Actress Meredith Baxter turns 67 today. By coincidence, so does her Family Ties co-star, Michael Gross. But I have nothing much to say about him and never really warmed to Family Ties, so this post is all about Meredith Baxter.
I first became aware of Meredith Baxter in 1972-73 when she starred in Bridget Loves Bernie, an edgy-for-its-day sitcom about an interfaith marriage between an Irish-American Catholic woman and a Jewish man. The relationship also crossed classes; Bridget’s family was wealthy, while Bernie worked as a cab driver. Bernie was played David Birney, who later became Baxter’s real-life husband from 1974 to 1989. (Baxter came out as a lesbian in 2009; more on that later.)
If you weren’t alive in 1972, you probably can’t appreciate that a show with this premise was a big deal. In fact, it was so controversial, legend has it that CBS canceled the show because of the backlash and hate mail. Watch the sweet, very 1970s opening to the pilot below. (The volume is a bit low.)
Opening credits, pilot, Bridget Loves Bernie (Sept. 16, 1972)
I think my favorite Meredith Baxter role was her 1992 portrayal of socialite and convicted murderer Betty Broderick in the TV movies A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story and Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter. Baxter really brings on the crazy! I hate to make light of a double murder, but Broderick’s screaming and swearing and vindictiveness and narcissism as portrayed in the movie are complete camp. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Baxter an Emmy for her performance.
For a taste of crazy, watch Betty Broderick drive her car through the wall of her ex-husband’s house at 50:45. (I’ve cued it up to that point for your convenience.)
Meredith Baxter is a sociopath in A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story
A lot of people were surprised when Baxter came out as a lesbian in 2009. Others, not so much. And some were like, “Meredith Who?” The thrice-married mother of five said in interviews that her relationship with a woman made her come to terms with the fact that she was a lesbian. It made her view her past relationships with men in a new light. Watch her coming-out interview with Matt Lauer on Today.
Meredith Baxter comes out as a lesbian on the TODAY show (Dec. 2, 2009)
- 1970s Fun Flops: Bridget Loves Bernie (This Was Television)