Follow TV Tropes


Series / Lou Grant

Go To
Back row, left to right: Charlie Hume, Margaret Pynchon, Dennis "The Animal" Price, Adam Wilson, Art Donovan. Front row, left to right: Lou Grant, Joe Rossi, Billie Newman.

This Dramatic Hour Long series is a Spinoff of the Sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Edward Asner reprises his role of Lou Grant from there.

After the Grand Finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou is now in California working as the city editor for the fictional Los Angeles Tribune. He manages to keep his character, in both senses, for five seasons of this. The other regulars were general assignment reporters Joe Rossi (Robert Walden) and Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey) (Kelsey joined the show in the fourth episode, replacing Rebecca Balding, who had portrayed general assignment reporter Carla Mardigian); managing editor Charles Hume (Mason Adams), an old friend of Lou's who convinced him to move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles; assistant city editor Art Donovan (Jack Bannon); photographer Dennis Price (Daryl Anderson), usually referred to as "Animal," and the Tribune's widowed, patrician publisher, Margaret Jones Pynchon (Nancy Marchand).


  • Abusive Parents: In "Hooker", Patti Oxley was sexually abused by her stepfather throughout her childhood.
  • The Alcoholic: While Played for Laughs in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the tone becomes serious here, as Lou's drinking problem at times is referenced. At one time, it becomes deadly serious when he is arrested for drunk driving and has to attend a drinking driver's school to get his license back.
  • Author Filibuster: Many Lou Grant episodes dealt with social issues, but it did not come off nearly as preachy as Quincy, M.E..
  • Banana Republic: In "Prisoner", Malagua is a Latin American country ruled by a brutal dictator named General Baroja. Supposed subversives are regularly taken off the streets on trumped up charges and tortured.
  • Benevolent Boss: While Mrs. Pynchon, Charlie Hume, and Lou Grant all have gruff and demanding demeanors, they're all passionate about journalism and preserving its integrity.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several, including when Charlie Hume accepted his son's decision to join the Hare Krishnas.
  • Book Ends: The Title Sequence for the first season begins with a bird in a tree, which is then cut down. And so, we see the process (though, not the whole process, mind you) of how trees are turned into newspapers. The titles end with one Los Angeles Tribune reader using a piece of the day's newspaper she just finished reading to line her bird's cage.
  • Boomerang Bigot: In "Nazi", Donald Sturner was raised in Orthodox Judaism by his parents Abraham and Dora and was extremely committed to his faith. However, he experienced a severe Crisis of Faith after his mentor Rabbi Samuel Stein moved away. During the turbulent 1960s, inspired by his teacher Mr. Kelso, Sturner was a committed patriot who hated the counterculture movement. However, Sturner's warped mind began to misinterpret what Kelso taught him and he embraced neo-Nazism. After changing his name to Stryker, he founded the National Socialist Aryan American Party. According to a psychiatrist that Billie interviews, his behavior suggests that he may be psychotic.
  • California University: In "Sports", the NCAA is investigating recruiting violations on the part of the highly popular Los Angeles University football team. When the Tribune reports this, it loses more than 300 subscriptions and Lou receives several death threats.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In "Pills", the high school student Gerry tells Donovan that most of her classmates interested in journalism want to be Woodward and Bernstein. Donovan jokes that they probably want to be Hoffman and Redford. Robert Walden (Rossi) played Donald Segretti in All the President's Men.
  • Character Name Alias: In "Psych-Out", Rossi admits himself into the Glenview State Hospital under the name Carl Woodward, a reference to Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, in order to get an insider's perspective on being a psychiatric patient.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Carla Mardigian disappears without explanation or further mention after the third episode "Hoax". She is replaced by Billie Newman in "Henhouse".
  • Clothing-Concealed Injury: In "Housewarming", Dorothy Trent wears large sunglasses to hide the bruise on her right eye, given to her by her husband Jerry, when they go to Lou's housewarming party. She claims that she has an eye infection but Billie learns the truth when she accidentally walks in on her in the bathroom and sees the bruise.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Pynchon.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lou Grant and his reporters ran into quite a few of these during the course of the series.
  • Culture Police: In "Prisoner", A New Hope, All in the Family, Peanuts, The Beatles, The Washington Post and the Tribune are all banned in Malagua. Lou thinks that it is an honor for the paper to be included as it is the classiest list since the White House enemies list.
  • Da Editor: Lou Grant is the city editor of the Tribune while Charlie is its managing editor.
  • Domestic Abuse: In "Housewarming", there are two examples:
    • Alice Merrin is beaten by her husband Jerry, an alcoholic with an extremely violent temper, almost every night. He also psychologically abuses her as he repeatedly tells her that she is worthless and no one else would have her. Alice finally leaves Jerry when he threatens to beat their children.
    • The junior Tribune staffer Roger Trent punches his wife Dorothy in the face, giving her a large bruise. Lou and Billie are both shocked as they never thought that he was the sort of person who would do something like that.
  • Downer Ending: In "Renewal", Lou and the others did everything they could to help an elderly man named Earl Humphrey preserve the apartment building murals he lovingly dedicated to his deceased wife, but despite getting a court order against demolition, they could not stop the wrecking ball.
  • The Eponymous Show:
  • Faked Kidnapping: In "Scoop", Terry Hall and his girlfriend Jennifer Walker, the children of wealthy corporate lawyers, faked his kidnapping and demanded $200,000 ransom. They did so in order to raise funds for the Society to Preserve Our Seas, an activist group in which they are heavily involved.
  • A Father to His Men: Lou Grant
  • Fictional Political Party: In "Nazi", Billie investigates the Nationalist Socialist Aryan American Party, which is based on the American Nazi Party.
  • First-Name Basis: Everyone refers to Lou, Charlie, and Billie by their first names.
  • Flashback Nightmare: In "Prisoner", Charlie is haunted by nightmares about being imprisoned, tortured and regularly threatened with death in the Malaguan federal prison, which is nicknamed El Hotel, for five weeks in 1963.
