The show starred the late Mary Stuart as Joanne Gardner Barron Tate Vincente Tourneur, one of the main citizens of the Midwestern town of Henderson. Also being on the show from almost the beginning was Larry Haines who played Jo's neighbor and best friend, Stu Bergman, and the late actress, Melba Rae, who played Stu's wife, Marge, from 1951-1971 when Ms. Rae died.
The series was created by Roy Winsor (the same man who helped create the series Love of Life and the Secret Storm), and was written by such talents as Agnes Nixon; Irving Vendig and Frank and Doris Hursley.
For most of the series run, much of the focus was centered on Joanne, who was a simple housewife but also showed she had a knack for business, since she ran several boarding rooms over the years. She began by running the Motor Haven and then the Hartford House and much later, the Caldwell House. She also proved herself by raising her daughter, Patty (played most notably by Lynn Loring and Jacqueline Schultz) as a single parent, in spite of the opposition of her mother in-law, Irene Barron (Bess Johnson). She also had to contend with other conniving women over the years, including her own sister, Eunice (Marion Brash; Ann Williams), although Eunice had wised up and she became a much-needed support to her sister; and vampy and sarcastic Stephanie Wilkins (Maree Cheatham; Louise Shaffer).
Jo (as Joanne was called) was married four times in all. Her first marriage was to Keith Barron (John Sylvester White) whose death was the first main story of Search; her next husband was Arthur Tate (Terry O'Sullivan; Karl Weber) who died of a heart attack; then after a romance with Sam Reynolds (played by Robert Mandan; George Gaynes and Roy Schuman); she married Dr. Tony Vincente (Anthony George) who later passed on as well, due to a heart attack. Then she married Martin Tourneur (John Aniston), who had a tendency to be quite unfaithful to Jo.. However, she got fed up with his gambling, smoking and carousing, and, after having been widowed three times, she divorced him!
Mary Stuart stated after divorcing Martin, that she "was the world's oldest ingénue" after ending her first marriage via divorce after having been widowed three times.
As time wore on, the younger set had become the center of the stories, although Jo made some sporadic appearances. One of the most popular stories was the adventures of Travis Sentell (Rod Arrants) and Liza Kaslo Sentell (Sherry Mathis; Louan Gideon), which were similar to the "Luke and Laura" stories on General Hospital. Jo and Stu were connected into the story due to Jo being married to Travis's uncle, Martin, while Stu was Liza's grandfather (her mother was Janet Collins).
At the very end of the series, a flood wiped out the town of Henderson, miraculously sparing the Caldwell House and Jo's house. The series ended with Jo's daughter, Patty (Jacqueline Schultz) marrying Hogan McCleary (David Forsythe) and Jo told her best friend, Stu, that she was searching for tomorrow and she couldn't wait for it.
After moving from CBS in 1982, Search's ratings dropped drastically, leading it to the show being cancelled in 1986. Reruns had been seen on the USA cable network in the late 80s and early 90s.
Many of the show's famous alumni include Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show; Three's Company); Sandy Duncan (Funny Face; The Sandy Duncan Show; The Hogan Family); John Sylvester White (Welcome Back Kotter); George Maharis (Route 66); Michael Nouri (NCIS); Joel Higgins (Best of the West, Silver Spoons); Morgan Fairchild (Flamingo Road; Paper Dolls; Fashion House); Anne Wyndham; Rod Arrants; Peter Simon (Guiding Light); Courtney Simon; Joan Copeland (the real-life sister of playwright Arthur Miller); Robert Mandan (Soap); Barbara Baxley; Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal); Olympia Dukakis; Mary Jo Keenen (Nurses); Maree Cheatham (The Haves and the Have Nots); Cynthia Gibb (Fame); Kevin Kline; Andrea McArdle (Annie) and Lisa Peluso among many others.