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Series / The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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You're gonna make it after all! note 

"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."
Mary Richards, "The Last Show"

A legendary sitcom created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns that aired on CBS from 1970–77, which forever reshaped American television comedy; pretty much every Work Com that has followed in its wake bears its influence.

Mary Tyler Moore stars as Mary Richards, a 30-something single woman living in Minneapolis and working as associate producer for The Six O'Clock News on fictional TV station WJM.

The show was famous for the quality and depth of its writing, particularly in the attention and care given to the supporting characters in its Ensemble Cast, which included Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). Even "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), who could have been played as merely two-dimensional, was given some measure of depth.

This was also one of the first shows to feature a single woman as the main character, and to focus on her career rather than her love life. As originally scripted, Mary was to have been recently divorced. This was considered too controversial in 1970 (and, in a classic case of Viewers Are Morons, network brass was afraid the audience would think that Moore's Dick Van Dyke Show character, Laura Petrie, had gotten divorced from Rob), so her Backstory was changed to one of rebuilding her life following 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 a number of the most popular and acclaimed shows of the '70s and '80s. In its seven-season run, the show won a whopping 29 Emmy Awards (a record that held until Frasier won its 30th in 2002) and a Peabody Award, and it 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 the many tropes the show established was the recurring gag about Mary's disastrous dinner parties, similar to how Friends later built continuity around its Thanksgiving episodes, Roseanne had epic Halloweens, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer typically had ruinous birthdays. It's also the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier for High-Powered Career Woman in American media.

J. Michael Straczynski once said in a book on screenwriting that 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:

  • Aborted Arc: Season 3 has Mary's parents move into a house in the same neighborhood as Mary's, with Mary worrying they will interfere with her private life. Although Mary's mom and dad drop in a couple of times during the next few episodes, by the end of the season, the situation is no longer being mentioned and Mary's parents are never seen again.
  • 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).
  • The Alcoholic: Lou, though this is mostly played for laughs.
    "I've seen lots of guys get loans to open bars, and the only security they had was that I was gonna drink there."
  • Assumed Win: The "Teddy Awards" episodes.
  • Back for the Finale: Rhoda and Phyllis.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Murray's wife Marie falsely starts to suspect he and Mary are having an affair. Ted overhears Mary saying they're not, and then sneaks off to gossip with Lou. Except instead of spreading a false rumor, his juicy scuttlebutt turns out to be "Mary and Murray are not having an affair".
  • Beautiful All Along: The show went out of its way to portray Rhoda as frumpy and overweight in the early episodes, enough that Valerie Harper almost didn't get the role because the producers thought she was too physically attractive. However, as the series goes on, Rhoda quietly sheds her frumpiness and other characters even point out that they think she's beautiful.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sue Ann has become so used to wearing a big, sweet smile as the Happy Home-Maker, that she realizes at one point that she is physically unable to stop smiling, even if she tries pulling her mouth into a frown by hand.
  • Beware of the Nice Ones: Murray's wife Marie. She is sweet natured and soft spoken, but when she finds out that Murray, who is a compulsive gambler, was at a poker game, she gets PISSED.
    • Also Mary when pushed too far. One episode has Mary put in charge of a new upbeat News format and Ted is not happy when he finds out that he will be playing the straight man to Gordy. When Ted starts to add comments to Mary's Editorial, she snaps and says, "Shut up, Ted!" on live TV. Surprising everyone, including herself.
    • In another episode, Mary snaps after a man who was obsessed with her shows up during one of her dates. She humiliates him in public by yelling at him and smears cake on his face.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Former Trope Namer (Ted Baxter Close Up). For all his narcissism and the off putting behavior that comes with it, he's masking up for insecurity and shows himself to be good, caring guy deep down.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Phyllis and Sue Ann frequently verge on this, with Sue Ann in particular being an expert in Sugary Malice.
  • Black Comedy Burst: "Chuckles Bites the Dust"
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Mary buys Bess a "Fast Wheels" (Hot Wheels) racing car set.
    • Rhoda and Murray join Calorie Cutters (Weight Watchers).
  • Breakout Character:
    • Georgette was just supposed to be a minor role in one episode, but the crew were endeared by Georgia Engel's performance and gave her more to do, followed by more episodes and main cast status.
