How they got their start: Patricia Richardson

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: February 18, 2019, 2:50PM

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution

On Strong Medicine, Patricia Richardson joins the cast in the third season, following the departure of Janine Turner's character Dr. Dana Stowe. Richardson steps in as Dr. Andy Campbell, the rigid former Army surgeon with one of Strong Medicine's most charging story arcs.

This dramatic role likely came as a surprise to the actress' fans since she's better known for sitcom roles, even nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes for her portrayal of sitcom mom Jill Taylor on Home Improvement. The story goes that Richardson landed that role after the network decided the actress they'd already cast, Frances Fisher, was deemed too serious for the role. So it was that Richardson who came to the rescue, but only after the network promised her she wouldn't be just another perfect TV mom. If you loved Home Improvement, you'll likely recall that Jill also had ties to the army, raised by her strict military dad.

Although the 1990s would transform Patricia Richardson into a TV icon, Home Improvement arrived after several attempts to work Richardson into sitcoms in the 1980s, starting with a recurring role on the Norman Lear sitcom Double Trouble. On that show, which ran for two seasons from 1984-1985, starred twins Jean and Liz Sagal and featured Richardson for the first season. (Fun fact: The Sagal twins have another sister who the 1990s made famous, Katey Sagal of Married With Children!)

But we actually saw Richardson on TV before Double Trouble, when she was cast in a guest role on Love, Sidney, which starred Tony Randall and Swoosie Kurtz. She'd feature in many small roles through the 1980s on sitcoms like Kate & Allie (pictured above) and The Cosby Show, as well as hit dramas like Quantum Leap.

This work in the Eighties likely led straight to Home Improvement, however, the Nineties would've looked a lot different if two other series that cast Richardson in lead roles had actually taken off. Before agreeing to become Jill Taylor, Richardson joined the cast of Eisenhower & Lutz, a sitcom starring Scott Bakula as a struggling lawyer. Richardson played Bakula's ex, a badass lawyer working for a big firm. That show only lasted one season, freeing her up to star in FM for two seasons as a political commentator with yet another ex-husband who desperately wants her back.

Perhaps it was all just too unbelievable that anyone would ever divorce Richardson, because Home Improvement was the role that stuck and that's how Richardson joined the canon of memorable TV moms.