"Sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman. I get to thinking my job is too important to me, and I tell myself that the people I work with are just the people I work with and not my family. And last night, I thought, what is a family, anyway? They're just people who make you feel less alone, and really loved. And that's what you've done for me. Thank you for being my family."
Legendary 1970s CBS comedy created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns which forever reshaped sitcoms. Every workplace sitcom since bears its influence.Moore stars as Mary Richards, a thirty-something single woman living in Minneapolis and working as associate producer in the newsroom of fictional TV station WJM.The show was famous for the quality and depth of its writing, particularly the attention and care given to supporting characters such as Lou Grant, Rhoda Morgenstern, Murray Slaughter, Ted Baxter, and Phyllis Lindstrom. Even Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker, who could have been played as merely two dimensional, was given some measure of depth.The show was also one of the first to feature a single woman as the main character, and to focus on her career rather than love life. As originally scripted, Mary was to have been recently divorced. This was considered too controversial in 1970 (plus, in a case of classic Executive Meddling, network brass was afraid viewers would think that Moore's Dick Van Dyke Show character, Laura Petrie, had gotten divorced from Rob), so her Back Story was changed to one of rebuilding her life after a broken engagement.The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first series produced by MTM Enterprises (founded by Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker), which would be responsible for several of the most popular and acclaimed shows of the '70s and '80s. The show won 29 Emmy Awards (a record that held until Frasier won its 30th in 2002) and a Peabody Award, and spun off three other series: Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant. (The latter being one of the few instances where a comedy series spawned a drama.)One of its episodes, "Chuckles Bites the Dust", is widely considered to be one of the funniest sitcom episodes ever.One of the many tropes it established was the recurring gag about Mary's disastrous parties. Friends similarly has built continuity around its Thanksgiving episodes, Frasier had catastrophic Halloweens, and Buffy typically had ruinous birthdays.According to a book by J Michael Straczynski, if a writer watches this and Fawlty Towers they will have had the best possible grounding in how to write comedy.Ultimately MTM is best remembered for the depth and humanity of its characterizations, while never sacrificing the funny. Oh, and the hat-throwing scene in the intro.
This show provides examples of:
Actually Pretty Funny: There are a few points in the series where Murray can be seen smiling/chuckling after getting an insult from Sue Ann or Ted(mostly having to do with his baldness).
Rhoda and Murray join Calorie Cutters. (Weight Watchers)
Brick Joke: In one episode Ted spends an undeserved $6,000 tax refund check on gifts for his friends. Mary is taken aback at the fine Sterling Silver pitcher she was given saying how embarrased she was that she had only given Ted and Georgette a blender for their wedding. Georgette assures her it was the nicest one of the three blenders they got. Fast foward through the plot as the IRS audits Ted and he begs his friends to say he took them out to business lunches that he deducted. Mary enters the newsroom to find flowers on her desk marked "Roses are Red/And here's a bunch/please tell the IRS man/I took you to lunch.". Murry comments "Is that all you got? I got a blender."
Also Mary on more than one occasion. note One example is the episode "Put on a Happy Face"; Mary's up for a Teddy award, which she's sure she won't win but feels an obligation to attend since she's nominated. At first her only problem is that she has no date, but things go downhill from there. She sleeps on her hair wrong so that it's lopsided at work. On the way to the washroom to try to fix it, she slips and sprains her ankle. After going to the hospital, she catches a cold from soaking her foot. Then the almost brand new dress she planned to wear is ruined by an inept cleaner and she needs to borrow an ugly-looking one (by 1970s standards) from Rhoda. After that, desperate not to go to the awards alone, she takes Ted up on his earlier offer to fix her up with a guy who's kind of like a "good-looking Robert Redford", at which time he tells her "April fool!" and reveals that the guy is him. Ted shows up and is appalled by Mary's appearance (her dress, her flat hair because her hair dryer broke, and her being sick) and is very reluctant to be seen in public with her. On the way to the awards, Mary gets rained on and steps in a puddle. When they get there, Ted pretends that she's his sister and a last-minute replacement for his real date. Then Mary loses one of her false eyelashes at the table...and that's when she's invited onstage in front of dozens of people to receive the Teddy that she ended up winning after all:
The Cast Showoff: "Murray Can't Lose" gives Georgia Engel (Georgette) a chance to show off her singing and dancing skills with a big musical production number to the song "Steam Heat."
