That great theme song. Those wonderfully written characters. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a mainstay of my childhood. Even though I was born in the 80s, I was able to enjoy this show because my mother was a Mary Richard devotee as a teen in the 70s. We enjoyed it in reruns on Nick at Nite and I credit this show with molding my aspirations a young woman.
In the book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, Jennifer Armstrong writes about this classic TV sitcom with great insight about the actors, writers, and producers that brought it to life. She covers it’s early struggles to get on the air and the lives of the people involved in its creation and success. In particular, she discusses behind the scene details about the pilot. They made one change in which Phyllis’s daughter Bess says that she likes Rhoda and that changed how the rest of the episode played to the studio audience. She also speaks to one of my favorite lines from Lou Grant “You know what? You’ve got spunk! I hate spunk!” This is a scene that Asner initially struggled with but eventually found the right timing and we have one of the funniest scenes in the series.
Armstrong makes some poignant connections to the status of women in comedy today. The Mary Tyler Moore Show influenced modern TV in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, Lena Dunham’s Girls and many of the other female-dominated comedies today. In pop culture, MTM made a huge impact with feminism and the women’s lib movement. Not only was the show about a young, single woman making it on her own but it also was one of the most well-written shows to date. I have to admit when I feel scared about life, I hum the “Love is All Around” theme and suddenly get a boost of confidence that allows me to forge ahead into the unknown.