    • Sue Ann Nivens was also just intended for a single episode where she played an antagonistic role, but James L. Brooks left Betty White a note after they finished filming that read "Don't make too many plans".
  • 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 embarrassed 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 forward 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.". Murray comments "Is that all you got? I got a blender."
    • In one episode, Ted shows his long-lost father around his dressing room. His dad notices an autographed photo of Dwight Eisenhower and mentions with surprise "He signed his name with two Ts!" Late in the episode, Ted decides to give his father some money and writes out a check. His father, peering over Ted's shoulder, reminds him "Only one T in Robert."
    • In "Chuckles Bites the Dust", Ted gives Mary an ugly mobile sculpture early in the episode. At the end during the coda, she offers it to anyone who wants it.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Ted.
    • WJM-TV (at the very least their nightly newscast) is portrayed as this in the context of the local media market. They're last place in the ratings and it's suggested that the few viewers they have are only tuning in to laugh at Ted.
    • Also Mary on more than one occasion. note 
  • The Bus Came Back: "Hail the Conquering Gordy"
  • Catchphrase:
    • Ted's "Hi, guys!" (Ted Knight even recorded a novelty record based on it.)
    • Ted's on-air Signing-Off Catchphrase: "This is Ted Baxter saying goodnight and good news."
    • Mary's "Ohhhhh, Mr Graaant!"
    • Phyllis's "Hi hi!"
    • Lou's "You got spunk...I hate spunk!" or some variant thereof.
  • Chain Letter: "Don't Break the Chain" has Lou passing one of these along to Mary.
  • Characterization Marches On: Murray was originally supposed to be a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis to Mary, but after a few episodes the crew realized Gavin MacLeod was too gentle and likable to make it work, so he became a nice guy.
  • 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.
  • The Chew Toy: Ted is Lou Grant's personal chew toy; he once confided to Mary that unloading on Ted is his personal stress relief.
  • Christmas Episode / Crappy Holidays: "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II"note  has Mary roped into working at the station on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while "Not a Christmas Story" has the WJM staff trapped at the studio by a blizzard while Sue Ann films the Christmas episode of her Happy Homemaker show... in November.
  • Chubby Chaser: In "Keep Your Guard Up", Mary begins to suspect that Frank, the down and out former Minnesota Vikings player, is interested in her. Frank then tells her that she's too skinny and he likes bigger women.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Rhoda's sister Debbie and Phyllis's brother Ben were both written out of existence on the characters' respective spinoffs.
    • Mary's parents moved into her neighborhood and the writers attempted to make them recurring drop-in characters but they disappeared after a few appearances, never to be mentioned again.
  • Class Reunion: "Didn't You Used to Be...Wait...Don't Tell Me"
  • Clip Show: The third-to-last episode, "Mary's Big Party", mostly features clips from Mary's earlier disastrous parties.
  • Closer to Earth: Georgette is always more down-to-earth and sensible than Ted, and Murray's wife Marie is usually the more practical one in their relationship.
  • Commuting on a Bus: In seasons 3 through 5, with Cloris Leachman doing more movie work after winning an Oscar for her role in The Last Picture Show, Phyllis went from appearing in half the episodes to only three or four episodes a year.
  • Compressed Vice:
    • In "Mary's Insomnia," Mary gets addicted to sleeping pills and gets over her addiction within a single episode.
    • Murray's compulsive gambling in "It's Whether You Win or Lose".
  • Cousin Oliver: Literally: Ted and Georgette's adopted son David is played by Robbie Rist, who played Oliver on The Brady Bunch.
  • Covert Pervert: Mary sometimes hints at this.
    Lou: Mary, do you know what it's like to wake up next to a stranger?
    Mary: Sure.
  • Curse Cut Short: Sue Ann, on the air, when a recipe doesn’t turn out right: “OH SHHHH…urely that’s not how a strawberry swirl is supposed to look!”
  • Curtain Call: The final episode ended with one of these in its original network airing, as Mary Tyler Moore broke character to pay tribute to "the best cast ever", bringing her co-stars out one at a time for a standing ovation during the closing credits. Watch it here.
    • Syndicated reruns of the finale have a more conventional end-credit sequence in place of the curtain call. Both endings are included on the Season 7 DVD.
  • Cute Kitten: Mimsie, the adorable MTM Vanity Plate.
