The Powers That Be (TV series)

The Powers That Be
Genre Sitcom
Created by David Crane
Marta Kauffman
Directed by Hal Cooper
Art Wolff
Starring John Forsythe
Holland Taylor
Eve Gordon
Peter MacNicol
Valerie Mahaffey
Elizabeth Berridge
David Hyde Pierce
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Robin Bartlett
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 21 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Norman Lear
Producer(s) Ron Burla
Patricia Fass Palmer
Cinematography Dan Kuleto
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 24 mins.
Production company(s) Act III Television
ELP Communications
Castle Rock Entertainment
Columbia Pictures Television
Distributor Sony Pictures Television
Original network NBC
Original release March 7, 1992 (1992-03-07) – January 16, 1993 (1993-01-16)

The Powers That Be is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from March 7, 1992 to January 16, 1993. The series was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and Norman Lear served as executive producer.


At the center of the series is U.S. Senator William Powers, a parody of the political establishment in Washington, D.C. Margaret, the senator's status-hungry wife, treats Charlotte, their maid, with comedic disdain. Caitlyn, the senator's daughter, has an eating disorder and is married to Representative Theodore Van Horne, who is suicidal; their son, Pierce, is mature beyond his years from having to care for his unbalanced parents. Sophie Lipkin, the senator's illegitimate daughter, is a loud, crass New Jerseyan who surprises the family when she moves to Washington and begins to bond with her father. The senator's staff includes an intelligent and beautiful aide, Jordan Miller who is also Powers' mistress and the feckless aide Bradley Grist.



Step to fame

Although the program was short lived, several of the principals subsequently became involved in long-running and popular sitcoms created after the show's demise. Series creators Crane and Kauffman went on to develop Friends, which lasted 10 years. Among the actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt took a role in 3rd Rock from the Sun, Robin Bartlett played a recurring part on Mad About You, Peter MacNicol would soon reach fame with a similar eccentric character (as John Cage) in Ally McBeal, and David Hyde Pierce was chosen for his role as Niles Crane in the series Frasier partly on the basis of his work in this program. Holland Taylor also went on to greater sitcom stardom later in the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men.[1][2]


Season 1 (1992)

No. Title Original air date
1"The Love Child pt.1"March 7, 1992
Senator Powers, in the middle of a tough re-election campaign with a local hero, finds that he has an additional potential obstacle to his re-election—an illegitimate daughter.
2"The Love Child pt.2"March 7, 1992
Being accepted in Washington takes a back seat when Sophie goes head-to-head with the rest of the family.
3"Bill Gets Shot"March 14, 1992
It's Caitlyn and Theodore's anniversary and Margaret is insistent that Sophie not join the family for dinner. Meanwhile, the campaigning Senator is in need of some publicity, but he didn't expect it to come from Theodore's botched suicide attempt—which results in Bill being shot in a very undignified location.
4"My Mother, My Self"March 21, 1992
Not being asked to a White House luncheon for Princess Diana is bad enough, but Margaret really gets upset when her efforts only result in Caitlyn being invited instead. Margaret then tries to play on Caitlyn's insecurities to secure the invitation for herself, including playing her trump card—Sophie. Meanwhile, Bill just wants the family to get along.
5"Dirty Politics"March 28, 1992
Margaret, Jordan and Bradley scheme to discredit the Senator's opponent, the now-handicapped, former-pro footballer, Joe Bowman (Craig Bierko). The result is a faked videotape of Bowman hopping out of his chair. The press discovers that the tape is a fake. Bill visits Bowman in a last-ditch effort to save his aids from being fired, and Bill is startled by what he finds.
6"Kiss Me Caitlyn"April 4, 1992
The Senator and his aides have no choice but to offer Joe Bowman a public apology—in spite of his paralysis secretly being a sham. Meanwhile, Bowman sets his sights on seducing Caitlyn to have someone inside the Senator's camp. Caitlyn finds herself simultaneously charmed and repulsed by Mr. Bowman while she contemplates having an affair with him. Meanwhile, Bill and Margaret share a spontaneous night of passion.
7"Bill and Margaret's Excellent Adventure"April 11, 1992
After Bill & Margaret's unexpected night of passion, Bill considers ending his relationship with Jordan in favor of the chance at rekinding the fire in his marriage—leaving Jordan fuming and shocked. Meanwhile, Caitlyn can't get Joe Bowman out of her head, and Bradley gets high from pain killers that he is taking for a kidney stone.
8"Charlerella"April 18, 1992
The Powers household is invited to attend a ball in the Senator's honor, but Margaret conveniently forgets to invite Charlotte until it's too late. Theodore stays behind to wait for Caitlyn, but winds up spending a romantic evening with Charlotte when they get snowed in. Caitlyn, meanwhile, slinks off to Joe Bowman's hotel room, and the blizzard keeps the rest of the Powers clan trapped in their limo.

