Before she would become a role model and fashion icon for teenage girls all over America, Blossom Russo was just a kid sister and a secondary character. Blossom creator Don Reo’s original vision for a coming of age sitcom revolved around a teenage boy named Richie, with an older brother named Anthony and a kid sister named Blossom, being raised by a single dad. But since there were already several series focusing on teenage boys at the time, including The Wonder Years, an NBC executive named Leslie Lurie offered Reo a suggestion: “Why don’t you make it about the girl?”
Reo liked the idea and decided to use it, as he jokes today that it meant he “could steal all the stories The Wonder Years did and no one would ever know.” However, that wasn’t the only change that would be made to Reo’s Blossom pilot that aired on July 5, 1990. Instead of a hip single dad raising three kids — inspired by a visit to the home of legendary singer Dion DiMucci — the network requested that the family have a mom and dad in the picture, and the dad not be a cool musician. Instead, Terry Russo was an accountant and Barbara Russo worked in finance, and the young Blossom had to cope with the fact that her parents were considering a divorce.
Had the pilot worked, Blossom might have been an entirely different series when the first season began as a midseason replacement on January 3, 1991. Fortunately for everyone involved, the pilot didn’t work. To tell the story of how Blossom became a show about a rockin’ single dad raising his iconic teenage daughter, we caught up with Reo, Mayim Bialik, Ted Wass, Mike Stoyanov, and Jenna von Oÿ.
(Sadly, Joey Lawrence was unavailable. To that, we offer the saddest “Woah” imaginable.)
The Real Faces of a New Generation
“The fact that it was written by a man who was that much in touch with it is even more incredible.”
As soon as he met 13-year-old Mayim Bialik, Don Reo knew that he was dealing with a star. Sure, he auditioned a few other actresses for the network’s sake, but he knew Bialik had the potential and talent to shine. There was just one problem – she was also starring in the Fox series Molloy, which filmed its episodes a year earlier. Had Molloy been successful, Reo and NBC would have lost their star, but Molloy’s ratings were bad and the show was canceled. Bialik was then free to focus on Blossom, which was the script that excited her more.
At the same time, Jenna von Oÿ had been cast on the sitcom Lenny after appearing in the Blossom pilot. Legend has it that Melissa Joan Hart was first offered the role of Six, but Reo insists that von Oÿ was the one and only girl for the role. In fact, he refused to let her go because of the way that she owned the role of Blossom’s best friend. Whatever it would take, Reo would bring these young actresses together for his new show.