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The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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There was one episode when it came out that she only called him Lou when she was mad at him.  It became her tell.

 

You kind of want to tell her to grow up a bit.  In the Rhoda episode where Rhoda gets married, there is this hilarious moment where Rhoda finally gets to her parent's house (after being forced to take the subway and run across the Bronx (in her wedding dress!) to get to her own wedding because Phyllis forgot to pick her up) and she calls up to the apartment on the intercom.  She immediately asks to speak to Phyllis who refuses to come to the phone.  Mary instead takes the phone, but states she can't repeat what Rhoda wants her to say because she comes from a small town in the Midwest.  Brenda then takes the phone because she's from the Bronx, and is fine with repeating whatever it is that Rhoda wants her to say.  It's very cute, but then you remember that Mary is 34 at the time of the episode.   

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I've been watching the fifth season of the show, and wow, it's still funny, but there is such a hole left by the absence of Rhoda.  They try to plug Georgette somewhat into that space (at least to give Mary someone to interact with at home since Phyllis barely appears in most episodes), but it's amazing to me how big a loss it is not to have Rhoda around.  I'd honestly say it was a huge mistake to spin her off.  And that isn't because the character couldn't sustain her own show, but that the entire "home" portion of MTM is wrecked without her. 

 

Having said all that, this scene is comedy gold.

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I agree that the show's dynamic changed quite a bit with Rhoda's departure, but I can understand Valerie Harper wanting to do more with the role (or any role) than she was going to achieve by staying on MTM any longer. 

 

Betty White, as we all now know, was a revelation as Sue Ann Nivens.  Whoever thought up that casting idea was a genius!

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I agree that the show's dynamic changed quite a bit with Rhoda's departure, but I can understand Valerie Harper wanting to do more with the role (or any role) than she was going to achieve by staying on MTM any longer.

 

I can agree with that. I just wish they had compensated better for the departure of the character.  Also, what was up with Rhoda's apartment?  How did she get by with what looked like a mini-fridge and hot plate before Mary moved in?  It was like an SRO up there. 

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I didn't mind the departure of Rhoda so much because it forced the series to focus more on the workplace, which I thought was its biggest strength. I thought the weakest episodes were those where a guy that another woman on the show likes falls in love with Mary. It always irked me that Rhoda was supposed to be this fat schlub who couldn't land a decent date. Later on she was allowed to be pretty, but she was still considered inferior to Mary. There was that one episode where Mary was having a run of terrible luck the week before an awards show--her dress was ruined, her date cancelled, she sprained her ankle, she caught a bad cold--and things were great for Rhoda. The turnaround was funny, but it was built on the assumption that Mary's life must always be better than Rhoda's. For all the talk about the series being a pioneer for feminism, it wasn't very empowering to women who weren't Mary.

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For all the talk about the series being a pioneer for feminism, it wasn't very empowering to women who weren't Mary.

 

I don't know about that.  I think Sue Ann was a pretty strong female character on that show.  She certainly was more aggressive in going after what she wanted, and less apologetic about it than Mary.   

 

And honestly, I always thought Rhoda was much cooler and more interesting than Mary.

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I don't know about that.  I think Sue Ann was a pretty strong female character on that show.  She certainly was more aggressive in going after what she wanted, and less apologetic about it than Mary.   

 

And honestly, I always thought Rhoda was much cooler and more interesting than Mary.

What I meant was that all the other women were written as "less than" Mary: less pretty (Rhoda) /less intelligent (Georgette) / less nice (Phyllis, Sue Ann). Sue Ann could be very forthright about her desires, but she didn't get what she wanted most (Lou!) 

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With respect, GreekGeek, did any of the women - with the possible exception of Georgette - get what she wanted most? Mary who had long expressed a wish to be a wife and mother was single when the series ended, Rhoda was divorced and Phyllis widowed.

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I didn't think Mary's greatest wish was to be a wife and mother. That was what was so revolutionary at the time--she dated, but getting married wasn't a big priority for her. I wasn't sure if it was what Rhoda wanted either; in any event, it wasn't until she had her own show that we saw her really assert what she wanted out of a relationship. Paradoxically, her telling Joe that she wanted to be married may have cost her her marriage later, when he said that he felt pressured. Phyllis was already a wife and mother when we met her, and was set up as a woman Mary shouldn't turn into.

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I didn't think Mary's greatest wish was to be a wife and mother. That was what was so revolutionary at the time--she dated, but getting married wasn't a big priority for her.

 

I agree.  That was a big deal for the show, and separated it from That Girl.  Mary "made it" on her own.  She didn't have a steady boyfriend (as a regular character), husband and/or father there to support her.   

