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The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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They constantly fought over who was Mary's best Friend and who could could steal the most scenes.

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He's been copied and referenced for years but never duplicated.

He was the original Anchorman.

Edited by vb68
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I watched the show recently (I got the DVDs cheap in a Amazon Black Friday sale last year), and I didn't like Phyllis at all, especially compared to Rhoda. Betty White sort of took her place in the later seasons, and I liked her character much more.

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John Ritter played the priest who married Ted and Georgette.

Penny Marshall was Paula for a few episodes, who lived across the hall at the new apartment building.  I always thought it was a tryout to be the new Rhoda.

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Ron Rifkin was one of the big ones I noticed, as a head of programming at the network who was sleeping with a twentysomething trying to All About Eve Sue Ann.

Helen Hunt played one of Murray's daughters, IIRC.

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Yes, although Murray was established as having three daughters, over the years we saw four (one at a time, widely spaced). Helen Hunt was the last of them to appear. And I remember an Emmy telecast when she and Paul Reiser were presenting, there was a montage, and Paul couldn't stop saying "You were Murray's daughter? that's so cute!"

I fondly recall Henry WInkler as the extra guest at Mary's Veal Prince Orloff dinner, sitting at his own table over by the window, and when asked how he was doing, saying politely, "I got fired today."

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She evolved a lot over seven years, just like the world around her. Shy, funny, trailblazing, superb television producer, lousy partygiver... despite the exceptional ensemble around her, Mary is the one I remember from this show. Great writing and directing, plus a classic performance by Mary Tyler Moore.

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Oh, those parties really were bad.  Very funny, but bad.

And she had the best little studio apartment ever.

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I think it is repeated on some channel, or at least it was recently. But I can't remember which one.

I wish TV Land still aired it regularly. 

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Mary Richards is still held up today as the idealized single woman.  Whenever there is a show, especially a comedy, with a young woman as the star, the comparisons get made for better or worse.

The  show itself is considered a classic and taking it cues from The Dick Van Dyke Show, was one of the first shows  the pioneered the "workplace comedy" group ensemble and influenced everything from WKRP, Taxi, Cheers, Murphy Brown to even 30 Rock and The Office.

I would also say the theme song is iconic as is the image of Mary throwing her hat into the air in the opening.  

 

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I loved Ted Baxter.  I've heard that Jack Cassidy was originally offered this part but I can't imagine anyone else playing this other than Ted Knight.  My favorite Ted Baxter moment was when he stole Mary's story for their writing class.  Only instead of using her ending his ended with 6 brand new baby horses.  It still cracks me up.

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One of these days I've got to try some Veal Prince Orloff.  Her parties were always disasters but she kept on trying.  I also liked her studio apartment and it broke my heart when she moved.  

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I think Ted Baxter literally was the invention of the notion that the people reading the news might be empty headed boobies simply spitting out the more intelligent thoughts of a competent staff.  Before that I think that newsreaders were idealized.


So yeah, that makes him the original "Anchorman" character.  And its always made me wonder who came up with the idea (which writer on the staff and based on what).

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This is the role that instantly remade Betty White's image. After years as a sweet, sunny ingenue (by the 1970s, post-ingenue), suddenly she was a sly, bawdy vixen who was always hot to trot. And that's the persona that, with variations, she's maintained ever since.

"The Lars Affair" has to be one of the best-ever introductions of a new character to a sitcom.

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One of my favorite MTM Show episodes is when Phyllis confronts Sue Ann about Lars.  My favorite part is when Betty White slams the oven door shut with her knee. 

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I always loathed Ted even back during the original airing (shows how old I am).  That said, Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcaster's School was one of the classic episodes.  Lone student:  "How will the class average be determined?"  Lou Grant "We'll be grading on a standard bell curve."

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I didn't mind Ted -- every ensemble needs one or two "flat" characters to set off the rounded ones. But I resented that Ted Knight had to be serviced with an episode each season that let us see "the real Ted," hurting on the inside or whatever. He was better as a caricature.