  • Da Editor: Lou Grant is this (or, rather, Da Producer).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rhoda, Lou, Murray, Sue Ann, and occasionally Mary herself.
    • Though only a semi-regular, WJM’s weatherman Gordy has more Deadpan Snarker moments than any other character on the show. He can drop a comment like “Yeah, sure, uh-HUH” so laden with sarcasm it comes off as devastating as a chewing out from Lou Grant, but so deadpan that oblivious characters never catch it.
  • The Ditz: Ted and Georgette each embody this trope, although really, Ted takes the crown. Georgette's ditziness was rather mild, but it was emphasized by her extreme sweetness and naivete.
    • The Feeb formerly known as Randy qualifies as well. In a hilarious episode (appropriately titled "Feeb"), Randy is so incompetent as a waitress that sweet, non-confrontational Mary actually complains about her, and Randy is fired. Residual guilt means Randy winds up hired as Mary's assistant at WJM, where she continues to be inept at everything, including being unable to type or file, and constantly referring to Lou as "Mr. Graham." The ditziest thing of all about her is that she doesn't seem to realize she's terrible and on the verge of being fired again.
      Mary: The point is, I don't want to get you fired again. I'll do anything to help. I'll come in early, I'll stay in at lunch hours. I'll even work late, if it''l help.
      Randy: Oh, gee. Thanks, Mary.
      Mary: Okay, so what do you say we get started tonight, huh?
      Randy: Oh, you mean you want me to stay and work late too?
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Murray was originally intended to be Mary's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis, but Gavin McLeod's inner sweetness caused him to change after the first episode.
  • The Eponymous Show: Literally — the actual onscreen title simply reads "Mary Tyler Moore".
  • Establishing Character Moment: During Sue Ann's first appearance, when she refuses to end her affair with Phyllis' husband — to Phyllis' face — until Mary informs her that Ted knows and will happily blab it all over the station, ruining Sue Ann's reputation (and career).
  • Everybody Cries: The entire cast does this during the last few minutes of the grand finale.
  • Express Delivery: Georgette found out she was pregnant in March of '76 and then proceeded to give birth in September of '76 (just in time for the seventh season premiere) meaning that she was only pregnant for six months. (In that episode, she states that she had been pregnant for nine months, so the timeline must have been fudged.)
  • Fake Guest Star: Phyllis at first. Cloris Leachman was billed as a Special Guest Star despite portraying one of the main characters. Granted, Phyllis appeared more infrequently than the rest of the main cast, but nowhere near as few times as you’d expect from a supposedly special guest. By Season 4, however, this was no longer the case, as Phyllis would only appear in a few episodes per season.
  • Fantasy Sequence: "Mary's Three Husbands" has Lou, Murray, and Ted each imagining what it would be like to be married to Mary, which breaks the fourth wall in that Mary refuses to act out Ted's fantasy of a romantic honeymoon.
  • Flanderization: The writers did a good job of keeping the characters consistent from beginning to end with the sole exception being Sue Ann. Her bawdy attitude wasn't introduced until later appearances and her sugary-sweet facade became more and more obviously false as time went on. Of course, she also gained more depth in addition to this, so its still fairly balanced out.
    • When Phyllis went from appearing in most episodes to only appearing in a handful of episodes per season, episodes where she did appear focused heavily on her tendencies towards histrionics and self-involvement. Then, when she departed for her own series, these tendencies were downplayed again.
  • Freudian Slip: Mary: "I'd love to interview Robert Redford, if the opportunity ever arouse... arose."
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Ted, Phyllis, and Sue Ann to a realistic extent. They all annoy their friends, but its still shown that they care about them, with the sentiment ultimately being returned.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": "Chuckles Bites the Dust"
  • Game Show Host: Ted ponders an offer to move to New York and become one of these in "Ted's Moment of Glory".
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Played for Laughs when Lou has the idea of putting a cameraman in the back of a cop car to capture an arrest as it happens...and nothing happens on that beat for days...
  • Grand Finale: The first to introduce what is now known as the Stock Sitcom Grand Finale.
  • Group Hug: Famously employed in the finale.
  • Girl of the Week: Most of Mary's boyfriends last no more than one episode, even if she doesn't officially break up with them at the end of the episode.
  • Happily Married:
    • Ted and Georgette Baxter in Season 6.
