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For five seasons on Blossom, Mayim Bialik’s Blossom Russo trailblazed a new space for young women on television. She was relatable, she was smart, she was funny, she was confused: A regular teenager, and an irregular sight on television circa 1990. But in the show’s original concept, the central character of Blossom was actually a teenaged boy.
“I wanted to do a show about teenage angst,” explains creator Don Reo (currently working on the Netflix series The Ranch.) “That was the original desire, to do something that was real within the half-hour world, within a situational comedy, about a boy who was suffering the sorts of things that Holden Caulfield suffered.”
In Reo’s conception, the boy would be the central figure in a show about a family. “His name was Richie,” Reo explains. “I actually wanted Stephen Dorff to play Richie.” Though Reo wanted the family to have a single father weathering a divorce, NBC initially demanded a more familiar nuclear family layout for the show. “We had a mom and a dad, Richie, his older brother Anthony — who was a recovering drug addict, which nobody was really talking about in 1990, mostly because we were all high! — and a kid sister named Blossom who was this precocious smart kid.”
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As Bialik explains, the show’s development rapidly shifted. “A very smart female executive suggested he make it about a girl,” she explains, “Which at the time, in 1989-1990, was unheard of. ‘Why would you make a show about a girl?'”
As Reo recalls, he sparked to the NBC executive’s request to refocus the show on the little sister. “Honest to God,” he laughs, “My first thought was, ‘I can steal all the stories The Wonder Years have done and no one will ever know.'”
Reo had loved Bialik’s role in Beaches and wrote the pilot script with her in mind for the lead role. Though she had already filmed a pilot for Fox, the creator and his eventual star met and immediately formed a bond. “Don and I shared a love of Catcher in the Rye and J.D. Salinger,” she says. “We said, ‘What if we made a show that was about a girl going through all of these trials and tribulations?'”
The initial Blossom pilot refocused on Blossom and kept her older brother Anthony (Michael Stoyanov), while the other brother became a jock played by Joey Lawrence. The initial pilot actually did feature a mom and a dad, but before the show went to series, the family dynamic was reconsidered and Ted Wass joined as divorced musician dad Nick Russo.
EW recently got the whole Blossom cast for a reunion special, which you can watch here. And Stephen Dorff did ultimately appear on the show – playing a love interest for Blossom.