So Long Mary Tyler Moore

mary-tyler-moore-mtm_tvg_3-77

As a 30 year old single working woman, Mary Richards acted as a kind of stand in for a new American female for a generation of women. TV Guide May 1977

 

With the turn of a TV dial, Mary turned the world and my childhood on with her smile.

A constant presence on my TV screen, Mary Tyler Moore and her winning smile shepherded me through  my Kennedy era childhood, my tumultuous teens, and straight into my early adulthood.

Laura Petrie

mary-and-dick-van-dyke-TV Gude Cover 1961

Oh Rob! Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke TV Guide Dec. 1961

Who didn’t love Mary as Laura Petrie, the New Rochelle housewife who defiantly  traded in the per-requisite starched dress and pearls of other TV housewives for a more fetching pair of capris.  After several seasons of stuffy and often stilted  TV sitcom  moms like June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson,  Laura was a breath of fresh suburban air.

Mothers it seemed,  could attend PTA meetings and be sexy to boot.

Mary Richards

mary-tyler-moore-TV Guie 1972

TV Guide Cover Feb. 1972

Then in 1970 smack dab in the middle of my teens, in the midst of the burgeoning feminist movements and my own burgeoning consciousness as a female, CBS introduced Mary Richards to TV.  Suddenly Saturday nights became must-see-TV, truly proving  she could take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.

Sure, by the mid 1960’s there had been some independent career girls on TV like Marlo Thomas’s struggling actress on  That Girl and Dianne Carrol as Julia the first African-American woman who was a widowed nurse making it on her own.

But generally career gals on TV- and the media in general- were portrayed primarily as husband hunters.

No Mad Men era  girl  wanted to end up a spinster so smart single gals knew a job could be a space age launching pad for snaring a husband.

mary-tyler-moore-show-TV Guide 1973

TV Guide Dec. 1973 The girls of Mary Tyler Moore Show- Georgia Engel, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper

What made The Mary Tyler Moore Show so original was that it was the first sitcom where a female character’s primary relationship was with neither her family nor her male love interest but her friends and co workers. “Love was all around.”

A female perspective was crucial to the shows  success so it was no coincidence that the show was also one of the first sitcoms to employ a stable of female writers.

Mary was  a kind of stand in for a new American female.

To a young girl just starting out on her own path wondering “How will you make it on your own? This world is awfully big, girl this time you’re on your own,” Mary Richards offered a blueprint.

It’s time You Started Living

When Mary Richards, single and gasp…30, moved to Minneapolis and started working as associate producer at the WJM-TV, she did something that no female character on television had done before.

She had left her fiancé, put her job before romance and made it clear that she would rather spend evenings alone than in a series of bad dates.

Of course  some things were pretty familiar. She was often tasked with typical office grunt work like fetching coffee  and typing 60 words a minute on her IBM electric typewriter, and initially she was never quite confident enough to speak up to her oafish boss and often un-evolved male co workers. The girls often  fretted over their weight and appearance.

But for the first time ever, these women were real. They had hopes, dreams, and ambitions.

“You just might make it after all!”

mary-tyler moore TV Guide Cover

It was this winning combination of girl next door and spunk that made it  easy to embrace and  introduce TV viewers to feminist consciousness and many were happy to see Mary embrace her own power more fully as the show progressed. Whereas TV’s Maude, another 70’s feminist icon, was abrasive, gritty and in your face, Mary was both easy on the eyes and easy to digest. Feminism light, but no less important or powerful.

Mary Richards proved to a whole generation of girls, myself included,  that  “…you can have the town why don’t you take it. You’re gonna make it after all!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 comments

  1. Lovely eulogy for a magnificent woman. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pierre Lagacé

    My wife’s and I favorite sitcom.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I never missed the show. Thanks for a thoughtful remembrance of this talented, funny person. RIP Mary Tyler Moore.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Lynn

    I loved her & her acting work since I was 14. MTM was quite a hit factory as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on While you were sleeping and commented:
    There was something about Mary…and it changed the role of women on TV, at home, and in the workplace forever. Thanks Mar…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I never saw Mary Tyler Moore’s stuff until it was off the air and just reruns available, so I don’t have the frame of reference others do for what compelling t.v. it was and all for its day. I just know when I watched her, that she’d make me laugh and that it was just nice, fun t.v. that wasn’t full of caricatures–they acted like real people.

    I think you hit the nail on the head about her. She’s awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The genius of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was that it was a brilliantly written show that could be enjoyed years after it was originally aired. The characters were so well drawn and dimensional, the ensemble so terrific that it still hold up today. Glad you got to watch it and enjoy it.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the tribute. Saturday Nights at my house started off with All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, then Bob Newhart and MASH and ending with the wonderful Carol Burnett. Boy, did Mary shine.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Great tribute. She was so funny, a great comedienne!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, she will be sorely missed ;(

    Like

  10. John Martin

    Sally, you’ve got spunk. In your case, I love spunk. Sorry, Lou…

    Like

  11. Loved this! Thank you for writing such a touching tribute to such a deserving comedian.

    Like

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