LOS ANGELES -- Academy-Award-winner Faye Dunaway in a TV sitcom that airs at 8 o'clock on Friday nights when kids control the channel changer and Urkel rules?
CBS' "It Had to Be You" -- a comedy about the romance between a wealthy female publisher and a widowed carpenter with three kids -- is definitely one of the more unlikely newcomers to the fall lineup.
But Dunaway says it was the role of publisher Laura Scofield and what it has to say about women today that brought her to TV.
"I took the role because Laura is really a woman of the '90s. She is a driven career woman. She's a sophisticated executive. . . . But the rest of her life, she hasn't done anything with it. So, it's a modern question about when it's not enough just to be great at what you do, and you would love to have a relationship, too.
"What do you do when you're at home, and you want to hang out with somebody and talk to him and share the day with him, but you haven't factored that into your life, because you've been driven so on one level?"
The solution offered in "It Had to Be You" is to fall for a carpenter played by Robert Urich (who seems to have been in a new sitcom every fall for the last 10 years). Urich's character is about as blue-collar as the Huxtables were middle-class.
But the show is not really about accurate portrayal of class differences. It's about the alleged power of love to overcome all obstacles. And that's something else Dunaway says she likes about the role: It says middle-aged women are vital, sexy and desirable.
"We're in a great metamorphosis right now, I think," Dunaway says. "Lauren Hutton had a wonderful quote about this.. . . she said one of the great tragedies of our culture is that we're brought up believing women of 50 . . . or 40 are not beautiful.
"But I think that women of my age are really starting to come into their own now. A lot is changing.. . . We have baby boomers now . . . And women want to see vital women who are not necessarily 25. . . . And this show can be part of that."
Dunaway says the movement is picking up steam in Hollywood, because producers have found they can make money with TV shows and films featuring middle-aged women.
"There's a phrase around Hollywood that the executives in the studios use," she says. "They say they would love to tap into that, quote, 'Fried Green Tomatoes' audience.
"There are women out there -- that CBS has absolutely found with its shows -- who want to look at women as role models for themselves . . . There's the whole baby boom generation . . . And shows that appeal to them will not only bring in quite a bit of money . . . but also win awards."
But what about trying to do sophisticated adult comedy at 8 on Friday nights?
"CBS believes. . . there's an adult audience that's been missing in action on Fridays," Dunaway says, pointing out that the first-place network is going wall-to-wall this fall with adult sitcoms on Friday nights to counter all the comedy for kids elsewhere on the tube.
"I think we can build a Friday night of comedy starting with our show that is as strong as Monday nights for CBS. I'm excited by the chance to pull in people who want to see this brand of intelligent comedy . . . and this kind of woman."