The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (also known simply as Mary Tyler Moore) is an American television sitcom created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns and starring actress and namesake Mary Tyler Moore. The show originally aired on CBS from September 19, 1970, to March 19, 1977. Moore starred as Mary Richards, an unmarried, independent woman focused on her career as associate producer at the fictional WJM news program in Minneapolis. A central female character who was not married or dependent on a man was a rarity in American television in the 1970s, leading to numerous publications citing The Mary Tyler Moore Show as groundbreaking television in the era of second-wave feminism. Ed Asner co-starred as Mary's boss Lou Grant, alongside Valerie Harper as her friend and neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern and Cloris Leachman as her landlady Phyllis Lindstrom. Other co-stars throughout the series's run included Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel, and Betty White.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is remembered for its realistic and complex characters and storylines, in contrast to the simplistic characters and plots typically seen on broadcast television at that time. It was the subject of consistent critical praise and high ratings during its original run, receiving twenty-nine Primetime Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Comedy Series three years in a row (1975–1977); Moore received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series three times. The series also launched three spin-offs: Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show No. 6 on its list of the "101 Best Written TV Series of All Time".
Summary and setting
Mary Richards (Moore) is a single woman who, at age 30, moves to Minneapolis on the heels of a broken engagement. She applies for a secretarial job at fictional television station WJM, but that position is already taken. She is instead offered the post of associate producer of the station's six o'clock news. She befriends her tough but lovable boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), newswriter Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and buffoonish anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Mary is later promoted to producer of the show, though her duties remained the same.
Mary rents a third-floor studio apartment in a 19th-century house from acquaintance and downstairs landlady Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman); Mary and upstairs neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) become best friends. Characters introduced later in the series are acerbic, man-hungry television cooking show hostess Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and ditzy but sweet-natured Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel), as Ted Baxter's girlfriend (and later, wife). At the beginning of season 6, after both Rhoda and Phyllis have moved away (providing a premise for two spinoffs), Mary relocates to a one-bedroom high-rise apartment; establishing shots were filmed at Minneapolis' Riverside Plaza.
In the third season, issues such as equal pay for women, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality are woven into the show's comedic plots. In the fourth season, such subjects as marital infidelity and divorce are explored with Phyllis and Lou, respectively. In the fifth season, Mary refuses to reveal a news source and is jailed for contempt of court. While in jail, she befriends a prostitute who seeks Mary's help in a subsequent episode. In a highly rated sixth-season episode, Betty Ford made history, becoming the first First Lady to make a cameo appearance on a television sitcom. In the show's final seasons, it explored humor in death in the episode, "Chuckles Bites the Dust" and juvenile delinquency; Ted deals with intimate marital problems, infertility, and adoption, and suffers a heart attack; and Mary overcomes an addiction to sleeping pills. Mary dates many men on and off over the years, is engaged twice, but remains single throughout the series.
One of the running gags throughout the series is the failure of Mary's parties. Two of her closest friends broke up at one, another did not have enough food because of last-minute guests. At another, the power went out just before the guest of honor arrived. At another one, Georgette gave birth in Mary's bedroom.
Kenwood Parkway house
In 1995, Entertainment Weekly said that "TV's most famous bachelorette pad" was Mary's apartment. The fictitious address was 119 North Weatherly, but the exterior establishing shots were of a real house in Minneapolis at 2104 Kenwood Parkway. In the real house, an unfinished attic occupied the space behind the window recreated on the interior studio set of Mary's apartment. In January 2017, the house was marketed for a price of $1.7 million.
Once fans of the series discovered where exterior shots had been taken, the house became a popular tourist destination. According to Moore, the woman who lived in the house was "overwhelmed" by people showing up and "asking if Mary was around". To discourage crews from filming additional footage of the house, the owners placed an "Impeach Nixon" sign beneath the window where Mary supposedly lived. The house continued to attract multiple tour buses a day more than a decade after production ended.
- Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), a single native Minnesotan, moves to Minneapolis in 1970 at age 30 and becomes Associate Producer of WJM-TV's Six O'Clock News. Her sincere, kind demeanor often acts as a foil for the personalities of her co-workers and friends.