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I've read that they were tempted to turn Ted Bessell (who appeared twice, I think) into a more steady boyfriend for Mary in the final season, but he had other commitments. That was a lucky circumstance, I think; though I liked him, it would have unintentionally diluted the show's premise, as if a happy ending for the series required a man in her life. Plus it would have evoked unwelcome parallels to That Girl, he having been The Guy in that too.

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Much as I have long admired this show, I never viewed it as revolutionary in terms of the role of women. There were more than a few television sitcoms in the fifties where women had careers and marriage was not a priority. The various series of Marie Windsor, Eve Arden, Gale Storm and Ann Southern come to mind. The latter three in particular provided the usual rerun fare of my childhood.

And if we include fifties westerns with career-oriented ladies, we can add Amanda Russell ;)

Edited by dustylil

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Much as I have long admired this show, I never viewed it as revolutionary in terms of the role of women. There were more than a few television sitcoms in the fifties where women had careers and marriage was not a priority.

 

I think the difference though is that those women just happened to be single within the confines of those particular shows, whereas the point of MTM was to show a single woman making it on her own. 

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Looking at the show as a whole, the premise actually evolved with the times. In 1970, Mary was working because her engagement fell apart and she needed to start over in a new city. She applied for a job as a secretary as a way to pay her bills. She didn't go into it thinking TV would be a lifelong career. And at that time, the majority of married women did not have jobs. By 1977, Mary's job had evolved into a career, and marriage and family were not her top priority. She had the revelation about how long she had been dating in the episode where she went on the date with Lou. That was the moment when she realized what the audience had seen happening over seven years -- that she had changed with the times.

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By 1977, Mary's job had evolved into a career, and marriage and family were not her top priority. She had the revelation about how long she had been dating in the episode where she went on the date with Lou. That was the moment when she realized what the audience had seen happening over seven years -- that she had changed with the times.

 

That's very true.  I think she was content with her life, and that was a good thing. 

 

The only thing I would change is Mary's "look" during the last two seasons.  Even for the 70s, she looks awful.  I don't know whether it was just bad hair (she has this awful helmet hair), make up and/or lighting, but whatever it is, it ages her terribly and kind of washes out her appearance.   

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Did we ever know what Mary was doing before she came to work at the newsroom? I presume some kind of secretarial work.

She was thirty when she started at WJM  and she didn't complete college, so there were at least seven or so years before she moved to Minneapolis.

I doubt she was an early member of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

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That question occurred to me on occasion to, during the original run. There's the extremely unspoken implication that she was living with this guy in college, but still... that's a lot of years of typing or waitressing, if she wasn't just using her days keeping the apartment clean and cooking him dinner. Given that amount of time, if you were attending classes at all it would be hard not to complete the requirement for a degree.

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The only thing I would change is Mary's "look" during the last two seasons.  Even for the 70s, she looks awful.  I don't know whether it was just bad hair (she has this awful helmet hair), make up and/or lighting, but whatever it is, it ages her terribly and kind of washes out her appearance.   

 

Am I the only one who liked Mary's later-seasons hair?  I thought it was very sophisticated, and I liked that she no longer tried to dress and groom herself as though she were still in her 20s.  It struck me as a statement that she was comfortable with her maturity.

 

But I do recall reading that MTM was having more difficulties managing her diabetes around that time, and that might have been showing up in her face regardless of her hair style.

Edited by Inquisitionist
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Am I the only one who liked Mary's later-seasons hair?  I thought it was very sophisticated, and I liked that she no longer tried to dress and groom herself as though she were still in her 20s.  It struck me as a statement that she was comfortable with her maturity.

 

I thought the way she was dressing was more like a woman in her mid to late 40s, than someone in her mid-30s. 

 

 

But I do recall reading that MTM was having more difficulties managing her diabetes around that time, and that might have been showing up in her face regardless of her hair style.

 

I think I recall reading she had problems with alcohol, but I honestly wondered if she smoked.  She never got Lucille Ball's gravely smoker's voice, but I do think smoking can do a number on people's faces. 

Edited by txhorns79

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I thought the way she was dressing was more like a woman in her mid to late 40s, than someone in her mid-30s.

 

I didn't dress that differently from her in my 20s!  I thought she looked classy.  Different strokes.  ;-)

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I didn't dress that differently from her in my 20s!  I thought she looked classy.  Different strokes.  ;-)

 

True enough!  I think she dresses well for a sophisticated, more mature woman.   

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Inquisitionist,  that leads us to an important question. Did you  also have a Sherry-designed wedding dress among the items in your wardrobe?

