Monday, August 14, 2006

Mary, Mary, Mary

My favorite sitcom ever is The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was going through some old papers (they're lying around all over my place) and found a salute I planned years ago if the Museum Of Television And Radio ever asked me to prepare one.

I figured I'd have a series of three-episode programs, each highlighting a different aspect of the show. Every episode would have to be a good one, of course.

I went through a ton of permutations before coming up with the following. It's a bit Mary/Lou/Ted heavy, but I'm going for what I think are the best.

1. Transitions:

"Love Is All Around" -- The pilot, where Mary moves into her apartment
"Mary Moves Out" -- Mary moves to another apartment
"The Last Show" -- The final episode where new management fires most of the gang

2. Parties:

"The Dinner Party" -- Mary hosts a disastrous party for a congresswoman
"Happy Birthday, Lou!" -- A surprise party annoys Lou
"Mary's Big Party" -- Johnny Carson is coming to Mary's party when the lights go out

3. The Teddys:

"Put on a Happy Face" -- Everything goes wrong for Mary on the day of the Teddy Awards.
"Ted Baxter Meets Walter Cronkite" -- Ted arranges to win a Teddy and then, you guessed it, meets Walter Cronkite
"Murray Can't Lose" -- Murray thinks he will finally win a Teddy

4. Taking Their Shot:

"An Affair to Forget" -- Ted convinces the newsroom he and Mary are having an affair
"Murray In Love" -- Murray tells Mary he loves her
"Lou Dates Mary" -- Lou Dates Mary

5. Off Series:

"Bess, You Is My Daughter Now" -- Mary babysits Bess for a few days. There is a sequence shot on location without dialogue where Mary and Bess bond
"The System" -- Ted has a successful football betting system. This episodes takes place over an entire football season with titles letting us know what week it is
"Mary's Three Husbands" -- Lou, Murray and Ted fantasize about being married to Mary.

6. Mary And The Law:

"Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?" -- Yes, she will. Mary refuses to reveal a source and spends a night in jail,
"You Try To Be A Nice Guy" -- Mary helps a prostitute she spent the night in jail with
"Mary Gets A Lawyer" -- Mary is up on charges again for not revealing a source. Unfortunately, her lawyer falls in love with her.

7. Mary And Dan:

"Room 223" -- Mary dates Dan, her journalism teacher
"The Courtship of Mary's Father's Daughter" -- Mary dates Dan again but she's not ready to fully commit
"One Boyfriend Too Many" -- Mary must choose between old flame Dan and her current steady Joe.

8. Show Within A Show:

"The Good-time News" -- Mary updates the news show but Ted doesn't cooperate
"The Outsider" -- A consultant disconcerts the gang with his changes to their operation
"The Critic" -- An arrogant critic joins the news team

9. Oh, Mr. Grant:

"Baby Sit-com" -- Lou babysits Bess
"You Can't Lose 'Em All" -- Lou doesn't want the Albert Mason Award which he feels is for washed-up people
"The Happy Homemaker Takes Lou Home" -- Mary fools Lou into going on a date with Sue Ann

10. The Story Of Ted And Georgette:

"Rhoda Morgensterm: Minneapolis to New York" -- Rhoda plans to go back to New York (but doesn't). This is the episode where Ted and Georgette meet
"Ted's Wedding" -- Ted gets married on the fly in Mary's apartment
"Mary Midwife" -- Georgette gives birth in Mary's apartment

11. Ted Baxter, Newsman?:

"Farmer Ted and the News" -- Ted starts doing ads, which drives Lou crazy
"We Want Baxter" -- Phyllis convinces Ted to run for office
"Ted's Moment of Glory" -- Ted auditions for a job as a quizmaster

12. Classics I:

"Toulouse-Lautrec Is One of My Favorite Artists" -- Mary dates a considerably shorter man
"Lou's First Date"-- Lou dates an 80-year-old woman
"Operation: Lou" -- After Lou has an operation he and Ted become best friends

13. Classics II:

"Lou's Place" -- Lou and Ted buy a bar
"Almost a Nun's Story" -- Georgette plans to enter a convent
"Better Late...That's a Pun...Than Never" -- Mary gets in big trouble for writing a humorous obituary

