Thursday, May 3, 2007

You're So Very Mary, Mary

To follow up on my earlier post about the deglamorized world of Seventies sitcoms, does it seems odd to anyone else that Mary Richards didn't have an on-air role (sporadic appearances aside)? Mary Tyler Moore had been one of the most fabulous housewives to ever wear Capri pants when she costarred on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the early Sixties (in which the star similarly took an off-camera role in television production). Let loose on her own, she downshifted from accessorizing and occasionally appearing on national TV in New York to a behind-the-scenes post on local TV in Minneapolis. Ten years later, Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains would stumble into an on-air reporting gig, but the gorgeous Mary remained an associate producer, earning less money than a secretary.

In Minneapolis, no less, although that's certainly better than the dreary apartment in Indianapolis the gals from One Day at a Time suffered through. Producer Allan Burns has explained that they chose Minneapolis because they wanted a lot of indoor sets to foster conversational scenes, so they opted for a setting where the weather wasn't good. In any event, Mary ended up living in a $130-a-month room on the second floor of a house, sleeping on a foldout bed and tucking her pillow away behind the door of an armoire each morning.

An on-air role never seems to have been considered for Mary. The show seems to suggest, through the buffoonish Ted Baxter, that on-air talent is somewhat evanescent and that the real talent behind the WJM news team was the bearlike Lou Grant and the bald Murray Slaughter. Given the choice between joining either group, and even given the occasional appearances of Gordy the weatherman, Mary appears to have made the right decision. What this says for the relationship between the producers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the actors therein, I could not tell you.

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