Ed Asner was an actors’ actor. You name it, he could do it, and probably do it best. Without him, there would still have been a Mary Tyler Moore Show, but we here at TVWriter™ don’t believe for a minute that it would have been the much-acclaimed, uberpopular, multiple Emmy Award winner it was. Here’s Herbie J’s take on a helluva guy.
He Had Spunk! A Tribute to Ed Asner
by Herbie J Pilato
“I regard myself as a beautiful musical instrument, and my role is to contribute that instrument to scripts worthy of it.” (Ed Asner in a recent interview with author Herbie J Pilato.)
Asner died August 29, 2021, at age 91.
The Kansas City, Missouri, native rose to fame as cantankerous newsman Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the legendary CBS comedy that was a Saturday-night staple from 1970 to 1977. He would reprise the role in Lou Grant, a spin-off that CBS aired Monday nights from 1977 to 1982.
In the process, Asner made television history playing the same character in a 30-minute comedy filmed with three cameras before a live studio audience and a 60-minute, single-camera drama.
In the sitcom, Lou Grant was the executive producer of the fictitious WJM TV newsroom in Minneapolis. He supervised associate producer Mary Richards (Moore), news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), self-absorbed news anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), and weatherman Gordy Howard (John Amos).
Other characters on the show included Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White — the last living member of the cast), host of WJM’s Happy Homemaker show, Ted’s girlfriend — and eventual wife — Georgette Franklin Baxter (Georgia Engel), and Mary’s neighbors and best friends Rhoda Morgenstern, portrayed by Valerie Harper, and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).
On Lou Grant, Asner’s title character moved to Los Angeles, where he was hired as editor of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune. Once more in a supervisory position, Asner’s Grant was surrounded by another group of diverse characters portrayed by an equally talented cast. They included Mrs. Pynchon (Nancy Marchand), the paper’s owner, assistant editor Charlie Hume (Mason Adams), reporter Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey) and reporter Joe Rossi (Robert Walden)….
Herbie J Pilato, host of Then Again, a classic TV talk show streaming on Amazon Prime, is the author of several books about television. For more information, visit HerbieJPilato.com.