The little sitcom that could and did become one of the most loved and iconic shows in TV history started with the simple story of a lone girl looking for a job in the city of Minneapolis. With clever writing and funny, well-developed characters, The Mary Tyler Moore Show moved into the hearts of American audiences and stayed for the duration.
Mary Tyler Moore played Mary Richards, a newly single gal who gets a job as news producer at the lowest rated TV station in town. In 1970, when the show started, an independent career woman not looking for a husband was still an exotic breed and Mary had loads of “spunk,” according to her new boss. The TV station was filled with memorable character who made the cast ensemble a delight to all: Lou Grant, the surly but kind-hearted boss; Ted, the pompous and incompetent news anchor; Murray Slaughter, the self-effacing news writer; Rhoda, Mary’s sharp-tongued neighbor and friend; and Phyllis, Mary’s haughty landlady.
Each of these characters brought a unique flavor into the mix of the series and each was played to perfection by stellar comedic actors who didn’t flinch away from a little drama every now and again. Audiences really connected with the three-dimensional characters, finding them both realistic and endearing. Mary Tyler Moore was the lynchpin that held it all together with her sunny smile and focused determination to succeed in her chosen career.
The series earned dozens of Emmy Awards and other commendations for writing and acting; Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda, took home three Emmys for three years running. It was no wonder that The Mary Tyler Moore Show gave rise to three mostly successful spin-offs, including Harper’s Rhoda, Cloris Leachman’s Phyllis and, in a rare case of comedy-spawns-drama, Ed Asner’s Lou Grant.
With the departures of Harper and Leachman, two new characters became regulars on the show continuing the tradition of laughs and giggles. Betty White played Sue Ann Nivens, a man-hungry seductress with designs on Lou Grant; and Georgia Engle portrayed Georgette, Ted’s sweet-as-pie wife who tempered his enormous ego somewhat.
Finally, no discussion of The Mary Tyler Moore Show would be complete without mention of Chuckles the Clown, host of a popular children’s show at the fictional WJM studio. Sadly, his time was cut short when, while serving as the grand marshal of a parade, dressed as “Peter Peanut”, he was shelled by a rogue elephant. His unfortunate passing on the 1975 episode titled “Chuckles Bites the Dust” is still considered one of the funniest television episodes ever produced. Take a look:
There were 168 episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show produced over seven seasons. Always a popular and critical success, the show’s creators decided to bow out gracefully, if not prematurely, lest their magic formula cease to work. The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended in 1977 with a classic farewell that is still referenced and parodied to this day. Meanwhile, fond memories for The Mary Tyler Moore Show remain in the hearts of millions, a prime example of some of the best television comedy ever written.
Do you have fond recollections of this classic sitcom? We hope you’ll take a moment to share your favorite Mary Tyler Moore Show memories in our comments section, as we tip our hat to the staff of WJM-TV for the countless laughs they provided over the years.