Grace under fire

Grace Under Fire was an ABC network sitcom starring comedienne Brett Butler in the title role, created by Chuck Lorre.

The show first premiered on September 29, 1993 and became the highest-rated new comedy of the 1993-94 TV season.

During the show's 4th & 5th seasons, Brett Butler was battling a painkiller addiction for (which she eventually sought medical help). Cast member Julie White left the show after the 4th season due to Butler's behavior.

During the 4th season, "Grace Under Fire" began dropping in the ratings from 13th to 45th place.

Due to Butler's first stint & treatment in rehab, the show's 5th season was delayed until November. After the show resumed production, the morale on the set was little better than in the previous season, due to the star's erratic behavior.

During the holidays, Butler relapsed again and even though the producers were as committed as ever to continuing with the show, ABC was becoming concerned about Butler's overall health and became less than patient with her accelerated amount of missed tapings.

Meanwhile, the show's ratings continued to fall dramatically, which may have well been attributed to Butler's reputation in the press, the longer-than-usual hiatus the series took between seasons four and five and the fact that the character of Grace Kelly no longer went through the kinds of struggles that had made the show successful earlier on.

The addition of new cast member Julia Duffy (who was introduced several episodes into the fifth season) was a last-ditch attempt to improve the ratings, but due to Butler's current state, the network was not inspired to continue on with the series.

On February 17, 1998, "Grace Under Fire" was abruptly cancelled after 5 seasons and 112 episodes.


Set in a small Missouri town, the show was about Grace Kelly, a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic. The show begins after Grace divorces her abusive alcoholic husband of eight years in an attempt to start life anew and prevent her children from making the same mistakes she did.

The show revolved around Grace; her children, mischievous Quentin (Noah Segan, pilot; Jon Paul Steuer, seasons 1-3; Sam Horrigan, seasons 4-5), happy-go-lucky Libby (Kaitlin Cullum), and infant Patrick (Dylan and Cole Sprouse); her happily married best friends and neighbors, Nadine & Wade Swoboda (Julie White and Casey Sander); and the town's bachelor pharmacist, Russell Norton (Dave Thomas). All of them helped Grace keep whatever shreds of sanity she had left.

In the first three seasons, the show had a very blue-collar appeal due to Grace's chosen line of work, post-divorce; she operated pipelines at the local oil refinery and had a second family of fellow crew workers down at the plant. Among them were heavy-set Dougie Boudreau (Walter Olkewicz), friendly Vic (Dave Florek), and Carl (Louis Mandylor). Their gruff boss was Bill Davis (Charles Hallahan).

Both Bill and Carl were dropped from the show after the first season; while Carl hadn't a permanent on-screen replacement, the crew's new boss was John Shirley (Paul Dooley) starting in the second season.

Russell's friendship with Grace and their on-and-off dating rituals, became a running theme in the series. Throughout their friendship they often dated other people; for a time in 1994, Grace dated Ryan Sparks (William Fichtner), a quirky chemist who worked in the oil refinery's labs.

In season three, Grace entered into a relationship with suave plant executive Rick Bradshaw (Alan Autry). As with Ryan, the affair between Grace and Rick occurred despite their radically different places in the company ladder.

When the fourth season began, Grace moved on from the oil refinery and took an entry-level position with an ad agency, working her way up to being a white-collar professional. That job only lasted a month, but she then took on similar business work for a construction company owned by D.C. (Don "D.C." Curry). In the show's final season, Russell found some romantic interest in Dottie (Lauren Tom), a gossiping makeup artist.

Throughout the entire five-year run, Grace's ex-husband Jimmy Kelly (Geoff Pierson) showed up, sometimes causing problems and at others miraculously clean and sober, trying to win Grace back. A reconciliation never quite happened, but the two of them did settle on a good friendship for the sake of the kids.

In the midst of Jimmy's attempts to get straight, his father Emmett (guest star Matt Clark) died. In the aftermath of his death, it was revealed that Emmett was gay. At this time, Jimmy's mother Jean (Peggy Rea), Grace's disapproving and moralizing former mother-in-law, offered to move in and help Grace raise the kids (Rea had previously guest starred as Jean a few times since the series premiered).