Subverted in the same episode with Mary, who suggests putting herself in the talent show but thinks better of it after trying out a hilariously inept attempt to sing "One For My Baby."
Catch Phrase: "Hi, Guys!" (Ted Knight even recorded a novelty record based on it), "Ohhhhh, Mr Grantttttt."
Phyllis has "Hi hi!"
Chain Letter: "Don't Break the Chain" has Lou passing one of these along to Mary.
Chekhov's Hobby: In "Mary Midwife," Lou mentions that he once delivered a baby when he was in the Army. Five minutes later, Georgette goes into labor and Lou is called upon to deliver the baby.
Christmas Episode: "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II" (the title references an episode of the '60s sitcom That Girl, which James L. Brooks had scripted) has Mary roped into working at the station on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while "Not a Christmas Story" has the WJM staff trapped by a blizzard while Sue Ann films a Christmas episode of her Happy Homemaker show...in November.
Subverted, however, with Ted Knight's character, Ted Baxter. The role was actually originally conceived with Jack Cassidy in mind, but he turned it down. Cassidy did, however, appear in an early episode as Ted's equally egocentric brother, Hal.
Executive Meddling: A common plot on the show, as the station managers at WJM mess with the news show's format or try to make personnel changes. Somewhat subverted in that Ted's news show is so bad that the executives may have a point in wanting to change it.
Mary: [to Lou, after watching Ted on the news] That's the format you're so anxious to hang on to?
Freudian Slip: Mary: "I'd love to interview Robert Redford, if the opportunity ever arouse... arose."
Heroic BSOD: Mary has one in the episode "Murray in Love." Lou Grant comes over to Mary's apartment while she is getting ready for a date (in a robe and with a towel on her head). After several failed metaphors, he finally just comes out and tells her that Murray is in love with her and is going to tell her the next day. At that moment, Mary's date shows up. But Mary is too busy having the Heroic BSOD, and she dazedly leaves to go on her date while still in her robe and towel.
Hypocritical Humor: During the "Chuckles" episode, Mary is horrified at her co-workers' jokes revolving around the titular deceased clown. Fast-forward to the funeral, where they remain appropriately solemn while she completely cracks up at the eulogy.
Then zigzagged, when the minister for the funeral tells her it's OK to laugh, that Chuckles would have wanted her to laugh and be happy. Cue Mary breaking down and bawling.
Mary: [discussing disaster coverage on the news] How many big disasters are there in Minneapolis? Ted: [entering]Hi, guys! Murray: Nice timing, Ted.
Also used with Mary in Season 7's "The Ted and Georgette Show", as Murray and Lou are complaining about the "ordinary" people who appear on... Ted and Georgette's show.
Murray: Hey Lou, where do they find those guests, anyway? I mean, they're so dull. The night watchmen and the dry-cleaners. It's like they make dollar requirement to get on the show.
Lou: Go figure it out, Murray. Who with any intelligence would want to be on a show like that?
Mary: (enters the room) Hey guys, guess what? I'm going to be a guest on The Ted and Georgette Show next week!
Informed Attractiveness: Mary is consistently portrayed in-universe as, in Murray's words, "so terrifically attractive and desirable that she can probably have any man she wants."
In "Ted's Temptation", Ted finds a woman, Whitney, who he believes is so beautiful that she "makes Mary look like a dog". Part of this is justified in that Whitney is one of the few women to express a sexual interest in Ted, making her all the more attractive to him.
In a later episode Ted splurges on buying gifts for his friends with an undeserved tax refund check which the IRS later wants back.
Just Eat Gilligan: It's repeatedly shown that the station would do better in the ratings if Ted were replaced by someone competent.
Karma Houdini: Ted Baxter in the finale. His inept reporting skills and high opinion of himself should have gotten him fired, and yet he's the only one who still has a job.
