Ted Bessell: A Closer Look at "That Guy" From TV's "That Girl"

Herbie J Pilato

Photo byAmericanProfile.com

Ted Bessell, who died at only 57 in 1996, was one of the most beloved and likable actors on television. As TV boyfriend to Marlo Thomas on ABC's 1966-1971 sitcom, That Girl, Bessell played Donald Hollinger, a writer for the fabricated Newsview magazine.

According to The New York Times, Bessell's acting career "spanned three decades," with appearances in at least 30 other television productions including Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Breaking Up is Hard to Do and Don't Drink the Water.

''To this day when I'm walking in the street, people stop and ask me, 'How is Donald?'" Thomas said in 1996.

As the Times continued to report, Bessell was born in 1939 in New York City and attended Georgetown University and the University of Colorado. After returning to New York, he worked at the Neighborhood Playhouse and later appeared in the Broadway production of Same Time Next Year.

Thomas said Bessell was discussing a feature film remake of That Girl in which the two main characters, now 25 years older, would meet again and fall in love. That Girl, set in New York City, was one of the first on television to focus on the life of a single woman.

As fate would have, Bessell portrayed another TV boyfriend, this time in 1975, as Joe Warner, who was a romantic interest for Mary Tyler Moore in her self-named sitcom.

From 1987 to 1990, Bessell worked more behind the camera, most notably as a director on The Tracey Ullman Show, which won an Emmy Award for best comedy-variety series.

At the time of his demise, Bessell was beginning pre-production on a feature-film remake of Bewitched, another classic 1960 TV sitcom. Former actress Penny Marshall (from TV's Laverne & Shirley fame) was producing the movie, but was so devastated by Bessell's demise, she placed the project on hold. Almost ten years later, Bewitched finally made it to the big screen, to a lesser extent, under the guidance of Nora Ephron.

But it would have been a much different film in the hands of Bessell. Sadly, too, the world never got a chance to see him and Thomas reunite in the big-screen adaptation of That Girl.

Fortunately, Bessell will remain in the hearts of That Girl fans forever.

To read more about Ted Bessell, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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