Russell eventually reconciled with his estranged dad, Floyd (Tom Poston) who ended up moving in with him and working with him in the pharmacy. As far as Grace's own kin and past life went, she had a regular source of support from her sister Faith (Valri Bromfield) in the first two seasons.

Another development came when Grace was contacted by her first child, Matthew (guest star Tom Everett Scott), whom she gave up for adoption before meeting Jimmy. Matthew had questions about his ancestry and ended up meeting his biological father.

In early 1998, Grace's old friend, Bev Henderson (Julia Duffy) came back to town and ended up moving in with the Kellys.

In the intervening years, Bev had become quite successful and wealthy. She briefly moved in with Grace to get in touch with her working-class roots. Grace and Bev's personal reunion was unexpectedly the last major storyline of the series.

Although she was joining the cast full-time, Duffy only appeared in two network-aired episodes of "Grace Under Fire" before the series was abruptly canceled in mid-February of 1998.


  • Brett Butler as Grace Kelly
  • Dave Thomas as Russell Norton
  • Julie White as Nadine Swoboda (1993–1997)
  • Casey Sander as Wade Swoboda
  • Jon Paul Steuer as Quentin Kelly (1993–1996)
  • Sam Horrigan as Quentin Kelly (1996–1998)
  • Kaitlin Cullum as Elizabeth Louise "Libby" Kelly
  • Dylan and Cole Sprouse as Patrick Kelly
  • Walter Olkewicz as Dougie Boudreau (1993–1996)
  • Dave Florek as Vic (1993–1996)
  • Louis Mandylor as Carl (1993–1994)
  • Charles Hallahan as Bill Davis (1993–1994)
  • Valri Bromfield as Faith Burdette (1993–1995)
  • William Fichtner as Ryan Sparks (1994)
  • Paul Dooley as John Shirley (1994–1996)
  • Peggy Rea as Jean Kelly (1995–1998)
  • Tom Poston as Floyd Norton (1995–1998)
  • Alan Autry as Rick Bradshaw (1995–1996)
  • Don "D.C." Curry as D.C. (1997–1998)
  • Lauren Tom as Dot (1997–1998)
  • Julia Duffy as Bev Henderson (1998)


The show was the highest rated new show in its first season.

In the month before "Grace Under Fire" first aired, Showtime broadcast the Carsey Werner-produced "Brett Butler Special", a half-hour comedy performance by Butler.

  • 1993–1994: #5 (17.9 rating)
  • 1994–1995: #4 (18.8 rating)
  • 1995–1996: #13 (13.2 rating)
  • 1996–1997: #45 (tie) (9.1 rating)
  • 1997–1998: #68 (tie)


"Grace Under Fire" was nominated for three Golden Globe awards: "Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series Comedy/Musical" in 1995 and 1997 and "Best TV Series Comedy/Musical" in 1995.

Actress Jean Stapleton was nominated for the 1995 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy series Emmy Award for playing Aunt Vivian in the episode "The Road to Paris Texas."

Diane Ladd was nominated for the same award the previous year for playing Louise Burdett in the episode entitled "Things Left Undone" written by Brett Butler and Wayne Lemon.


After the third season concluded in the spring of 1996, actor Jon Paul Steuer left the series. Sources have speculated that Steuer's mother pulled him out of the show after an incident with Butler, who allegedly flashed her breasts at the 12-year-old actor.

At the beginning of Season 4, Sam Horrigan became the third actor to play Quentin Kelly, and with him in the role, the character's age advanced to 16 years old.


Grace Under Fire Theme Song00:33

Grace Under Fire Theme Song

Home Improvement and Grace Under Fire Promo (January 7, 1995)00:26

Home Improvement and Grace Under Fire Promo (January 7, 1995)

Home Improvement Grace Under Fire promo00:21

Home Improvement Grace Under Fire promo

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