Also, Rhoda on more than one occasion, often causing Mary trouble and then either blaming Mary herself for it or laughing at her expense. The ultimate example comes in 'Romeo & Mary'. As a pleaded-for favor, Mary agrees to double-date with Rhoda when her beau's friend has no one. The guy turns out to be a stalker. Though played for laughs in an era that didn't quite deal with the darker side of this, his behavior is very much that of a stalker absent true violence. Not even the comical determined pursuit of some shows and films; this guy's behavior is ruinous to Mary's peace of mind, and yes, she does tell him to go away repeatedly. Rhoda's aid to the situation she caused? To crack wise and mock Mary! With Friends Like These...
Kavorka Man: After Lou's wife divorces him, he demonstrates a surprising ability to attract women. One episode ends with him caught between two women and deciding to date both of them at once, Sue Ann has a crush on him, and in the next-to-last episode even Mary has to admit she's interested in Lou.
Anna Maria Alberghetti in a taxi honey, better be ready 'bout half past eight....
Large Ham: Phyllis is this in-universe, managing to turn everything into life-or-death drama, even Ted's failed campaign for City Council:
"I believed in us. I felt we had such bright, untarnished hopes for the future. I felt we had mountains to climb, promises to keep. But the light failed, Ted! The dream died!"
Last Name Basis: Everyone calls Lou by his first name except Mary, who insists on calling him "Mr. Grant." She only calls him "Lou" when she's angry at him or, in one of the last episodes, when they go on a date.
Left It In: In one episode, Mary is interviewing a male author with the intention of cutting in a tape of Murray asking the questions later. At the end, the author asks Mary out. The final result that is broadcast shows Murray being asked out by the author.
Likes Older Women: In the episode "It Was Fascination, I Know", Mary finds herself the object of a 15-year-old's affections.
In "He's All Yours", Mary gets chased after by a new cameraman at the station, who's barely in his 20s.
Ms. Fanservice: A number of episodes, particularly in the early seasons, contrived excuses for Moore to display her celebrated legs. Parodied by MAD, which had Mary declare "time to show off my legs!" and change into a tennis outfit for no reason.
My Friends... and Zoidberg: "Well Mary, there's something you have to remember about poker. It doesn't matter if you win or lose. It's being involved in a group activity with people you like. And Ted."
"Lars came over to me, put his arm around me, and said 'Darling, don't you think it would be a good idea, in view of the high cost of living, that you try to keep your spending down a little?' I turned to him and said 'Darling, why don't you go suck an egg?' And that's when Lars started the argument."
Poorly Disguised Pilot: "His Two Right Arms" was a pilot for a proposed series about an incompetent city councilman (played by Bill Daily) and his wacky but competent staff. CBS didn't pick it up to series, and Daily went on to join The Bob Newhart Show a year later.
Averted with Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant. All of them made their pilots separately from the main series.
Arguably the episode in which Rhoda invites Mary to her sister's wedding could be considered something of a pilot as it looks like a rough version runthrough of Rhoda with a few retools to come, not the least being switching Married Debbie for Single Brenda.
Though, if we're counting ending titles, Georgia Engel and Betty White were added to the main cast in the 3rd and 4th seasons.
Reality Subtext: One of the episodes from the final season is about Murray's frustration at being the only person in the group who hasn't won a Teddy Award. In real life, Gavin MacLeod was the only major cast member who never won an Emmy (he was never even nominated) and he later admitted his disappointment about this.
Running Gag: The Teddy Awards, Mary's disastrous parties (lampshaded in later episodes), Ted's speech about the "five-thousand-watt radio station in Fresno, California", Lou's drinking, etc.
The Scrooge: Ted. The show had a seemingly endless supply of gags about his reluctance to spend any money, even though he's the highest-paid employee at the station.
Ship Sinking: Toward the end of the series, the writers addressed the Mary/Lou 'shipping that had become popular among fans (and even among some of the writers) by having Mary and Lou try dating... and break into giggles after they kiss, realizing that they will never work as a romantic couple.
