When Mary Richards showed up in our homes, we didn’t quite know what to make of her. A single woman in her 30s? Not widowed or divorced? Not dependent on a man? Happy with her career? Credit not only Mary Tyler Moore, but show creators James Brooks and Allan Burns with bringing something completely new and original to American TV.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was for many years a part of the Saturday night lineup on CBS, the strongest night of television ever. Consider this lineup – All in the Family, M*A*S*H (Great American Things, Nov. 5, 2009), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. A TV hall of fame all one one night.
The titles said the show was about Mary Tyler Moore, but this was the epitome of sitcom by ensemble. What a remarkable cast of characters: the irascible Lou Grant (Ed Asner), the long-suffering Murray (Gavin MacLeod), the pompous Ted (Ted Knight), the buddy Rhoda (Valerie Harper), the two-faced Sue Ann (Betty White), the snobbish Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), and the naive Georgette (Georgia Engel). What a cast.
Mary worked in the newsroom of WJM TV in Minneapolis, an unusual workplace in a city not known to most viewers. She had an office family we enjoyed getting to know, and a roommate we identified with. The characters grew and developed during the show’s seven-year run, and the humor was more character-driven than was typical at the time.
The show earned lots of awards, both during and after its run. It won 29 Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1975, 1976, and 1977. The show received a Peabody Award in 1977 for having “established the benchmark by which all situation comedies must be judged.” In 1977, TV Guide ranked the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode as number one on their list of the Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, the magazine named the show as number 11 on its 50 Greatest Shows of All Time.
If you remember the show, one scene that will always stay with you occurred during the opening credits, as Mary tossed her hat into the air. The theme show was right: “You’re gonna make it after all…”