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Trivia / The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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  • Ability over Appearance: The producers almost didn't hire Valerie Harper because while her performance was spot on, they felt she was too pretty to play Mary's frumpy best friend. They later decided to cast her anyway but would dress her in ungainly and frumpy clothing.
  • Actor-Shared Background: Mary Tyler Moore is indeed a failed ballet dancer, much like her character. "I'm a failed dancer but a successful actress" she always said in interviews.
  • Cast the Runner-Up:
    • Gavin MacLeod originally auditioned for the role of Lou Grant.
    • The role of Ted Baxter was written with Jack Cassidy in mind, but the actor wasn't interested in another sitcom commitment so soon after the failure of his critically acclaimed Short-Runner sitcom He & She. He would eventually guest star as Ted's brother in one episode.
  • 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".
  • Creator Backlash: The producers of the series have expressed in interviews that one of the worst episodes was "Some of My Best Friends Are Rhoda", in which Mary confronts her new friend, Joanna Forbes (played by Mary Frann), about her anti-Semitism. Everyone involved in the episode agreed it fell flat and was tonally way off-key for the series. "We are not Maude," Mary Tyler Moore said of the episode, which was attempting to tiptoe into topical and political All in the Family territory. The show stayed away from confrontational Norman Lear-ish envelope pushing after this episode.
  • The Danza:
    • Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards.
    • Ted Knight, as Ted Baxter, is actually a completely accidental instance of this. The role was 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.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Moore herself helmed the season 5 episode "A Boy's Best Friend".
    • Nancy Walker, who played Rhoda's mom Ida, directed two episodes and would go on to direct spinoff Rhoda as well.
  • Executive Meddling: A common plot in-universe, 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?
  • I Am Not Spock: Ted Knight hated the problems people had separating him from Ted Baxter. He had a hard time after the series as well.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • Lou's idea to have a cameraman ride along in a police car to film an on-the-spot arrest predated COPS by about 15 years.
    • Wes Callison (Jerry Van Dyke) had the idea to broadcast the WJM Six O'Clock News from the newsroom... an idea many later news programs adopted, most notably ABC's World News Now.
  • Marathon Running: Nick@Nite's The Mary-thon, a week-long marathon (showing a season's worth of episodes each night) that introduced the series to the cable network's line-up in 1992.
  • Playing Against Type: Prior to this show, Gavin MacLeod was best known for "heavy" roles. Between this and The Love Boat, he spent the rest of his life with a much sweeter reputation.
  • Reality Subtext: "Murray Can't Lose" 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 original cast member who never won an Emmy (he was never even nominated) and he later admitted his disappointment about this.
  • Referenced by...: In the St. Elsewhere episode "Close Encounters", the amnesiac mental patient John Doe #6 comes to believe that he is Mary Richards after seeing the series on television. He mistakes Captain Gloria Neal, who is played by Betty White, for the happy homemaker Sue Ann Nivens. Captain Neal explains that he has confused her with someone else. Like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, St. Elsewhere was produced by MTM Enterprises.
  • Society Marches On: The idea of Rhoda not being allowed into a country club because she's Jewish may seem absurd to modern viewers.
  • Technology Marches On: Ted once floats the idea of his newscast being broadcast later in the evening, to which Lou Grant replies, "I like it! How about we put you on a half hour after 'The Star-Spangled Banner'?" In the 1970s American TV stations normally went off the air at a set time every night, commonly signing off by playing "The Star-Spangled Banner".note  TV networks broadcasting 24 hours uninterrupted didn't become commonplace until the late 1980s/early 1990s. note 
  • 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.
  • Throw It In!: When Moore filmed her famous hat-tossing scene in downtown Minneapolis, the camera caught an elderly woman scowling quizzically at her in the background. The woman was a local resident named Hazel Frederick, who happened to be walking down the street while 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.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Reva Rose, who had played Lucy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, was on the short list to play Rhoda.
    • Mary was originally going to be divorced, but the writers feared people would think Laura had divorced Rob. Plus, executives back then didn't think a divorcée protagonist would be accepted by the viewing public.
    • Mary Tyler Moore has said that she wanted to do the series for another couple of seasons but the writers and James L Brooks wanted to end the show when it did.
    • According to Moore, the idea of doing a crossover with The Bob Newhart Show was discussed multiple times but ultimately never materialized.
    • At one point, the show nearly got cancelled, and they came up with an alternate finale: a mad bomber would've left bombs all over the city, and it's suspected that the bomber is in the WJM newsroom; as a result, all the main characters start thinking it's one of them. But as it transpires, it was one of the faceless, nameless employees who were always at the back of the newsroom.
  • 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 
  • You Look Familiar: Linda Kelsey, who appears in one episode as an ambitious woman attempting to steal Sue Anne's job, would go on to play Star Reporter Billie Newman on the show's Spin-Off Lou Grant.
    • Valerie Harper's husband Richard Schaal was on the show several times as different characters. He played Howard Arnell, Howard's brother Paul, Chuckles the Clown, and a bar patron named Dino. He would then appear on spinoff Rhoda playing Joe's friend Charlie and star on the spinoff Phyllis as Phyllis's co-worker Leo.

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