  • From the Ashes: After Lou Grant and all his co-workers are fired from the station in the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou survives and thrives as the city editor of a busy Los Angeles newspaper — and maintains his humanity and integrity throughout the series.
  • Hanging Judge: In "Judge", Lou Grant is held in contempt of court and thrown in jail when investigating reports of a ruthless judge named Felix Rushman.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: In "Billie", Joe and Billie are undercover in a motel room. Joe starts watching porn on the TV. Billie starts making comments about how silly it is, and how none of it is remotely erotic. Then she stops, tilts her head, and says "Now that's erotic."
  • Hostage Situation: The Trib newsroom was held hostage in the appropriately named episode "Hostages".
  • Intrepid Reporter: The hallmark of the show. Lou Grant and his reporters braved everything from organized crime to corrupt politicians to natural disasters to bring the news to the people of Los Angeles.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone refers to Rossi and Donovan by their last names.
  • Local Hangout: The Tribune staff often go to McKenna's for drinks or some food at lunchtime or after work.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • In "Poison", the death of Sam Beecher, who planned to blow the whistle on Tucor, in a hit-and-run is later determined to be murder when it is discovered that the driver Rindell is a security guard for one of Tucor's holding companies.
    • In "Prisoner", after General Baroja's second wife spoke out against the human rights abuses in Malagua, she went on a sailing trip and was never heard from again. It is widely speculated that Baroja had her murdered.
  • Meaningful Rename: In "Nazi", Donald Sturner changed his name to Stryker after coming to hate his Jewish heritage. He eventually founded the National Socialist Aryan American Party. Julius Streicher was a prominent Nazi who published the extremely anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer from 1923 to 1945 and various books designed to indoctrinate German children into hating Jews. He was convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg and executed in 1946.
  • Mythology Gag: The character of Flo Meredith, Mary Richards' honorary aunt and a very respected newspaper reporter, was the only other Mary Tyler Moore Show character to appear on Lou Grant. A running gag during the sitcom episodes had Flo making snide remarks to Lou about being in "trivial" television journalism instead of "real" newspaper journalism. On her first of two appearances on the drama, she congratulates Lou on finally returning to his newspaper roots... although she implies the Trib isn't exactly the most respected newspaper around, thereby keeping their friendly feud alive.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Dennis "Animal" Price looks like an unfocused slob, but is an award-winning photographer.
  • One-Word Title: The series did 114 episodes, and all but two of them had one-word titles.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Animal" Price is virtually always referred to by his nickname.
  • Pet's Homage Name: In "Poison", Sam Beecher, a huge fan of Westerns, has a cat named Shane.
  • Police Are Useless: Many of the problems faced in Lou Grant were too complex to be handled by the police, who were often hamstrung by some flaw of the system.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Averted in "Christmas". For violating a newspaper policy, Rossi is assigned to the dullest story Lou can think of — profiling a minor state official named Malcolm Findlay, who commutes between Los Angeles and Sacramento (he even admits to his subject that he's being punished). But then Rossi discovers that Findlay is a bigamist, with a family in each city...and gloats that his story is "going to write itself." But in the end, he can't bring himself to ruin two families' lives, especially since it's Christmas Eve, and instead turns in a story which Lou dismisses as drivel.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Barney, Mrs. Pynchon's yappy Yorkshire terrier.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • In "Nazi", Billie discovers that the Nationalist Socialist Aryan American Party leader Donald Stryker, whose real name is Donald Sturner, is secretly Jewish. Only hours after her article about him is published, Stryker shoots himself. This is based on the case of the American Nazi Party member Dan Burros, whose Jewish heritage was exposed by The New York Times in 1965.
    • In "Poison", Rossi's best friend Sam Beecher finds evidence that the nuclear plant Tucor where he works has inadequate safety procedures and previous leaks have caused several deaths. Before he can blow the whistle, he is killed in an apparent hit-and-run which is later linked to Tucor. This was inspired by the story of Karen Silkwood, an employee of the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant in Oklahoma who raised concerns about health and safety at the plant in 1974. On her way to meet with a journalist from The New York Times, she was killed in a suspicious car accident.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Art Donovan is always impeccably dressed and becomes agitated if there is any risk of his clothes being damaged.
  • Shown Their Work: Often, real-life problems are showcased with outstanding attention to detail.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
  • The Smurfette Principle: Billie is the only female reporter to work in the city room, as was Carla for the first three episodes. The only other female main character, the matriarch Mrs. Pynchon, is the paper's publisher.
  • Spin-Off: Lou Grant's character was largely unchanged since his departure from the Twin Cities via the The Mary Tyler Moore Show, though going from a comedy to a drama could lead you to believe he had (e.g., his alcoholism now being portrayed more realistically, instead of being Played for Laughs).
  • The '70s: From building interiors, to Animal's attire, to episodes like "Sect", Lou Grant is clearly a creation of the seventies.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Mrs. Pynchon.
  • A Very Special Episode: Every episode.
  • Welcome Episode: In the first episode "Cophouse", fresh from his firing at WJM-TV in Minneapolis, Lou Grant relies on his old friend Charlie Hume to secure a City Editor job at the Los Angeles Tribune.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?:
    • In "Housewarming", Jerry Marrin tells his wife Alice that he beats her because she is always making mistakes and doing things to make him mad.
    • In the same episode, Roger Trent tries to justify beating his wife Dorothy because she always nags him over his lack of ambition and not creating more opportunities for himself at the Tribune. Lou is disgusted but his reaction helps Roger to realize how pathetic and hollow his excuses are.