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Yeah, Ted Knight had a extremely hard time coping with it.   He hated being associated with (or as ) an idiot, and almost left the show several times because of it.  There was one famous story where he had finally had it and was hysterical, and one of the producers, probably James L. Brooks, had to spend several hours cooling him down.  Finally when he was calm, someone walked in the room and blurted out, "Hey Ted! How's America's favorite idiot"?

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So the story I always heard about the casting of Sue Ann was that they had a hard time casting it.  And I think it was Mary herself who said that they needed somebody icky sweet-like Betty White.  The casting notice then went out for a "Betty White-type".  Betty showed up for it, basically saying they could have the real thing.

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There are so many different stories about the casting, vb68, I actually never heard that one before. But among the others:

• The casting director has said that Betty being a longtime friend of Mary's, they all had talked for some time about creating a good guest role for her. Then when she (the casting director) read the script for "The Lars Affair," she assumed that this was the long-planned Betty White part, it seemed obvious. So she got in touch and offered the role to her (without an audition). Only afterwards did she discover that she had overstepped her authority considerably, and was in big trouble if it didn't work out (just on principle -- you don't make offers without authorization -- but also because of the friendship with Mary). But it did work, of course, so all was well.

• A variant: the role was in fact created specifically for Mary's pal Betty, and they all agreed to offer it to her, no glitches.

• It was described in the script as "a Betty White type," and the casting director suggested they go for the real thing. In some versions it's an offer, in others she agrees to audition for it despite the potential awkwardness if a friend of the star isn't deemed right for the part.

And so it goes. The idea of someone of the standing of Betty White "showing up" at a general call seems unlikely to me given the politics of how Hollywood people guard their stature -- but what do I know?

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Really, what else could I call the Lou Grant thread?

This role was the sort of thing that occasionally happens to experienced Hollywood character men: a sitcom role that completely redefines how people see them thereafter. Nobody thought Ed Asner was inherently funny before MTM (or Leslie Nielsen before Airplane! -- or currently Andre Braugher before Brooklyn Nine-Nine; though the latter two had higher "leading man" profiles than Asner had had). But Lou turned Asner into a permanently beloved and smile-inducing actor, one who is still active and doing new things.

I would have requested a forum for his subsequent Lou Grant series, but it hasn't been aired anywhere in many years, nor has it been made available on home video (its first 3 seasons, or most of them, are on Hulu). So I can't imagine much of a discussion happening, which is too bad because it was a great series. And a unique crossing between genres for a character.

Edited by Rinaldo
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With a background in journalism myself, Lou Grant was always kind of my hero...and, in actuality, the kind of editor I really and truly still encounter to this day.

Lou was so unapologetically himself, for lack of a better description. No matter the situation, he did what he thought right and didn't usually trouble himself any further about it. Mary, on the other hand, worried and agonized and apologized endlessly, which was why the two worked so well together.

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One story I've heard is that the Ted character was originally conceived as a romantic interest for Mary. I can't even imagine how that would have worked, but it must have been before there was any casting done or any of the other characters were really fleshed out.

Another actor who was considered early on was John Aniston, Jennifer Aniston's dad, who spent many years on Days of Our Lives.

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I have heard that the part was written as a one-time guest spot for the Lars Affair episode, then was expanded and made permanent for the rest of the show's run.

I always liked the scenes where Sue Ann and Murray are insulting each other. Betty White and Gavin MacLeod really played well off of each other.

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Amazingly, the original intent was to have Mary and Phyllis be friends and have Rhoda as Mary's adversary. Glad that idea didn't last!

Valerie Harper has said that Mary is who you aspire to be, Phyllis is someone you don't want to end up like, but Rhoda is probably the closest to who you are.

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There is an interesting feature about the original opening credits on one of the DVD sets - probably season one, since it actually had extras on it. The credits were directed by the same guy who did the original credits for Hawaii Five-O. The hat-tossing bit was just about the only scene that stayed in the credits the whole seven years. There is even a statue depicting it in front of Macy's in Minneapolis!