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Inquisitionist,  that leads us to an important question. Did you  also have a Sherry-designed wedding dress among the items in your wardrobe?

 

Ha-ha!  Alas. I did not have any ex-streetwalker, fledgling designer friends that I met in jail.

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Did we ever know what Mary was doing before she came to work at the newsroom? I presume some kind of secretarial work.

In the opening credits of the first season, we see her goodbye party from whatever job she was leaving. It looks like some kind of an office job and her original interview at WJM is for a secretary position. It's mentioned in the pilot that she had supported Bill while he was in medical school and left wherever they lived because he didn't want to get married. In the episode with Joseph Campanella as an old boyfriend, he talks about her living in an apartment with a roommate, presumably between the time she left college and when she got engaged to Bill. In the episode with Mary Frann, Mary mentions that she was in a sorority during her two years of college. This is also when we find out that Rhoda was a member of the Sharkettes, the ladies' auxiliary to her local gang in the Bronx. LOL

Edited by vera charles
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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. 

I thought it was Phyllis who slammed the oven door, thus ruining Sue Ann's souffle. 

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During the confrontation on the Happy Homemaker set, Phyllis opened and then slammed the oven door shut - with the intent of ruining the soufflé. Sue Ann rushed to the oven and removed the destroyed dessert. It was at that point that Sue Ann shut the oven door with her knee.

Some time later Sue Ann has finally agreed to give up Lars  but only after Mary coldly and tersely outlined the impact the affair will likely have on  Sue Ann's career. Phyllis then asked Sue Ann if she knows how to remove chocolate stains. She responded yes - in her chirpiest, Happy Homemaker manner. Phyllis then dips her hand into the soufflé dish and flings some of the pudding at her.

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In some special or another, the producers explained how the oven closing came to be. When they rehearsed it, Betty took the soufflé out and delivered her line, but the director though the open oven in the background was a distraction. There was discussion of how the oven door could get closed and they acted out different scenarios, but nothing made sense. Phyllis wouldn't close the oven door, it had to be Sue Ann. Then Betty said, "How about this?" and knocked it closed with her knee and the whole crew cracked up. The director thought it was so hilarious, he had it put in the script and they filmed it that way. One of the funniest moments in a hilarious episode.

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I'm winding up my Netflixing of the series, and I came across such a weird episode.  Mary has insomnia, so her doctor prescribes her sleeping pills.  Lou finds out about this, basically decides Mary is a drug addict for no real reason and stages a one man intervention.  The whole thing was bizarre.  I understand that getting addicted to prescription drugs is a real thing, but there was nothing here to suggest that.  Though there is one funny scene of Lou, Ted and Murry bursting into Mary's apartment to find her taking a bath.     

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I agree that that's a weird episode, txhorns79, and I thought so on first airing. What made it more relatable for me years later was encountering a spell of insomnia myself, and when it persisted, seeing my doctor and getting a prescription to help me sleep. When I called my parents that weekend to catch up, I mentioned this, and while my mother was just sorry I'd been having the problem, my father immediately said that I mustn't get addicted to the drugs and must stop them immediately. I replied that no, they were prescribed precisely to deal with my problem and I was going to take them as prescribed till I didn't need them any more. (Which was about a week later, as it turned out.)

 

So my take-away was that the episode was accurate that some people are just plain weird about drugs to deal with insomnia and imagine you immediately descending into irretrievable addiction, Valley of the Dolls style. I still wonder why they built an episode around it, except that it was Season 7 and they were running out of stories, and maybe one of the writers pitched this premise because it had happened to her or him. The story still isn't clear who we're supposed to think is right about this, and it's all rather unsatisfactory. 

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I still wonder why they built an episode around it, except that it was Season 7 and they were running out of stories, and maybe one of the writers pitched this premise because it had happened to her or him.

 

It did feel a little like they were running out of story ideas, and this particular story just really did not work within their format.  Everything was very all over the place, and while I appreciate the protective father aspect of the Lou/Mary relationship, it is deeply weird watching Lou sing Mary to sleep.        

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By the final season, they really were running out of ideas. In particular, the one where Lou, Murray and Ted each imagine what life would be like married to Mary. That is one of the weirdest episodes of the entire series.

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By the final season, they really were running out of ideas. In particular, the one where Lou, Murray and Ted each imagine what life would be like married to Mary. That is one of the weirdest episodes of the entire series.

Lots of series had dream sequences, but the MTM Show had never done one before, and coming that close to the end of the run, it did seem out of character. Plus, however they tried to justify it as a what-if in the script, none of the men (except Murray, in that one other uncomfortable episode where he briefly developed "feelings" for her) really related to Mary in that way.

