I wrote this a year or so ago and I am sharing it here again for Mother’s Day -
Oh how I miss that show about those four ladies living in the big city; the relationships, the puns, the humor, the clothes. I saw a little of myself in each of them; the somewhat spoiled and sheltered one, the one who was more than a little man crazy, the cynical one with a sweet side, and the sometimes voice of reason single career gal. No, not THAT show, this show had less to do with shoes and sex in the city and more to do with funky head scarves and character development. The show I miss is the Mary Tyler Moore show. MTM was on TV from 1970-1977 and one of my very favorite early memories is watching it with my mom.
Mary Tyler Moore took place in the big city of Minneapolis. The Mary in the show, Mary Richards, was played by Mary Tyler Moore. She was a single woman in her 30’s who had moved to Minneapolis after breaking off her engagement. She worked at TV station WJM as an associate producer for the 6:00 news. Mary was kind and sweet and cute as a button. She had an awesome bachelorette pad and I envied everything about her, from her shiny straight hair to her apartment. She ‘could turn the world on with her smile’. Even a 7-year-old me knew that Mary WOULD make it after all.
One of Mary’s pals, and neighbor, was Rhoda Morganstern, played by Valerie Harper. Rhoda was also single and seemed to date a lot, with pretty awful results. Rhoda was acerbic and self-deprecating and she had an awesome collection of head scarves and she wore the hell out of them. She was a window dresser, which to me, seemed like the best job in the world. Play with and dress up life-size Barbie’s every day? SURE, I can do that! Rhoda met and married Joe and moved back to NYC a few years into the show (for a spin-off show) and I really missed her not being there. Her show was good, but I never liked Joe, and neither did anybody else apparently because they divorced after 2 years of marriage. BUT, like Mary, Rho would be A-OK.
Rhoda and Mary’s landlady was Phyllis Lindstrom, wife of never seen doctor, Lars Lindstrom. Phyllis was a bit spoiled and rather snobbish. Phyllis’s teenage daughter Bess was in the show too, though I honestly remember seeing her only a few times. Phyllis and Rhoda were uneasy friends. I think maybe, and this is me totally guessing, that Phyllis was a little scared of Rhoda. Rhoda was like Mary, but without the soft exterior. Rhoda was more ‘in your face’. I think Phyllis was more traditionally minded and she felt sorry for Mary and Rhoda for being single. Cloris Leachman played Phyllis and she was funny and delightful in the role, and I remember she wore a lot of maxi dresses
And now….for my very favorite character of the show, Ms. Sue Ann Nivens. Sue Ann was played by the always amazing and talented, Betty White. Sue Ann was the perpetually dimpled star of the TV show (produced at the station where Mary worked) The Happy Homemaker. Sue Ann was, in no uncertain terms, a slut. She was a total man-eater. She constantly hit on Lou Grant, Mary’s curmudgeonly boss, played by Edward Asner (no, I didn’t have to look that up just now because I forgot the name of the character, but because I would SWEAR to you that the actor’s name was also Lou Grant), and every other man she found somewhat attractive. I remember she made a lot of smart-assey remarks towards Captain Stubing, er, Gavin McLeod, who played a copywriter on the show, about his baldness, so she DID have standards, they were just somewhat low. Sue Ann was an absolute perfectionist and though I’m sure psychologists would say otherwise, I’m going to say she just loved men, and she was a romantic, not that she was a mess and was constantly looking for validation in them. Sue Ann and Mary tolerated one another. Sue Ann was frequently jealous of Mary because she was younger and she had that damn shiny hair. How did a 7-year-old me relate to Sue Ann? I don’t even want to delve into that.
In the series finale, everyone except the dumbass anchorman Ted Baxter, played perfectly by Ted Knight, is fired due to lacking ratings in the 6:00 news. The former work friends, and hopefully always real life friends, pile into a big group hug and then Mary turns out the light of the newsroom. The episode is considered one of the absolute best finales ever, and I would agree.
This show was groundbreaking at the time. It was rare to see a single woman on TV who was career minded. Mary was shown at work as much as she was shown in her fab bachelorette pad. She was a disastrous party giver and not ‘domesticated’, and while she did go on dates, she was selective in who she went out with and she wasn’t going to settle. I always got the impression that if it happened for her, great. If not, meh, she would still be fabulous.
I didn’t realize the effect the show had on me until I was writing a post about things being good, and I ended it by saying ‘I’m going to make it after all, and then I throw my hat up”. It makes me curious about what effect the shows my boys watch now will have on them. Honestly, the only TV they get to watch is on weekends because during the week we don’t even have time to even turn it on. I have told them both how special it was that my mom used to let me stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with her, and I KNOW that had an impact on my life too.
The boys and I watch a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants and the cooking show Chopped together. Valuable lessons can be learned from both, but I feel that is best left for another post. I have started letting my eldest stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with me, and though he falls asleep before it comes on often, it is special time for us when he can make it….after all. Sorry, I can’t stop now.