- Lou Grant (Edward Asner) is the Producer (later Executive Producer) of the news. His tough and grumpy demeanor initially hides his kind-hearted nature which is gradually revealed as the series progresses. He is referred to as "Lou" by everyone, including Mary's friends, with the exception of Mary herself, who can rarely bring herself to call him by his first name rather than "Mr. Grant". He was married to Edie, but during the run of the show they separated and divorced.
- Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), the head writer of the news makes frequent quips about Ted Baxter's mangling of his news copy, and Sue Ann Nivens' aggressive, man-hungry attitude. He is Mary's closest coworker and close friend. Murray is married to the occasionally seen Marie, and has several children.
- Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) is the dim-witted, vain, and miserly anchorman of the Six O'Clock News. He frequently makes mistakes and is oblivious to the actual nature of the topics covered on the show but, to cover for tormenting insecurity, he postures as the country's best news journalist. He is often criticized by others, especially Murray and Lou, for his many shortcomings, but is never fired from his position. Initially a comic buffoon in the series, Ted's better nature is gradually revealed as the series unfolds, helped along by his sweet, seemingly vague, but frequently perceptive wife Georgette.
- Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) (1970–1974, 1975, 1977) (Regular, seasons 1–4; Guest, seasons 6–7) is Mary's best friend and upstairs neighbor. She works as a window dresser, first at the fictional Bloomfield's Department Store, and later at Hempel's Department Store. Though insecure about her appearance, she is also outgoing and sardonic, often making wisecracks, frequently at her own expense. Like Mary, she is single. She dates frequently, often joking about her disastrous dates. Rhoda moves to New York City and falls in love after the fourth season, beginning the spinoff series, Rhoda.
- Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) (1970–1975) (Season 1–5, 7 Guest) is Mary's snobbish friend and neighbor. Phyllis is a recurring character appearing in many episodes of the first two seasons, after which her appearances decline in frequency. She is married to unseen character Lars, a dermatologist, and has a precocious daughter, Bess (Lisa Gerritsen). Phyllis is controlling, egotistical and often arrogant. She is actively involved in groups and clubs and is a political activist and a supporter of Women's Liberation. Rhoda and Phyllis are usually at odds and often trade insults. After appearing in three episodes of season five, Phyllis moves to spin-off Phyllis. In that series it is explained Phyllis has been widowed. Discovering that her husband had virtually no assets and that she must support herself, Phyllis returns to her home town of San Francisco.
- Georgette Franklin Baxter (Georgia Engel) (1972–77) (Season 3–7) is the somewhat ditzy girlfriend of stentorian news anchor Ted Baxter. Mary Tyler Moore described her as a cross between Stan Laurel and Marilyn Monroe. She and Mary get along fantastically, and Georgette helps fill the void after Phyllis and Rhoda leave. Georgette is introduced as a guest at one of Mary's parties and a window dresser at Hempel's Department Store with Rhoda. Later, she works for a car rental service, as a Golden Girl, and for Rhoda selling plants. Georgette is devoted to Ted and they eventually marry in Mary's apartment. They adopt a child named David (Robbie Rist), and later, she gives birth to a girl named Mary Lou, also in Mary's apartment.
- Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) (1973–1977) (Season 4–7), host of WJM's The Happy Homemaker show. While her demeanor is superficially cheerful, she makes judgmental comments about Mary, exchanges personal insults with Murray, and uses many sexual double entendres, especially around Lou, to whom she is strongly attracted.
When Moore was first approached about the show, she "was unsure and unwilling to commit, fearing any new role might suffer in comparison with her Laura Petrie character in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which also aired on CBS, and was already cemented as one of the most popular parts in TV history". Moore's character was initially intended to be a divorcée, but divorce was still controversial at the time. In addition, CBS was afraid viewers might think that Mary had divorced Rob Petrie, Laura's husband on The Dick Van Dyke Show, so the premise was changed to that of a single woman with a recently broken engagement. Notably, Van Dyke never guest starred in any episode, although his brother Jerry Van Dyke guest-starred in a couple of episodes during the third and fourth seasons. (Jerry had also regularly appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show.)
