Getting By

Getting By
Genre Family sitcom
Created by William Bickley
Michael Warren
Developed by Thomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
Starring Telma Hopkins
Cindy Williams
Merlin Santana
Deon Richmond
Nicki Vannice
Ashleigh Blair Sterling
Theme music composer Jesse Frederick
Bennett Salvay
Composer(s) Steven Chesne
Gary Boren
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 31
Executive producer(s) William Bickley
Michael Warren
Thomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
Ken Cinnamon
Karen Wengrod
Phil Doran
Camera setup Film; Multi-camera
Running time 2224 minutes
Production company(s) Bickley-Warren Productions
Miller-Boyett Productions
Lorimar Television (Season 1)
Warner Bros. Television (Season 2)
Original network ABC (1993)
NBC (19931994)
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release March 5, 1993 (1993-03-05) – June 18, 1994 (1994-06-18)

Getting By is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from March 5, 1993 until May 21, 1993, and on NBC from September 21, 1993 until June 18, 1994. The series was created by William Bickley and Michael Warren, who also served as executive producers with Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett. The final Miller-Boyett series to begin its run under parent studio Lorimar Television, Getting By was folded into Warner Bros. Television for its second season, following Warner Bros.' absorption of Lorimar.

The series was initially successful as a part of ABC's TGIF lineup in its first season, but politics between ABC and Miller-Boyett Productions led to the show's switch to NBC in the second season.


The show was about two best friends and single mothers, one white and one black, who inadvertently are sold the same house and both decide to live there with their families. The women, widowed Dolores Dixon (Telma Hopkins) and Cathy Hale (Cindy Williams), whose husband ran off with another woman, were also co-workers, employed as social workers for the Chicago Department of Welfare. The unique living situation went off without too much of a hitch, especially with the kids, although there were the normal pains, squabbles, and adjustments expected with the territory. Dolores had two sons, Marcus (Merlin Santana) and Darren (Deon Richmond). Cathy had two daughters, Nikki (Nicki Vannice) and Julie (Ashleigh Blair Sterling).

Many of the plots revolved around the kids learning to relate to each other and their numerous misadventures, along with Dolores and Cathy's discovery that living together was putting a new face on their friendship. Dolores was sensible, headstrong, and very much down to earth, while Cathy seemed too preoccupied with perfection, and was wary of taking risks. Eventually, Cathy resolved to shake off her "goody-two-shoes" image and sought the guidance of Dolores to bring her more in touch with the real world. In the second season, the two are no longer co-workers, as Cathy is laid off from the Department of Welfare, and later in the season, she dusts off her teaching degree and becomes a substitute at the kids' high school. Dolores, meanwhile, found a dashing male suitor in Wes (guest star Rif Hutton), who appeared on a few occasions.

Early in the run, the character of Marcus became very popular with viewers, as evidenced by the increasing screams and cheers heard from the studio audience whenever he first appeared in each passing episode.


Show creators William Bickley and Michael Warren served as executive producers, along with show developers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett. The inaugural spring 1993 season also featured the co-producing team of Ken Cinnamon and Karen Wengrod, and Phil Doran as a producer. For the second season, there was considerable turnover behind the scenes, and Getting By inherited several producers and other staffers from the recently ended sister series Perfect Strangers. Among these transfers were Alan Plotkin as a non-writing producer, the team of Barry O'Brien and Cheryl Alu as co-executive producers, co-producer Michael J. Morris, and Scott Spencer Gorden, who had been executive story consultant during Perfect Strangers' final two seasons, and whom continued in the same role on Getting By. Joel Zwick, a regular director on Miller/Boyett shows, garnered a rare producing credit in the second season as well.

Eunetta T. Boone and P. Karen Raper, known for their work as script editors and consultants on predominantly black series such as Roc and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, also were added to the series in its second year. This followed in the tradition of sister series Family Matters, which had begun to showcase more producers and writers who were known, or went on to become known, for their work on shows with a black perspective.

The series was principally produced by Miller-Boyett Productions, with associates Bickley-Warren Productions, and was backed by Lorimar Television in season one and Warner Bros. Television in season two.


Getting By cast. From top left: Williams, Richmond, Hopkins, Santana, Sterling and Vannice.

With three of their successful ABC comedies built on the concept of blended families (Full House, Family Matters and Step By Step), Miller and Boyett were looking to develop a new sitcom for the network in 1992 which would continue this theme. Bickley and Warren, who had created Family Matters and Step By Step, had begun penning a new series concept shortly after the early success of Step. What the producers came up with was the story of a white family that adopted a black son, which looked to be an original 1990s variation of Diff'rent Strokes and Webster.

The project was titled A New Day, and had Miller and Boyett's former Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams cast as the mother. Plans were moving forward on the series for a fall 1992 debut, until a change in direction occurred. Telma Hopkins, who had been co-starring for the past three years as Rachel Crawford on Family Matters, made the decision to leave the series after its third season for her own show. Miller/Boyett were willing to provide Hopkins with her own show, in which the actress would play an entirely new character. In the process of coming up with a concept for Hopkins' series, producers in the end experimented with the idea of adding her into A New Day with Williams, to see how the casting would work. The women clicked as equal leads, and from there the producers decided to revamp the project. The show's premiere was moved up by several months as Miller/Boyett and company tinkered with the format, resulting in the final product known as Getting By. In October 1992, the series was announced on ABC's schedule with its new title and format as a midseason replacement.

Merlin Santana and Deon Richmond portrayed preteen rivals for the affections of Keshia Knight Pulliam's character Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Their interaction on that series was so impressive that they were cast as brothers on Getting By. The two also made two guest appearances on Hangin' with Mr. Cooper in 1995 and 1996, as well as the 2003 movie The Blues, which turned out to be Santana's last film appearance before his death.

