene that had been in the previous opening sequence) and on the right was a Chicago neighborhood. Meeting in the middle were a young couple (supposedly Megan Cushing and Bill Saxton) kissing, showing that their worlds were united. The title zoomed out and above the title, a rainbow was shown.
Notable alumni of the show include the late Nancy Marchand (Edith Cushing #1) who would later become better known for her role of autocratic newspaper publisher Margaret Pynchon on the newspaper drama, Lou Grant; and later better known as wicked mob matriarch, Olivia Soprano on the HBO series, the Sopranos and Rod Arrants, who played Edith's alcoholic son, Austin, who would later become better known for his long-running role of Travis Tourneur Sentell on Search for Tomorrow (he would also marry actress Patricia Estrin, who was the first actress to play Austin's sister, Megan);