According to co-creator Allan Burns, Minnesota was selected for the show's location after "one of the writers began talking about the strengths and weaknesses of the Vikings". A television newsroom was chosen for the show's workplace because of the supporting characters often found there, stated co-creator James Brooks.
The opening title sequence features many scenes filmed on location in Minneapolis in both summer and winter, as well as a few clips from the show's studio scenes. The sequence changed each season, but always ended with Mary tossing her hat into the air in front of what was then the flagship Donaldson's department store at the intersection of South 7th Street and Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. The hat toss was ranked by Entertainment Weekly as the second greatest moment in television. On May 8, 2002, Moore was in attendance when basic cable network TV Land dedicated a statue to her that captured her iconic throw. In 2010, TV Guide ranked the show's opening title sequence No. 3 on a list of TV's Top Ten credit sequences, as selected by readers. In 2017, James Charisma of Paste ranked the show's opening sequence No. 15 on a list of The 75 Best TV Title Sequences of All Time.
Sonny Curtis wrote and performed the opening theme song, "Love Is All Around". The lyrics changed between the first and second seasons, in part to reflect Mary Richards having become settled in her new home. The later lyrics, which accompanied many more episodes at a time when the show's popularity was at a peak, are more widely known, and most covers of the song use these words. For Season 7, there was a slightly new musical arrangement for the opening theme, but the lyrics remained the same as Seasons 2–6.
No supporting cast members are credited during the show's opening (though from the second season on, shots of them appear). The ending sequences show snippets of the cast, as well as any major guest stars in that episode, with the respective actors' names at the bottom of the screen. Other on-location scenes are also shown during the closing credits, including a rear shot of Mary holding hands with her date, played by Moore's then-husband, Grant Tinker, and Moore and Valerie Harper feeding ducks on the bank of a pond in a Minneapolis park (this shot remained in the credits, even after Harper left the show). The ending sequence music is an instrumental version of "Love is All Around". The ending finishes with Mimsie the cat meowing within the MTM company logo.
Response and impact
Impact on television
In 2007 Time put The Mary Tyler Moore Show on its list of "17 Shows That Changed TV". Time stated that the series "liberated TV for adults—of both sexes" by being "a sophisticated show about grownups among other grownups, having grownup conversations". The Associated Press said that the show "took 20 years of pointless, insipid situation comedy and spun it on its heels. [It did this by] pioneer[ing] reality comedy and the establishment of clearly defined and motivated secondary characters."
Tina Fey, creator and lead actress of the 2006-debut sitcom 30 Rock, explained that Moore's show helped inspire 30 Rock's emphasis on office relationships. "Our goal is to try to be like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where it's not about doing the news", said Fey. Entertainment Weekly also noted that the main characters of 30 Rock mirror those of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
When the writers of the sitcom Friends were about to create their series finale, they watched several other sitcom finales. Co-creator Marta Kauffman said that the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the "gold standard" and that it influenced the finale of Friends.
Spin-offs, specials and reunions
The show spun off three television series, all of which aired on CBS: the sitcoms Rhoda (1974–78) and Phyllis (1975–77), and the one-hour drama Lou Grant (1977–82). In 2000, Moore and Harper reprised their roles in a two-hour ABC TV-movie, Mary and Rhoda.
Two retrospective specials were produced by CBS: Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show (1991) and The Mary Tyler Moore Reunion (2002). On May 19, 2008, the surviving cast members of The Mary Tyler Moore Show reunited on The Oprah Winfrey Show to reminisce about the series. Winfrey, a longtime admirer of Moore and the show, had her staff recreate the sets of the WJM-TV newsroom and Mary's apartment (seasons 1–5) for the reunion.
In 2013, the women of The Mary Tyler Moore Show – Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, and Georgia Engel – reunited on the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, which aired on September 4. Katie Couric interviewed the cast on Katie as they celebrated acting together for the first time in more than 30 years. It would be their final time on-screen together, as Mary Tyler Moore died in January 2017.