    • Murray and Marie Slaughter.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Phyllis's husband, Lars.
  • 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.
  • High-Powered Career Woman: Mary Richards is a sincere, kind, optimistic 30-year-old woman trying to make a career for herself as an associate producer for a news broadcast in Minneapolis. Unlike later versions of the trope, the show does not introduce a lot of conflict between Mary's romantic life and career, with most of Mary's boyfriends sticking around only for an episode or two. The show was revolutionary for its time (airing in 1970) and was lauded as a landmark for second-wave feminism because it featured an unmarried, independent, career-focused female protagonist.
  • Holding In Laughter: In the episode "Chuckles Bites The Dust", the circus performer Chuckles the Clown was killed by a rogue elephant while dressed in a peanut costume. When the other people in the newsroom make morbid jokes about the circumstances of Chuckles' death Mary scolds them for making light of a tragedy. However, during Chuckles' funeral the minister describes the various characters Chuckles had portrayed and despite her best efforts to contain herself Mary can't help but burst into a fit of giggles, much to her mortification. The minister forgives her, saying that Chuckles preferred laughter to crying.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Chuckles Bites the Dust", Mary is horrified at her co-workers' morbid jokes revolving around the eponymous 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 okay to laugh, that Chuckles would have wanted her to laugh and be happy. Cue Mary breaking down and bawling.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue:
    • Happens numerous times, mostly with Ted.
      Mary: (discussing disaster coverage on the news) How many big disasters are there in Minneapolis?
      Ted: (entering) Hi, guys!
    • 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: (entering) 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, whom 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.
  • Insult to Rocks: In "Chuckles Bites the Dust", Lou turns down Ted Baxter's request to be Grand Marshal of the circus parade:
    Ted: Nothing can spoil my day now that I'm going to be Grand Marshal of the circus parade.
    Lou: Forget it, Ted, you aren't.
    Ted: What?
    Lou: I said forget it. My anchorman isn't marching down the street with a chimp; tends to give him an undignified image.
    Ted: Oh Lou, it won't give me an undignified image.
    Lou: I was talking about the chimp.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service:
    • In "1040 or Fight", Mary gets audited, and to make matters worse the IRS agent develops a crush on her.
    • In a later episode Ted splurges on buying gifts for his friends with an undeserved tax refund check which the IRS later wants back.
  • I Owe You My Life: Said by Ted after Lou didn't allow him to be grand marshal of the circus parade, saving him the fate of Chuckles the Clown.
    Lou: Please, Ted, I feel bad enough today.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: It's repeatedly shown that the station would do better in the ratings if Ted were replaced by someone competent. Irony? In the Grand Finale, he is the only employee the new owners do not cut.
  • 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.
  • "Knock Knock" Joke: Ted got stuck trying to come up with one using the name "Anna Maria Alberghetti". He finally figures out a punchline by the end of the episode:
    Ted: 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, drunk, or, in one of the last episodes, when they go on a date.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Sue Ann, of all people, comes within a hair of saying one of the Seven Dirty Words in "The Dinner Party". She's cooking a strawberry swirl for her TV show, which is live. Well, she thinks she's cooking it, but the oven was never turned on. When Sue Ann takes the pan out and turns it upside down to drop the dessert onto a plate, the uncooked mixture falls out and splatters onto the plate and surrounding counter.
    Sue Ann: Oh, shhhhhurely that's not what a strawberry swirl is supposed to look like!
  • 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.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Murray and Mary are very close, but are clearly only friends and find the idea of romance between them laughable.
  • 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.
  • Ma'am Shock: "Today I Am a Ma'am"
  • Manchild: Ted, who cries when he doesn't get his way, whimpers when he's afraid, and giggles at any reference to sex.
  • Minnesota Nice: Mary, in spades.
  • Morality Pet: Lou cares about all his staff, but terrifies them even when he's not furious. That said, he's generally nicer to Mary than he is to anyone else, and much more tolerant of her mistakes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A number of episodes, particularly in the early seasons, contrived excuses for Moore to display her celebrated legs. Lampshaded in the MAD parody, which had Mary declare "time to show off my legs!" and change into a tennis outfit for no reason.
    • Mary's teeth are highlighted and portrayed in-universe as a fetish for a dentist she meets in the first season episode "Divorce Isn't Everything".
  • 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."