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I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier.

My favorite episodes were the early years with Rhoda.  After she left, even though the show was still great, I always felt like something was missing.

I always felt like Sue Ann was basically a replacement for Phyllis, and that was fine.  But for me, Georgette was never a strong enough character to take up the slack of not having Rhoda.

Edited by vb68

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One funny scene was when Mary, Rhoda and Georgette ate fondue together. Georgette kept losing her bread in the fondue pot and her sad face, looking wistfully into the pot, just cracked me up. Georgette was a funny addition as someone who Rhoda took under her wing but, I agree, she couldn't ever be a replacement for Rhoda in the grand scheme of the show.

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Here's Sonny Curtis singing the theme song, complete with the second verse.

 

 

Even though that second verse is a little clunky, it's my favorite theme song ever.  I can be cooking spaghetti or something, and I just start humming it.

Edited by vb68

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The recent book about the show Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted makes the case that the show (and to some extent Rhoda, as well) was a groundbreaker in its use of women writers, who went on to be creative executives/show runners.

Hadn't seen it in a while, and watched most of the run on MeTV, where it has just started over again from the beginning a few weeks ago.  Holds up very well, and the cast has got to be considered one of the best comedic ensembles ever.

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Thanks for that video, it was great! 

I read somewhere that the hat in the air thing is the second greatest moment in television history (I think it was for the 70's).

I was just a kid, but I remember I wanted to be MTM when I grew up.

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Just want to say that whoever created the title to this thread is brilliant (thank you Rinaldo!).  That is a line I had forgotten about for years, and upon seeing it, brought a huge smile and lots of memories, thanks for that!

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What a trip down memory lane!

I know he wasn't a guest star, he had a running role for a few years, but John Amos was the weatherman for a while.  Nanette Fabray played Mary's Mom.  Louise Lasser made an appearance.  Wow, when I recall who was on this show, it's sort of amazing!

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It really was cool, but looking back on the whole series now, it seems fitting that Mary left that fun studio apartment for the last two years of the series (even if the real-life reasons behind writing the move may have been more mundane). That's part of success in one's career and getting older: eventually one leaves the goofy student-type living arrangement behind, and finds a more "suitable" if more generic place to live.

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(You're welcome!) I will say that the whole business with Lou's divorce didn't really work right for me -- the tone seemed off in relation to the show as a whole, and I was never convinced that there was sufficient reason for the marriage to end. None of the books about the show have really gone into it in depth, but I get the impression that they started out wanting to treat Edie's sudden discontent comedically, as something she picked up from slogans and magazine articles (Edie: "You only go around once." Lou: "You're leaving me for a beer commercial??"). But at the same time they didn't want to mock her or doubt the sincerity of her aspirations. So we ended up with a story that was neither good comedy nor satisfying drama. I sometimes wonder if a different casting of Edie might have helped. Unlike everyone else in the cast, Priscilla Morrill didn't seem to have any kind of comedic spark. Would someone like Maureen Stapleton or Lee Grant have been able to give things a different tilt?

But the upside of all that was Lou's single status in later seasons, and some of his interactions with Janis Paige, Sheree North, Beverly Garland. Those were fun.

Edited by Rinaldo
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I agree, the divorce just didn't fit in with the rest of the show. Priscilla Morrill was all wrong for Edie. She just didn't fit with the previous descriptions we had of Edie and she didn't seem like someone who would be married to Lou, especially for such a long time. In an early episode, Lou is auditioning sportscasters and makes a comment about maybe throwing the job to his wife, then later indicates that she actually auditioned and "she wasn't half bad!" I cannot image Edie as played by Priscilla Morrill humoring Lou by actually auditioning for a sportscaster job.

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Poor Mary must have had terrible back pains, sleeping on that sofa-bed all those years! It's interesting that they did reuse a lot of the furniture and set decoration when she moved from the old place to the new highrise. Just like you would do if you actually moved into a new apartment.

