Mary Tyler Moore

You’re Gonna Make It After All

September 19, 2017

MTM hat in the airAs an impressionable 13 year old on September 19, 1970, the premiere of one particular show  – more than any other – no doubt helped to mold who I was and my view of the world.

For the next seven years I kept rooting for Mary Richards to find the love of her life but, alas, she never did. As a romantic I thought this was a tragedy beyond the pale. So every week I would tune in to see what was happening on WJM TV and to see if poor Mary’s love life would ever get launched.

In the course of the series run, it never really did. Certainly Mary had several encounters; and the show pushed many boundaries in the exploration of relationships which were not defined by marriage.

For the life of me, my 13 year old psyche could not understand how a 30 year old attractive woman would not WANT a husband and a family. From a perspective 40 plus years later I understand that not everyone needs or desires the same things.

The Mary Tyler Moore show was groundbreaking. A single woman, pursuing a career rather than choosing the then traditional route of marriage and children, was a foreign concept. From the infallible Wikipedia:

“Mary Richards (Moore) is a single woman who, at age 30, moves to Minneapolis after leaving her fiancé of two years. She applies for a secretarial job at fictional television station WJM, but that is already taken. She is instead offered the position of associate producer of the station’s Six o’clock News. She befriends her tough but lovable boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and buffoonish anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Mary later becomes producer of the show.

Mary rents a third-floor studio apartment in a 19th-century house from acquaintance and downstairs landlady, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and she and upstairs neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) become best friends. Characters introduced later in the series are acerbic, man-hungry TV hostess Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and sweet-natured Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel), as Ted Baxter’s girlfriend (and later, wife). At the beginning of season 6, after both Rhoda and Phyllis have moved away (providing a premise for two spinoffs), Mary relocates to a one-bedroom high-rise apartment.

In the third season, issues such as equal pay for women, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality are woven into the show’s comedic plots. In the fourth season, such subjects as marital infidelity and divorce are explored with Phyllis and Lou, respectively. In the fifth season, Mary refuses to reveal a news source and is jailed for contempt of court. While in jail, she befriends a prostitute who seeks Mary’s help in a subsequent episode.

In the final seasons, the show explores humor in death in the episode ‘Chuckles Bites the Dust’ and juvenile delinquency; Ted deals with intimate marital problems, infertility, and adoption, and suffers a heart attack; and Mary overcomes an addiction to sleeping pills. Mary dates several men on and off over the years, two seriously, but remains single throughout the series.”

The thing I remember best is that my mother loved the show. At the time of the premiere she was 45 years old and, I know from my own observations, struggling to define who she was going to be since her youngest child was 13 (the others were 15, 17 and 22) and daily chores were no longer all consuming or fulfilling. So she went back to college to study music and find activities which interested her. Somehow she managed to do what she wanted despite push back from my oh-so-traditional father. My mother often felt as if she had been born into the wrong era as she always wondered what it would be like to pursue a career.

But every Saturday evening – when at home – my Mom and I ALWAYS watched the Mary Tyler Moore show together! No doubt it WAS her favorite show and I imagine that if they were to air reruns she’d still love it today despite her advanced dementia and failing health.

For those who don’t know she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer so I know her time is short. In many ways I ‘lost’ my mother years ago with the dementia, then a stroke, and her continuing decline.

I’ve had more than one person say how ‘lucky’ I am to still have both my parents. My response is that I miss the woman who I remember as my mother. The true essence of that woman has, sadly, been gone a long time.

I checked the TV in her room today and confirmed that there’s a DVD player.  I may just buy her the complete 7 season set of the Mary Tyler Moore show so she has something to enjoy in these final months.

To read more about this groundbreaking show, click here:

And for a short segment that’s wickedly fun:

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