Thursday, July 11, 2013

Classic TV: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)

It had been 4 years since The Dick Van Dyke Show had ended and moved into syndication. Van Dyke would soon return, but his leading lady got there first and cemented her own icon status in the process.

Everyone knows the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show

For 7 seasons, Moore charmed audiences as Mary Richards, a producer and sometime on-air personality for a Minneapolis television station. Her series would spawn three spin-offs, the last of which, Lou Grant, was a hour-long drama instead of a sitcom, and became a classic in its own right.

Moore had been a fixture, really, since the 50's, when she played "Happy Hotpoint" in a series of ads, and her first series gig was an anonymous one, as viewers only saw her legs as Sam, the secretary to Richard Diamond, Private Eye, a gig she lost before the series ended.

At WJM-TV, the staff was an eclectic bunch. Anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) was vain, pompous, and about as sharp as a soggy toothpick. Producer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod, ex-McHale's Navy) tried to keep things in perspective, and even had a crush on Mary at one point. Then, of course, there was Lou Grant (Ed Asner), tough, but fair, even though he famously told Mary that he hated spunk. As time wore on, Lou & Ted were softened in terms of character. Ted even got married late in the run.
At home, Mary's best friend was Rhoda (Valerie Harper), who would soon return to New York in her own series. Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) seemed to be a 3rd wheel, but she too would merit a spinoff series. However, the first cast member to move on was John Amos (Gordy), who left to star on Good Times. After the series ended, Knight & MacLeod moved to ABC (Too Close For Comfort & The Love Boat, respectively). Mary waited about a year before trying a variety show whose repertory company included two future stars in David Letterman & Michael Keaton, but that series didn't even make it to a full season.

Reruns currently air on Me-TV weeknights.

Rating: A-.

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