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Maybe this isn't the place to ask this, but when naming Mary's aunt, did nobody stop to think that Mary's cheerful "My Aunt Flo is coming for a visit!" might have a second meaning? Did that euphemism just not exist in 1975?

Also, Flo was the only character, besides Lou himself, to recur on Lou Grant. She appeared on an episode about reporters following political campaigns, and got to know Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey).

Edited by Rinaldo
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I share your fondness, Rinaldo, for the Lou Grant hour-dramedy series. It seemed unique in its time. But we watched a couple of episodes on Hulu lately, and it didn't really hold up. I don't know why. Maybe because, even though it was unique in its time, its blend of humor and issue-oriented drama was soon imitated widely? So that it doesn't seem that special now? Whatever--I loved Lou and Rossi and Billie, and Animal, and the good-looking straight-man type whatever his name was, and Mrs. Pynchon, way back when.

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I've heard that Jack Cassidy was originally offered this part but I can't imagine anyone else playing this...

To know exactly how Jack Cassidy would have played this, just watch him as Oscar North in any episode of the Richard Benjamin Paula Prentiss sitcom He and She. (If you can find one.)

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It really was cool, but looking back on the whole series now, it seems fitting that Mary left that fun studio apartment for the last two years of the series (even if the real-life reasons behind writing the move may have been more mundane).

The character reasons for the move were clear, but I'm unfamiliar with the real-life behind-the-scenes mundane reasons. Please share!

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About the Sonny Curtis theme song: Was that an existing "country"-type song by Curtis that the producers found and adapted with Curtis doing the vocal, or did they commission Curtis to write it? I've always wondered.

I was once at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Great place.

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According to the book I mentioned above, Sonny Curtis was managed by Arthur Price, who also managed MTM.  He saw an opportunity for his client, so gave Curtis a copy of the outline of the show and Curtis came up with the song. Brooks and Burns were surprised by and liked it, but wanted someone else (Book says Andy Williams) to sing it.  Curtis agreed, but said if they can't get Williams, it had to be him.

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the good-looking straight-man type whatever his name was

 

Art Donovan? is that who you're thinking of?

I've rewatched pretty much all the Lou Grant episodes on Hulu, and for me it holds up. Even if the type of series has become familiar since, it's just so well written and acted. Fantastic episodes like "Conflict" (conflict of interest), "Scam" (Lou looks for financial advice), "Hit" (Rossi helps a mother investigate the hit-and-run killing of her son), "Marathon" (one day in the city room), "Witness" (Billie goes into protective custody), "Hollywood" (a wonderful noir about a long-unsolved Hollywood murder), "Kids" (children's rights, with a very young Michael J. Fox), "Brushfire," "Cover-Up" (2 stories, contrasting perceptions of "guilty with nothing proved" against "innocent after being proven guilty"), "Blackout" (getting the paper out despite lack of electricity), "Nightside" (Lou sees the night shift), "Pack" (Aunt Flo returns!), "Catch" (Billie falls in love with the baseball player she meets on the job), "Double-Cross" (a personal favorite, about the fate of an artifact from a time capsule).

That said, I'll concede that there are episodes that don't hold up so well, and a couple that seemed weak even at the time. These usually are connected with an "issue" that someone decided to turn into a story without feeling that strongly about it, and without building a good script around it. 

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Count me in as another TMTM Show fan who didn't like the divorce. It was a downer for me.  I thought Patricia Morrill was fine in the role of Edie - she looked & sounded like a woman Lou would be married to IMO.  Of course it did open up opportunities for overly assertive single women to go after Lou & make him so uncomfortable which was funny (especially Sue Anne, "Oh Lou, Lou...")

(OMG...the night shift episode - my all time favorite on the Lou Grant Show).

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It probably wasn't the sole reason, but the story is that the owner of the house whose exterior they'd used for the establishing and credits shots was so annoyed with all the publicity and the sightseers who would drive by or stand outside, that they stopped making it available for new exterior shooting, and put up IMPEACH NIXON signs in the windows to make it unusable. So TPTB had Mary move.

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