Jun 11, 2021

Suddenly Susan: Biceps, Brooke Shields, and Pete the Gay Mail Boy

In the fall of 1997, when I moved to New York to work on my Ph.D., you had four main tv choices on Monday nights: America's Funniest Home Videos, the hundredth series starring Bill Cosby, the uber-religious Seventh Heaven, and Suddenly Susan (1996-2000).  Guess which won?

It was one of many workplace sitcoms about Young Female Journalists with Big Ideas who butt heads with stick-in-the-mud magazine or newspaper editors, in this case Susan (Brooke Shields, best known for Blue Lagoon nearly twenty years before) and Jack (Judd Nelson, the homophobic bigot best known from the execrable Breakfast Club nearly twenty years before).

Suddenly single after a long engagement, Susan is assigned to write a column about what it's like to be...um...single in contemporary San Francisco.  But she, naturally, wants to do more.  And, of course, she and Jack have a "You're so arrogant!" Sam-and-Diane romance going on.

Her main coworkers included:
1. Photographer Luis (Nestor Carbonell, top photo), a Latino hunk ("Today is the day I work on my biceps.")
2. Sardonic restaurant critic Vickie (gay-positive comedian Kathy Griffin, right)
3. Susan's arch-nemesis, tough-as-nails reporter Maddy (Andrea Bendewald).
4. Pete (Billy Stevenson), the mail boy.

5. Hip music reporter Todd (David Strickland, left).

Two things made Suddenly Susan memorable (excluding Nestor Carbonell's biceps).

1. On March 22, 1999, David Strickland committed suicide.  Instead of replacing him without comment, the producers decided to incorporate his death into the series.

When Todd fails to report for work and doesn't respond to his pager, his coworkers spend the day searching for him and worrying.  Finally they congregate in his apartment.  The episode ends with the telephone ringing.  Everyone looks around, afraid to answer, knowing what news is coming.  It gave me goosebumps. Very effective.

2. Pete the Mail Boy.  Although he appeared in only 15 of the 93 episodes, he was still memorable as just about the only gay character on television who wasn't portrayed as a swishy stereotype.  In fact, he was dimwitted and rather a nerd.

When he married his boyfriend, the equally nerdish Hank (Fred Stoller, left), he talked the homophobic Jack into participating -- quite a memorable accomplishment for the 1990s.

See also: Just Shoot Me


  1. Kathy Griffin's memoir OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION features a chapter dedicated to the show and Strickland's suicide.

  2. Nelson or his character?

    And this just adds one more to the ever-growing list of problems with John Hughes. Everyone knows his films are extremely white, with at most one token minority. In at least one movie, that token minority was Long Duck Dong. His girls are sexually assaulted all the time, from Judd Nelson's character sneaking a peek and it's implied he touched Molly Ringwald's character's panties to that scene in Pretty in Pink where Anthony Michael Hall's character trades panties for sexy times with the Dreamboat's girlfriend. We also get National Lampoon's Vacation and the "incest lite" scene where Anthony Michael Hall's character's cousin shows him his porn collection and the conversation segues to almost masturbation instruction before the family leaves.

    And Ally Sheedy's character slept with her psychiatrist, but it was consensual because she paid him. But she's also a compulsive liar.

    Yeah, John Hughes in retrospect is pretty gross. But I still wish my school looked like theirs. Seriously, they have mezzanines.

    1. I meant the character. I haven't checked to see if the actor is homophobic.


No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign. DO NOT use the term "homosexual." Don't worry if a photo does not depict the person mentioned; beefcake is beefcake.

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