Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Classic begats a Classic: Lou Grant (1977)

Scholarly fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show will recall that Lou Grant (Edward Asner) had been in the print media before moving to television, a fact noted many times during the course of the series' 7 year run.

So, in 1977, co-creators Allan Burns & James L. Brooks took advantage of that point, and sent Lou out West after being dismissed by WJM-TV. Grant lands at the Los Angeles Tribune, which, as shown in the intro, has fallen into such hard times that readers line their birdcages with it. Producer-director Gene Reynolds was brought over from another CBS hit, M*A*S*H, to work on the show, which anchored the back end of CBS' Monday lineup.

The new setting also meant a new supporting cast to go along with the transition of Grant from being a supporting player in a sitcom to a lead character in a drama. Reportedly, Burns & Brooks saw inspiration in the politically charged "All The President's Men", which had been released a year earlier, and also offered an inside look into the making of a newspaper. The supporting cast includes Mason Adams, for many years the voice behind a zillion Smuckers jelly commercials, and introduces new faces like Robert Walden, Linda Kelsey (who joined the show a month into the first season),  and Daryl Anderson. CBS wisely put Lou Grant on Mondays, perhaps knowing that putting it on Saturdays, where Moore was, might not have worked.

Asner won 2 Emmy awards, becoming the first actor to win dramatic and comedy awards in the same role. Having spent 12 seasons total in the role (1970-82), Asner also had set a different kind of record, one later eclipsed by Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Frasier) and Richard Belzer (Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), although in those cases, those roles didn't switch genres.

Let's take a look at the series opener, as Lou arrives in L. A.:

Never saw the show, so there's no rating.


Mike Doran said...

For the first half of its premiere season, Lou Grant aired on Tuesday night.
The Monday night slot was occupied by Rafferty, Patrick McGoohan's US comeback vehicle - and one of the faster flops of that year.

CBS had a rough fall in '77; many of their new shows flopped, and the network consolidated what they had as much as possible.

Lou Grant, MASH, One Day At A Time, airing as a bloc on Tuesday, were moved as a bloc to Monday, turning CBS's numbers around on that night (Tuesday became a CBS movie night).

hobbyfan said...

Thanks for clarifying, Mike. I remembered that Lou Grant & M*A*S*H eventually did run on Mondays, and One Day at a Time ultimately moved to Sundays, IIRC. I reviewed Rafferty not long ago, so I should've remembered that......