You Can Never Get Too Much of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’

Yeppers, kids, the world is still celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Mary Tyler Moore Show AKA “The Best Sitcom Ever Written.”

No, we here at TVWriter™ aren’t the only ones who believe that comedy writing has never been consistently better than on creator James Brooks’ highly awarded and mightily loved classic. If it wasn’t the best ever would writer Michael Coate have been able to assemble this virtual roundtable of critical minds to tell us how they feel?

Take it away Herbie J Pilato (hey, that name sounds familiar), Vince Waldron, and Michael Coate–

by Michael Coate

The Mary Tyler Moore Show opened the floodgates for the kind of grown-up TV comedies that would thrive in the 1970s, and beyond. Although Mary’s show had little in common with M*A*S*HAll in the Family, or Barney Miller, it’s hard to imagine any of those breakthrough sitcoms getting a green light had The Mary Tyler Moore not proven to the TV networks that it was possible to attract a sizable audience to intelligent, risk-taking television shows — that good TV was, in fact, a viable business model.” — Vince Waldron, author of The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the golden anniversary of the broadcast premiere of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Emmy-winning and multi-spinoff-inspiring television series starring Mary Tyler Moore (The Dick Van Dyke ShowOrdinary People) as Mary Richards that ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977.

The series — created by James L. Brooks (Terms of EndearmentBroadcast News) and Allan Burns (A Little RomanceJust Between Friends) and featuring the memorable supporting cast of Edward Asner as Lou Grant, Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, Gavin MacLeod as Murray Slaughter, Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, Cloris Leachman as Phyllis Lindstrom, Georgia Engel as Georgette Franklin Baxter, and Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens — premiered 50 years ago, and for the occasion The Bits features a Q&A with a pair of classic television historians who reflect on the series’ appeal, impact and legacy five decades after its debut.

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): How do you think The Mary Tyler Moore Show should be remembered on its 50th anniversary?

Herbie J Pilato: The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a ground-breaking show on several levels…in content…in execution…and with regard to social and cultural impact and influence. While previous female-centric sitcoms like Private Secretary (aka The Anne Southern Show) and That Girl certainly celebrated the independent career woman, The Mary Tyler Moore Show which, technically, was titled just Mary Tyler Moore, took things to the next level. It arrived on screen at a time when the Women’s Liberation Movement was just beginning its full swing. The show never set out to be the voice of female empowerment, but that’s how it turned out. The character of Mary Richards, who worked in the newsroom at the fictional WJM-TV in Minneapolis, was not presented with any conscious decision to stand for female rights…she was just living her life and doing her job to the best of her ability. Whatever came from that was an organic development of the times…and the way Mary Tyler Moore played the character…with utter charm, intelligence and sensibility, just simply brought it all home for the TV viewer in the most likable way. When it comes to TV and likability, you’d be hard-put to find a more ideal representative of that than Mary Tyler Moore….

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