Shout Out: In later seasons, the opening credits feature two scenes in which Mary is seen interacting with people connected with the show. The first scene shows Mary walking in the park when two joggers run by her: creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. The second scene shows Mary dining at a restaurant with an older man: Moore's then-husband, Grant Tinker, who also served as co-founder and president of the show's production company, MTM Enterprises, and would later become even more well known as "the man who saved NBC", when he served as the network's chairman and CEO from 1981 to 1986.
The opening also has a scene of Mary washing her car while donning a Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota Vikings QB) jersey.
If you look closely at the WJM program grid on the wall of the Station Manager's office, you'll see My Mother The Car is shown several times a day. This is an in-joke to the Old Shame shared between Brooks and Burns.
Star Making Role: Pretty much everyone in the cast other than Mary Tyler Moore herself (and perhaps Betty White) can thank this show for first making them a household name.
Stepford Smiler: Sue Ann is so into her TV persona as the sweetly helpful "Happy Homemaker" that she acts like that all the time, onscreen and off, smiling even when saying the meanest or dirtiest things.
Lampshaded in Season 5's "A Girl Like Mary" where Sue Ann has lost the ability to tell whether or not she smiles anymore, as she's been on her segment for so long.
Straw Feminist: Phyllis, who considers herself a great progressive, can be this on occasion.
Phyllis: [after Mary is fired] It's obviously a case of sexual discrimination. Mary: No, Phyl, they fired the guys too. Phyllis: Oh, Mary, you little goose! That was just to cover their tracks!
Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Phyllis is worried about her brother and Rhoda spending a lot of time together, she reasons that saying anything to dissuade them will probably just bring them closer together. To prevent that from happening she resolves to be "passive, even kindly," and when Rhoda walks into the room a moment later...
Phyllis: "Rhoda...I want you to know, dear...that I am not sick to my stomach over you and Ben."
Throw It In: When Moore filmed her famous hat-tossing scene in downtown Minneapolis, the camera caught an elderly woman scowling at her in the background. The woman was a local resident named Hazel Frederick, who happened to be walking down the street after shopping in the area and couldn't understand what this young woman was doing in the middle of a busy intersection. The producers decided the shot was too good not to use, and Frederick's face became an unintentionally iconic part of the show's opening.
Georgette: Mary, I know what you're getting at, and believe me, I know how Ted can be. Nobody knows that better than I do. But I know how I feel. Mary: You do love him, then? Georgette: Of course, Mary. Somebody has to!
Write Who You Know: Ted Baxter was actually inspired by real life anchorman Jerry Dunphy of CBS Los Angeles O&O KNXT, who later also provided the inspiration for Kent Brockman on Brooks's The Simpsons. note Ironically, however, in real life, Dunphy was actually a very competent, very professional anchorman. In fact, when he anchored KNXT's newscasts, titled The Big News for 6:00 PM newscasts, and 24 Hours for 11:00 PM newscasts, the programs generally attracted a quarter of Los Angeles television owners, ratings unheard of in the market. Indeed, Dunphy was so professional and so popular, that when KNXT unceremoniously fired him in 1975 in order to reshape their newscasts to contain a faster-paced, Eyewitness News type format, their ratings crashed to last place and have remained in last place to this very day. In addition, to add insult to injury, immediately after KNXT fired him, rival station KABC immediately hired him to be their chief anchorman, causing their news ratings to skyrocket to #1 in the process. Dunphy was also well loved behind the scenes as well. Near the end of his career, he was anchoring the main news for independent station KCAL, when he died of a heart attack on his way to work on May 20, 2002. On that day's 9:00 PM newscast, KCAL co-anchor Pat Harvey, fighting back tears, announced his death: "Los Angeles has forever changed tonight, because Jerry Dunphy will never come into your home again. Our beloved anchorman and friend has died. Jerry touched the lives of generations of Angelenos for more than 40 years; a beacon of truth and trust, and for all to turn to in good times and in bad."
Yet Another Christmas Carol: Discussed in the episode "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II." After telling Mary she has to work on Christmas, Lou says he has a feeling he will be visited by three ghosts that night.