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Thanks, Ouisch.  That photo of Mary in the green dress immediately conjured up the parallel image of Ted Baxter gawking at her, speechless.

 

I wonder who else auditioned for the role of Rhoda. 

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none of the men (except Murray, in that one other uncomfortable episode where he briefly developed "feelings" for her)

 

That really was an uncomfortable one, wasn't it? I recall being genuinely taken aback when Murray indicated to Lou he would dump Marie and the kids in a heartbeat if Mary would have him.

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Looking back over the overall arc of the series, it's clear (and anyway, the writers have confirmed it in interviews) that they had to "serve" each member of the supporting cast by giving them at least one episode each season that was focused on them.

 

It's most obvious in the "Ted" episodes, where they usually had to show his "more human" side to keep Ted Knight happy (whereas, as I've said before, I think Ted was one of those ensemble characters better left "flat" and not rounded out). But occasionally they had to have a "Murray" episode, and what can happen to Murray? He's discontented with his job and briefly finds another; he gets an additional job to save money for a surprise for Marie; he wants another kid; and eventually they came up with this idea, becoming fixated on Mary. Not one for the MTM time capsule.

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But occasionally they had to have a "Murray" episode, and what can happen to Murray? He's discontented with his job and briefly finds another; he gets an additional job to save money for a surprise for Marie; he wants another kid; and eventually they came up with this idea, becoming fixated on Mary. Not one for the MTM time capsule.

 

Yeah, there is kind of a sense that they really have little idea what to do with certain characters outside of having them react to Mary.  Though it could also be that Murray just wasn't that interesting.  I mean, his basic shtick in a given episode is to make quips about Ted (and later Sue Ann), or say something supportive to Mary.  Other than that, there isn't much there.   

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I was always surprised that they never did anything with the fact that we had 3 people in the group named Mary, Murray, and Marie. Surely giving them such similar names wasn't accidental? -- they were eventually going to have a farcical misunderstanding where an overheard whisper about one of them would be thought to apply to another, and hijinx would ensue? Nope, it was apparently completely accidental (but what odd choices, out of all the names in the world...).

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Even in my early teens, it galled me that Murray, a newsroom writer, was able to support a family with three children in a house that, IIRC, had a family room, while Mary, the associate producer, was relegated to a studio apartment. 

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Even in my early teens, it galled me that Murray, a newsroom writer, was able to support a family with three children in a house that, IIRC, had a family room, while Mary, the associate producer, was relegated to a studio apartment.

 

I think you just have to look at their age and experience levels.  Mary had no experience when she started in that job, and Lou even makes a crack about how she'll be making less than a secretary.  Murray appeared to have been writing for a long time before Mary ever got there, and was much more "settled" than she was.    

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Did they ever mention any jobs that Murray held before coming to WJM? He did graduate from college, his former college classmate won a big journalism award which caused Murray to question his career choices. We do know that Lou worked at the Detroit Free Press, that was mentioned several times. Including him telling a nurse he could give himself his own injection, since he used to work at the Detroit Free Press. LOL

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I am not sure this is the correct spot for this. However, the PBS series Pioneers of Television is airing a tribute to Mary Tyler Moore on October 13. It apparently will include her early television appearances as well as her most notable work, The Dick Van Dyke Show and of course The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Among those interviewed are MTM stalwarts Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper and Betty White.

Edited by dustylil
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For all the talk about the series being a pioneer for feminism, it wasn't very empowering to women who weren't Mary.

 

I watched the PBS special last night and Cloris Leachman summed it up by saying "Mary was who you probably wanted to be, Rhoda was who you really were, and Phyllis was what you prayed you wouldn't become."

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Also, Murray is a man with 3 kids, and Lou believes he should earn more than a woman with no kids.

 

Well, yeah, that's part of what my young self was reacting to!  I understand that Mary started with far less experience and fewer credentials than Murray, but after a few years, she clearly had more responsibility, but was still living in a studio apartment and seemed to be pinching pennies.  Of course, she also seemed to spend about 80% of her discretionary income on clothing, and her birth control pills probably weren't covered by medical insurance.  ;-)

Edited by Inquisitionist
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I understand that Mary started with far less experience and fewer credentials than Murray, but after a few years, she clearly had more responsibility, but was still living in a studio apartment and seemed to be pinching pennies.

 

There's a much later episode where she and Lou stage a sickout to bargain for more money, and it's revealed that Mary hasn't had a raise in like two years, has no real savings and is nearly forced to take a blank check from Ted just to cover basic expenses.  So I just presume she's spending nearly all her money every month on her mostly awful/sometimes okay 70's wardrobe, or her highrise apartment is much more expensive than it should be.   

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