  • Naïve Newcomer: Mary kind of started out as one.
  • Never My Fault: Phyllis.
    "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."
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: In-universe. Sue Ann presents the image of a charming, sweet, perfect wife and homemaker on her show, but off-camera she's vain, man-hungry and nasty. Downplayed in that she shows herself to take serious pride in the role and does not treat it lightly.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Lou's explanation for why Sue Ann's constant advances make him so nervous.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Chuckles the Clown, who hosts the local children's show on WJM. In the episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust", the minister remarks that Chuckles lived life with his philosophy of "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants". Afterwards, when the minister sees Mary bursting out into laughter after trying to repress it, he mentions that Chuckles loved to make people laugh, and didn't like to see people crying. Ironically, Mary breaks down into tears.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Georgette. She sounds like The Ditz but is much smarter than Ted, and she frequently gives level-headed advice to other characters.
  • Odd Couple: Lampshaded in the episode "Where There's Smoke, There's Rhoda":
    Rhoda: Face it, Mare. How long can we keep up this Felix and Oscar routine?
  • Official Couple:
    • Ted and Georgette starting in the third season.
    • In season 6 there was an attempt to give Mary a regular boyfriend, played by Ted Bessell, but the character was dropped without explanation.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Subverted in that Lou would let the old man win. Ted does not, which later makes him think he can easily take Lou. He can't.
  • One-Steve Limit: The show had Mary, Murray, and Murray's wife Marie. And it was never lampshaded.
    • When Mary falls in love with Joe Warner, she calls Rhoda, who at this point is married to Joe Gerard, and they laugh at how they both fell in love with men named Joe.
  • Paying in Coins: Ted owes Murray a few dollars, and keeps putting him off by asking if Murray has change for a $500 bill. At the end of the show, Murray indicates he does this nickels. The bags come out from under the desk...
  • Plucky Office Girl: Mary, initially.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot:
    • "His Two Right Arms" was a pilot for a proposed series about an incompetent city councilman named Pete Peterson (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 run-through of Rhoda with a few retools to come, not the least being switching Married Debbie for Single Brenda.
      • The final MTM episode to feature Phyllis ("Phyllis Whips Inflation") centers on her to a greater degree than normal, even featuring a scene with her and none of the other regulars. This was likely a test of Phyllis's workability as a lead character before building a new series around her.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles:
    • Completely averted. Nobody but Mary Tyler Moore herself was ever named in the show's opening.
    • Though, if we're counting ending titles, Georgia Engel and Betty White were added to the main cast in the 3rd and 4th seasons.
  • Pun-Based Title: Numerous episodes have this. It's even lampshaded with season 4's "Better Late... That's a Pun... Than Never".
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Rhoda moves to New York (and her own show) between seasons 4 and 5.
    • Phyllis moves to San Francisco (and her own show) a year later. Both moves took place offscreen.
    • Likewise, Gordy Howard, WJM's meteorologist, also moves to New York to become a successful talk show host after season 4. (His actor, John Amos, left the show to play James Evans Sr. on Good Times.)
  • Really Gets Around: Sue Ann Nivens.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Mary's good friends Jack and Linda Foster are central characters in Season 3's "Have I Got a Guy for You". They are clearly dear old friends of Mary's who she sees a lot, yet strangely this is the first time we viewers or any of the main cast have ever seen or heard of them.
  • Required Spinoff Cross Over: Mary appeared in several episodes of both Rhoda and Phyllis. For Rhoda's Wedding Episode two-parter on the former, *all* of the MTM regulars (save for Ted and Sue Ann) showed up.
    • Averted, however, on Lou Grant. The only character from MTM to appear was three-time guest character Flo Meredith (Mary's aunt), played by Eileen Heckart.
  • Reunion Show
    • Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show (1991) featured clips from the series and a reunion panel featuring all the former cast members (save for Ted Knight, who'd died in 1986).
    • Mary and Rhoda (2000) was a Made-for-TV Movie that had Moore and Harper reprising their characters as they catch up with each other in New York City after having been separated for 20+ years.
    • The Mary Tyler Moore Reunion (2002) again featured clips from the original series, as well as one-one-one interviews between Moore and each of her surviving costars.
