Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It’s You, Girl, and You Should Know It

I was very sorry to hear that Mary Tyler Moore died earlier today at age 80. When I was growing up, she was my mother’s favorite actress. Although my father wielded control over our TV set most of the time (we had only one), on Saturday nights, it was my mother’s show. Literally. From 1970 through 1977, there was hardly a Saturday evening that went by when my mother (who actually resembled Moore) didn’t tune in to The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS.

But while that half-hour comedy, along with her earlier co-starring role in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), earned Moore her largest TV followings, and is remembered as helping to “define a new vision of American womanhood” (to quote The New York Times), the Brooklyn-born actress had started out her career with appearances in a variety of darker, tougher series. Detective shows such as Bourbon Street Beat, Johnny Staccato, 77 Sunset Strip, Checkmate, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, and of course, Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960). Not that you ever saw much of Moore in that last series, which starred David Janssen (later of The Fugitive and Harry O fame) as a New York City-turned-Los Angeles gumshoe. Moore’s character, a seductive-sounding answering-service operator called Sam, made her entrance in Season 3 of Richard Diamond (aka Call Mr. D), and only bits and pieces of her—mostly her shapely legs—were shown. The video below compiles clips of her appearances on that program.

Because Mary Tyler Moore had been such a fixture of my youth, I wound up following her performance career well into my own adulthood. I wasn’t terribly interested in the musical-variety shows she did during the late 1970s (Mary and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour), but I watched her as “a 40-ish divorcée working at a second-rate tabloid” in the sitcom Mary (1985-1986), and—as a result of my own work in journalism—was especially interested to see her in New York News, a 1995 drama that found her playing the editor-in-chief of a struggling Manhattan newspaper (though Moore was apparently unhappy with that “unsympathetic and unglamourous” role).

TV writer Ken Levine, who produced the sitcom Mary, eulogized Moore today in his blog, calling her “a giant of television” and adding:
It always seemed like she led a charmed life, but it was filled with health issues, struggles, addictions, and personal tragedies. And yet she courageously fought through all of them … while still keeping that smile.
And as we all know, she could turn the world on with that smile.

READ MORE:Mary Tyler Moore: A True Cultural Icon Who Changed the Face of Television,” by John Patterson (The Guardian); “Mary Tyler Moore: The Guardian Obituary,” by Michael Carlson (Irresistible Targets); “James Burrows Remembers How Mary Tyler Moore Helped Launch His Career” (The Hollywood Reporter); “Michelle Obama: Mary Tyler Moore Showed Women that ‘Building Your Career Is a Viable Option,’” by Constance Grady (Vox); “Mary Tyler Moore’s Comedic Grace and Tremendous Talent, in 5 Performances,” by Todd VanDerWerff (Vox); “We’re Gonna Make It After All: Let’s Throw Our Hats in the Air for Mary Tyler Moore,” by Melanie McFarland (Salon); “15 Memorable Quotes from Mary Tyler Moore,” by Jennifer M. Wood (Mental Floss); “Mary,” by David Hofstede (Comfort TV); “Mary Tyler Moore,” by Bob Sassone; “The Mary Tyler Moore Show Fall Preview” (Television Obscurities).

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