Archive for September 16th, 2017

By Marilyn Ferdinand

“Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”

The well-remembered opening lines to the theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show are aimed directly at its viewers, even as the song segues into a pep talk for Mary herself as her character, Mary Richards, starts a new life in Minneapolis. Whose smile does cheer us up? Why did we want to spend a half-hour of our lives every week watching this sitcom? The late Mary Tyler Moore, a beloved person among her fans and those who knew and worked with her, is a welcome guest in everyone’s home.

Ever since Mary Tyler Moore lit up American households as the attractive, talented, adorable wife of TV comedy writer Rob Petrie in the seminal sitcom of the early 1960s, The Dick Van Dyke Show, audiences have been in love with her. It was inevitable that she would have her own TV show in short order. Nonetheless, while hewing to many of the stock characterizations found on many sitcoms, Mary Tyler Moore broke one very significant mold—Mary was a single, childless, professional woman and happy to be so.

Mary Richards was not the first single girl to make it big on TV—Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) on That Girl (1966-1971) reached American homes first. But she was an aspiring model and actress, a career path quite common for fictional women of the 1950s and ’60s, and ABC insisted that she have a regular boyfriend. Mary was an associate producer at TV station WJM right from the get-go, leaving a broken romance behind her and ready to play the field in her new city. The image from the opening credits of her spinning in wonder at her new surroundings and tossing her hat in the air—one might even say, into the ring—showed her delight in her new freedom, a freedom women were fighting for with great vigor during the time the show was on the air. (more…)

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