14. Classics III:

"Two Wrongs Don't Make a Writer" -- Ted steals Mary's ideas in a creative writing class
"Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcasters' School" -- A con man fools Ted into starting a fake school
"Chuckles Bites the Dust" -- You all know it

15. Classics IV:

"Ted's Change Of Heart" -- Ted survives a heart attack and life becomes precious (for a few days)
"Sue Ann Gets the Ax" -- Sue Ann is fired from her show and asks Mary for a job in the newsroom
"Hail the Conquering Gordy" -- Former WJM meteorologist Gordy returns, now a big network star, which bothers Ted quite a bit


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its hard to believe there are another 115(?) shows not listed (its the Rhoda and Phyllis shows, I guess which I agree, while still good, were generally not as strong). I can remember most. One of the greatest sitcoms of all time

The only clunker in this list (and maybe in the whole series) was the one where Murray, Ted & Lou fantasized about being married to Mary- it was too off kilter and out of sorts (a la All In The Family's Rashomon episode about the broken fridge). There are some loads the sitcom vehicle was designed to bear.

4:20 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry- meant to read "....was not designed to bear."
[g-dd--mn keyboard!]

7:34 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some great choices, but I also liked the one with Phyllis and Sue Ann fighting over Lars.

10:12 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous MTMFAN said...

It's a good list, but I think it could use more Rhoda.

11:48 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I agree with anonymous on top that the fantasy episode is one of the weaker ones, but I still like it, partly because it's so weird. And there are still some good laughs.

Anyway, the three episoded in that presentation were about where the show broke the format. There are certainly worse episodes than that one. For example, one of the weaker ones that goes against the series in general is where Mary Frann plays an anti-Semite--MTM was great in showing personal interaction, not taking on political issues, unlike, say, All In The Family.

(Note I stayed away from Lou and Edie even though a lot of people liked that arc. Aso, no Aunt Flo, as well as the episodes with Mary and her parents, even though they're not bad.)

Speaking of AITF, I like the Rashomon episode.

11:55 AM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the one where Rhoda is the dress designer in there and provided a showgirl dress (it showed lots of the girl) for Mary. One of my favourites not only for Ted's reaction but because that image got me through through some preteen nights

2:54 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I think you're referring to "You Try To Be A Nice Guy," which is listed. That's the one where Mary tries to help out a lady of the evening (played by Barbara Colby, who was murdered not long after she appeared on the show) whom she met in jail.

(Mary's in jail for not revealing a news source. The prostitutes in the cell ask what she's in for and they realize it's for doing her job. "Same as us.")

Mary tries to get her a regular job but it doesn't work out. She wants to be a dress designer and Mary tries on one of her dresses. It shows a tremendous amount of skin.

Ted has a subplot where he's getting an honorary doctorate. He sees Mary in the dress and is awestruck. Mary asks him to stop staring and he says it's okay, he's a doctor.

3:47 PM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, LAGuy, you really ought to write that book, which, if I recall, included another series or two. Better to go with MTM first. Then you'll be set up to follow with the others. This is Steve's America, after all.

11:55 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Jack Yan said...

Excellent choices of the 168 episodes!

8:34 PM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Let me just note for others that Jack has a great site about Mary & Rhoda ( it out) so a compliment from him really means something.

10:09 PM, August 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Rhoda's mom? She was hilarious when she was on the show.

12:36 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't want to give the impression I'm anti-Rhoda. Valerie Harper is delightful in the part and she plays a significant role in several of the episodes I mention. I came pretty close to adding a whole category of special Rhoda episodes, like the one where she wins a beauty contest, or the one where she borrows money from Mary, but I felt I already had enough in the list. I mean, if you're gonna mention so many episodes, it starts getting easier to list the ones you don't like. (Actually, that would be easier.)

However, I admit I'm less enamored than others of the shows where Nancy Walker, Rhoda's mother, comes in. They were quite popular with fans (they even won Emmy Awards), no question about that. To me, though, they're just good episodes, and I was mostly looking for great ones.

I guess, on the whole, you could say I prefer the "work" episodes over the "home" episodes.

12:43 PM, August 17, 2006  

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