  • 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.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: After Rhoda left, the writers made repeated attempts to add a new character to the cast, including Sheree North as Lou's new girlfriend, Ted Bessell as a regular boyfriend for Mary, and Penny Marshall as a nurse who lived in Mary's apartment building. None of them lasted more than a few episodes, though Marshall might have stayed on had she not gotten her own show.
  • 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.
      • In the episode "The Co-Producers" Lou mentions that the current Station Manager scheduled My Mother the Car reruns at 7am so he'd have something to watch while eating breakfast.
    • "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II" is not a Numbered Sequel to an earlier episode, its title notwithstanding; the original "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid" was a That Girl episode that James L. Brooks had written.
  • Show Within a Show
    • The Chuckles the Clown Show
    • The Happy Homemaker Show
    • Uncle Oom-Pah-Pah the Polka Prince (mentioned in "The Co-Producers")
    • King Artie's Castle (mentioned in "It's Not if You Win or Lose")
    • and of course, The Six O'Clock News
  • Sickeningly Sweet: Phyllis can be this sometimes, like when Mary acts as a "Mommy" to her when she has a cold, which brings her back to her childhood.
    Phyllis: Thank you Mommy, I wuv vanilla. Whenever I loved something I'd say "I wuv it!". Like "I wuv candy!"..."I wuv licorice!"..."I wuv daddy!"..."I wuv mommy!"...
    Mary: Phyllis, you're making me nauseous...
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Phyllis, for Rhoda; Sue Ann and Ted for Murray.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Ted Baxter, the former Trope Namer. Although he routinely demonstrates Hidden Depths.
  • Snap Back: Rhoda opens a plant boutique late in Season 3, but is a window dresser again in later episodes with no explaination.
  • Snowed-In: "The Snow Must Go On" (which combines this trope with The Show Must Go On, hence the punny title); "Not a Christmas Story"
  • Special Guest:
    • Johnny Carson attends one of Mary's dinner parties. Unfortunately, a power outage strikes just before he arrives, so we only get to hear his voice.
      • In the closing credits, which normally show a clip of the guest, Carson's name is accompanied by a black screen.
    • Ted Baxter meets Walter Cronkite in one episode.
    • Lou's friend does a heck of a Betty Ford imitation.
    • Technically, Cloris Leachman was always billed as a "Special Guest Star" for her appearances as Phyllis.
    • For the final episode, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper returned. In order not to show favoritism they both received the credit "Special Guest Star (in alphabetical order)"—a rare case of the "alphabetical order" billing trope being used for only two actors.
  • Spinoff: There were three - Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant.
    • And oddly enough, that last one was a drama and it was the most successful one!
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Ted was the focus of a hugely increased number of episodes in the last few seasons.
  • Stalker with a Crush: In "Mary and Romeo", an overbearing man named Warren has a crush on Mary and makes her miserable but showing up everywhere she goes and showering her with undesired attention such as buying a billboard declaring his love for her.
    • Also ends with a bit of Shoot the Shaggy Dog; after harassing Mary for over a week, with no support from Rhoda, who got her into this mess, Mary is on a date and sees him enter the same restaurant. She also sees him with a huge cake that says 'Will You Marry Me?'. Mary, who has had above enough, tears into him and smears the cake. Promptly, the woman the guy had actually bought the cake for comes in and demands to know why Mary ruined her cake. Mind you, the guy had been all but attacking Mary, and this other woman had never been mentioned, even as a recent break-up. Mary looks like a maniac to this woman, her date and all the restaurant goers, while stalker-man somehow gets to look sweet and romantic. Did I mention Rhoda laughed about his antics, despite her role in setting this up?
  • Standard Office Setting: Many scenes take place at the office of the The Six O'Clock News where Mary works. Mary has a desk in the bullpen, while Lou Grant and other higher-ups have their own offices with glass windows facing into the bullpen.
  • Stepford Smiler:
  • Stock Sitcom Grand Finale: "The Last Show" is the Trope Maker.
  • Straw Critic: Karl Keller (Eric Braeden) in "The Critic" embodies this trope in its purest form, a Smug Snake who hates everything except obscure European art movies.
  • Straw Feminist: Phyllis, who considers herself a great progressive, can be this on occasion. Although the show overall is feminist, Phyllis is usually portrayed as having knee-jerk, superficial feminist stances, and deep down, is really less progressive than she realizes.
    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.
