Grace Under Fire was the highest rated new comedy of the 1993–94 season.
Grace Under Fire, produced by Carsey-Werner International, was part of a wave of shows in the late 1980s and 1990s that were built around a comedian (and in some cases, closely based on his or her comedy routine). As for Carsey-Werner, many of their shows were based on non-traditional, non-nuclear families.
Grace Under Fire followed a similar formula; set in a small Missouri town, Butler starred as Grace Kelly, a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic. The show begins after the main character divorces her abusive alcoholic husband of eight years in an attempt to start life anew and prevent her children from making the same mistakes she did. The show revolved around Grace; her children, mischievous Quentin (Noah Segan, pilot; Jon Paul Steuer, seasons 1-3; Sam Horrigan, seasons 4-5), happy-go-lucky Libby (Kaitlin Cullum), and infant Patrick (Dylan and Cole Sprouse); her happily married best friends and neighbors, Nadine and Wade Swoboda (Julie White and Casey Sander); and the town's bachelor pharmacist, Russell Norton (Dave Thomas). All of them helped Grace keep whatever shreds of sanity she had left.
In the first three seasons, the show had a very blue-collar appeal due to Grace's chosen line of work, post-divorce; she operated pipelines at the local oil refinery, and had a second family of fellow crew workers down at the plant. Among them were heavy-set Dougie Boudreau (Walter Olkewicz), friendly Vic (Dave Florek), and Carl (Louis Mandylor). Their gruff boss was Bill Davis (Charles Hallahan). Both Bill and Carl were dropped after the first season; while Carl hadn't a permanent on-screen replacement, the crew's new boss was John Shirley (Paul Dooley) starting in the second season.
Russell's friendship with Grace, and their on-and-off dating rituals, became a running theme in the series. Throughout their friendship they often dated other people; for a time in 1994, Grace dated Ryan Sparks (William Fichtner), a quirky chemist who worked in the oil refinery's labs. In season three, Grace entered into a relationship with suave plant executive Rick Bradshaw (Alan Autry). As with Ryan, the affair between Grace and Rick occurred despite their radically different places in the company ladder. They broke up at the end of season three, although Rick returned in season four to see if their romance could be rekindled.