Network switch

Getting By scored very well in the ratings on ABC's TGIF lineup in the spring of 1993, airing at 9/8c (replacing Dinosaurs, which had moved to Sundays). The success was owed in part to its lead-in, Step by Step, the star power of Williams and Hopkins, and Santana as its breakout star. It was also scheduled before a new sitcom airing in the 9:30 TGIF block, Where I Live, which, like Getting By, was marked by a largely black cast. In early May 1993, a few weeks before network upfronts, ABC confirmed that Getting By would be renewed, but would move to Saturday nights in September along with Where I Live. Miller/Boyett and Bickley-Warren were dissatisfied with ABC's plan, as they were certain their show's ratings would severely drop on Saturday nights (ABC had previously damaged the ratings of Miller/Boyett's Perfect Strangers when they moved it to Saturdays for a time in 1992). ABC was not willing to keep the show on TGIF, since they were adding the already successful Hangin' With Mr. Cooper and the new Michael Jacobs series Boy Meets World to the Friday lineup. In retaliation, Miller and Boyett pulled Getting By from ABC, promptly getting NBC to pick it up for the fall.

When its second season premiered on NBC in September, Getting By aired Tuesday nights following the brand new Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Disappointing ratings for the much-hyped College Years (a sequel to NBC's original Saved by the Bell) had an effect on Getting By, whose ratings were now falling from its first season ranking on ABC. By mid-season, NBC ended up defeating the purpose of the producers having moved the show from ABC in the first place. Getting By relocated to Saturday nights at 8/7c that January. After only a month of Saturday airings, NBC put the series on hiatus in late February. It did not return until May, where it continued airing in the same Saturday slot, but, concurrent with NBC's fall 1994 network upfronts, the series' return came with the news that Getting By had been cancelled. Four new episodes leftover from earlier in the season aired, until the last original episode, "My Brilliant Career", aired on June 18, 1994.

Theme song and opening sequence

The first season's opening sequence began with a still shot of the suburban Chicago home that the Dixons and Hales shared. The series' title appeared over this still as the theme music began. The Getting part of the title then slid off screen to the left, while the By portion slid off to the right, which was followed by animation of the house's multi-paned front window zooming forward from the house and sliding open. As it slid open, it commensed a single scene in which both mothers were handing their children their bagged lunches, as the kids raced around the kitchen before going off to school. Every cast member received credit as they were seen talking to each other or walking around the kitchen. The theme song was a gentle tune with a traditional Miller/Boyett "inspirational" sound, and was performed by Mark Lennon (who also sang the theme to Going Places). The credit font used in these episodes was the same italicized, orange Bookman Old Style font used on Family Matters.

In addition to the title sequence consisting of one entire scene, which was not typical of Miller/Boyett shows, Getting By also made use of the special animation effects designed by Creative Tool. These designs were used not only in the beginning of the title sequence, but over the show's exteriors and as stand-alone scene transitions. The first season typically had doors and windows of the Dixon/Hale house protrude out and open to introduce scenes, but animations of dancing objects and people would also be included.

For Getting By's only full season on NBC, the series made heavier use of the Creative Tool effects, and changed its theme song and title sequence. The opening now featured cut-out animation of a house, with various window and doorway shapes that opened and closed when cast members and episode scenes were revealed. Natural exteriors were no longer seen in the opening, as all animation was set in front of solid-color backgrounds, many with designs composed of small objects. The credit font was now in a thinner variant of the Bodoni type used on Step by Step. The theme music was also re-written with new lyrics set to a funky melody; however, a new male vocalist was featured in place of Lennon. First and final scene production credits, as well as the closing credits, used orange/black-embossed Hobo font (the same type used on The Dukes of Hazzard) in the second season.

Both seasons' themes were written by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay.


Season 1 (1993)

Series # Title Synopsis Original air date
1 "Moving In" March 5, 1993
2 "Men Don't Dance" March 12, 1993
3 "Back to Nature" March 19, 1993
4 "A Little Romance" March 26, 1993
5 "The Suit" April 2, 1993
6 "Shop 'till You Drop" April 9, 1993
7 "My Brother's Keeper" April 16, 1993
8 "The Gospel Truth" April 23, 1993
9 "Give Peace a Chance" April 30, 1993
10 "The Love Connection" May 7, 1993
11 "We Are Family, Not" May 14, 1993
12 "Anatomy of a Fight" May 21, 1993

Season 2 (199394)

Series # Title SynopsisOriginal air date
13 "Turnabout Dance" September 21, 1993
14 "Letter to the President" September 28, 1993
15 "Faking the Grade" October 5, 1993
16 "Old Car" October 12, 1993
17 "Do the Fright Thing" October 19, 1993
18 "Not With My Sister" November 2, 1993
19 "Reach for the Stars" November 23, 1993
20 "Pinball Wizard" December 7, 1993
21 "The Pit Stop" December 14, 1993
22 "The Penthouse" December 21, 1993
23 "Sell It Like It Is" January 8, 1994
24 "In the Driver's Seat" January 15, 1994
25 "A Life in the Theater" January 22, 1994
26 "It Takes a Thief" January 29, 1994
27 "The Rich Guy" February 12, 1994
28 "Three Days of the Condo" May 28, 1994
29 "Teacher's Pest" June 4, 1994
30 "Just Say No" June 11, 1994
31 "My Brilliant Career" June 18, 1994

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1994 Nominated Young Artist Awards Youth Actress Leading Role in a Television Series Ashleigh Sterling


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