  • Take Our Word for It: Rhoda once dated Ted. However, rather than build an episode around their date they just had Rhoda mention it in passing, much to Mary's surprise. Rhoda doesn't go into details and merely suggests that he was a terrible date.
  • Take That!: The writers would sometimes put in disparaging references to the cheesy late-'60s sitcoms this show was rebelling against, including Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch (re-named "The Clancy Clan") and co-creator Allan Burns's own Old Shame My Mother the Car.
  • The Talk: One episode has Phyllis enlisting Mary to give this to her daughter Bess.
  • That Didn't Happen: Mary and Lou are both completely squicked out after they kiss.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "Love Is All Around", written and sung by Sonny Curtis. A different version with altered lyrics was used beginning in the second season.
    • There's also a short instrumental version used for some syndicated episodes.
    • Sonny Curtis himself recorded a country-style version that briefly charted in 1980, and the song has also been covered by such artists as Hüsker Dü (whose video for the song includes footage of the band at the same Minneapolis intersection where Moore did her famous hat-toss) and Joan Jett.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: A rather apt example! In one episode they hire a former Olympic swimmer to be the first female sportscaster for the network...unfortunately, her reports are only about professional swimming, and it takes a lot of cajoling from Lou to get her to report on more popular sports like baseball and football.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After dealing with Murray's put downs for years, Ted eventually turns the tables on him when the former's got him setup for an easy punchline.
    Murray: You don't think that job requires a certain amount of skill?
    Ted: No I don't.
    Murray: I mean, you feel that any fool can do it?
    Ted: That's right, just about any fool.
    Murray: Let me get this straight, Ted. Now, you are saying that any halfwit, halfwit, could just walk in here and read the news?
    Ted: That's right, just about any halfwit!
    Murray: [Laughing and about to speak]
    Ted: But don't you audition for the job Murray, Lou wants a girl. [Cracking up and running off] I got ya! I got ya! I got ya! I did it! I got em! I got em! I finally did!
    Murray: [flabbergasted] I just lost a duel of wits to an unarmed opponent.
  • Tranquil Fury: Lou is at his most terrifying when he's not screaming, but speaking perfectly calmly and politely with a vicious smile.
  • True Companions: The WJM staff, as lampshaded by Mary's quote from the Grand Finale up top.
  • Ultimate Job Security: One of the biggest unexplained mysteries of the series is why Ted Baxter doesn't just get fired. He is very obviously what's dragging the station down, and the station never has a problem finding a replacement on occasions when Ted is unavailable. WJM could easily replace him with weatherman Gordy Howard, who has co-anchored with Ted and subbed for him, and shown greater competence. Of course, the big twist is that Ted holds onto his job even after the rest of the news staff is fired.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: In "Howard's Girl", Rhoda insinuates that Mary's boyfriend, Paul Arnell, is more attractive than his brother Howard, who Mary dated in a previous episode. The gag here is that Paul and Howard were both played by Richard Schaal (Valerie Harper's husband at the time).
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Mary, despite references to her limited clothing budget. Lampshaded by Ted a couple of times.
    Ted: Georgette keeps asking me why you have more clothes than she does. I tell her it's because all your outfits are reversible.
    • The MAD parody, "The Mary Tailor-Made Show", plays on this by having the Mary expy change into a different outfit for practically every panel.
  • Wacky Guy: Ted verges on this. Most of the wackier plots and tropes involve him.
  • Welcome Episode
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Any time Lou acts unusually nice or considerate, his employees take it as a sign that there's something very wrong.
    Mary: We have got to do something about Mr. Grant. He hasn't yelled at anybody in days. He's not drinking. This is terrible!
    • Averted in the episode in which Ted has a minor heart attack on the air which changes his personality. The gang likes the new Ted and start to adopt his new outlook just as he snaps out of it.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Brought up by Mary in the episode where Georgette marries Ted.
    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!
  • Whole-Plot Reference: "The New Sue Ann," where a young Loony Fan of Sue Ann plots to take over her show, is a take-off on All About Eve.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Ted on multiple occasions.
  • Work Com: The Trope Codifier.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: Mary's hat-toss in the opening.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mary Tyler Moore


Mary Tyler Moore Show Closing

MTM was known for highlighting its main cast and guest stars with video credits at the start of the closing titles.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / VideoCredits

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