Season 2 (1992–93)

No. Title Original air date
9"A Chicken in Every Pot"November 7, 1992
To curry favor, Margaret donates her chicken salad to the favorite charity of the new First Lady, who falls ill after eating it. Meanwhile, Theodore and Charlotte try to fight their attraction for each other.
10"Bill's Dead...Not"November 7, 1992
The Senator takes a road trip to visit his elderly mother, Enid Powers (Cloris Leachman) and picks up a hitchhiker—who turns out to be a carjacker. As Bill then tries to make his way to his mother's home, the carjacker crashes the car into a gas tanker, leaving the family and the press to believe that the Senator has been killed. As the Powers camp mourns Bill, Margaret contemplates accepting her husband's Senate seat.
11"I'm Your Dummy"November 14, 1992
Theodore volunteers to be the Senator's dummy in a ventriloquist act that everyone else finds embarrassingly bad.
12"How Sharper Than a Servant's Tooth"November 21, 1992
A crisis back in the Senator's home state is nothing compared to the crisis in the Senator's household—Charlotte wants to quit because of her secret feelings for Theodore. Meanwhile, Jordan is frustrated that Margaret's problems are more important to Bill than celebrating the anniversary of their relationship together.
13"The Intern"November 28, 1992
Jordan and Margaret both suspect that the Senator's new female intern (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) has designs on him.
14"Sophie's Big Decision"December 5, 1992
Just as Sophie asks Margaret for some tips on fitting into the Washington scene, Larry (Robert Picardo), the boyfriend who always kept her down shows up to take her back to New Jersey. Meanwhile, Margaret is desperate to get a Supreme Court Justice to show up at her party, and Bradley and Jordan try to show each other up by getting the most influential guests at the event.
15"Oh, Mack"December 12, 1992
A visiting Hollywood mogul (Victor Garber) charms everyone in the Senator's household—except the Senator, who starts to suspect that something is amiss. Meanwhile, each of the ladies thinks that she's the object of their guest's desires.
16"St. Caitlyn of Shears"January 2, 1993
A bad haircut causes Caitlyn to come to a personal crisis and decide she is too caught up in materialism. Meanwhile, Bradley is desperate to get the Senator media attention after his name is not included on the list of the most influential Democrats in the new administration.
17"Having a Ball"January 19, 1993
The Powers are ecstatic when they are invited the Presidential motorcade for Clinton's inauguration, but when Jordan is excluded, she tries to make Bill jealous by making plans with an old boyfriend. As the delayed Powers and a bicycling Bradley brave the icy roads in hopes of catching up with the President, Theodore worries that Charlotte thinks he forgot her birthday.
18"Bradley Gets Fired"January 19, 1993
When a malingering Bradley is fired, Mrs. Powers takes over as press liaison.
19"Grammargate pt.1"June 5, 1993
While drunk, Bradley makes the mistake of his life; as does Pierce when he hacks into the school's computer. Meanwhile, Theodore has troubles of his own.
20"Grammargate pt.2"June 12, 1993
While trying to rectify the situation for Pierce, Margaret and Caitlyn find they have their own trouble. Consummation is the answer to Bradley's problems, and Theodore conquers his fear.
21"Grandma's Big Decision"June 19, 1993
Bill's mother (Cloris Leachman), shows up just before her 93rd birthday and announces that she's moving in until she dies. Then she asks her already frustrated daughter-in-law to kill her off! Meanwhile, Sophie surprises Jordan when she moves into her apartment building, leaving Jordan concerned that the Senator's nosy daughter will discover their affair.


  1. Ken Levine.Interview with Peter Casey about "Frasier", December 7, 2006
  2. Fred Schruers. The series also featured John Forsythe in what became his last major starring role on television. "David Hyde Pierce - The US Interview", (undated; approx. 1999)
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