In popular culture
The show has remained popular since the final episode was broadcast in 1977. Several songs, films and other television programs, including The Simpsons, reference or parody characters and events from the show, including the memorable "can turn the world on with her smile" line from the title song. Parodies were done on shows such as Saturday Night Live, MadTV, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which was produced in Minneapolis). The musical artist Barbara Kessler and the groups The Hold Steady and Relient K have all referred to the show in their songs. The show has been mentioned in film as well. In the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the name of Burgundy's dog, Baxter, refers to the character Ted Baxter, and the head of the newsroom staff is named Ed, honouring Ed Asner. In Romy & Michele's High School Reunion, the characters argue with each other while exclaiming "I'm the Mary and you're the Rhoda." Frank DeCaro of The New York Times wrote that this was the highlight of the film.
The show's Emmy-winning final episode has been alluded to many times in other series' closing episodes, such as the finale of St. Elsewhere (including the group shuffle to the tissue box), Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Just Shoot Me!
The show did not do well initially in syndication, never being shown in more than 25 percent of the United States at a time, according to Robert S. Alley, the co-author of a book about the series. In the fall of 1992, Nick at Nite began broadcasting the series nightly, launching it with a week-long "Mary-thon", and it became the network's top-rated series.
The series was broadcast on BBC1 from February 13, 1971 to December 29, 1972. The BBC broadcast the first 34 episodes before the series was dropped. Beginning in 1975, a number of ITV companies picked up the series. Channel 4 repeated the first 39 episodes between January 30, 1984, and August 23, 1985. The full series was repeated on The Family Channel from 1993 to 1996.
On the season 7 DVD, the last episode's "final curtain call", broadcast only once on March 19, 1977 (March 18 in Canada), was included at the request of fans. However, some of the season 7 sets did not include the curtain call; a replacement disc is reported to be available from the manufacturer.
Awards and honors
- The show was honored with a Peabody Award in 1977. In presenting the award, the Peabody committee stated that MTM Enterprises had "established the benchmark by which all situation comedies must be judged" and lauded the show "for a consistent standard of excellence – and for a sympathetic portrayal of a career woman in today's changing society".
- The 1987 book Classic Sitcoms, by Vince Waldron, contained a poll among TV critics of the top sitcoms of all time up to that date. Mary Tyler Moore was the No. 1 show on that list.
- In 1997 TV Guide ranked "Chuckles Bites The Dust" No. 1 on its list of The 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. "The Lars Affair" made the list at No. 27.
- In 1998 Entertainment Weekly placed The Mary Tyler Moore Show first in its list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of all Time.
- In 1999 the TV Guide list of the 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time ranked Mary Richards 21st and Ted Baxter 29th. Only three other shows placed two characters on the list (Taxi, The Honeymooners and Seinfeld).
- In 1999 Entertainment Weekly ranked the opening credits image of Mary tossing her hat into the air as No. 2 on its list of The 100 Greatest Moments In Television.
- In 2002, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was 11th on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
- In 2003, USA Today called it "one of the best shows ever to air on TV".
- In 2006, Entertainment Weekly ranked Rhoda 23rd on its list of the best sidekicks ever.
- In 2007, Time placed the Mary Tyler Moore Show on its unranked list of "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME".
- Bravo ranked Mary Richards 8th, Lou Grant 35th, Ted Baxter 48th, and Rhoda Morgenstern 57th on its list of the 100 greatest TV characters.
- In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the sixth best written TV series ever.
- Also in 2013, Entertainment Weekly ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the fourth best TV series ever.
- In a third 2013 list, TV Guide ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the seventh greatest show of all time.
- Carol Traynor Williams (1974). "It's Not So Much, 'You've Come a Long Way, Baby' — As 'You're Gonna Make It After All'". Journal of Popular Culture. 7 (4): 981–989.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show at the Encyclopedia of Television
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- Citysearch: The Mary Tyler Moore Show Tour describing locations featured in the series
- The Mary & Rhoda Magazine, with a brief selection of articles about the series
- Mary Tyler Moore at IMDb
- Mary Tyler Moore at TV.com