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The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Season One: 1970-71

SEASON ONE: 1970-71
SEASON TWO: 1971-72
SEASON FOUR: 1973-74
SEASON FIVE: 1974-75
SEASON SIX: 1975-76

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"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on Video or DVD


Year-End Rating: 20.3 (22nd place)

Mary's first season on CBS finds her settling into Minneapolis and the WJM newsroom, with equal emphasis on the trials and tribulations that she and Rhoda face as contemporary single women in their thirties. Many of these episodes are written with the knowing eye of Treva Silverman, who, along with James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, David Davis, Lorenzo Music, and Steve Pritzker, wrote most of the scripts aired during the first season.

Jay Sandrich becomes firmly established as the series's most prominent director, a role he will hold for the next seven years. David Davis is producer for the first two seasons, assisted by his partner, Lorenzo Music. The show's creators, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, serve as executive producers for the run of the series.

1 Love Is All Around    First Aired: September 19, 1970
Writers: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Angus Duncan, Dave Morick

Mary Richards gets a fresh start in Minneapolis when she moves into a new apartment and takes a job as associate producer of the city's bottom-rated TV news show.

The show had been in preproduction for nine months by the time this episode aired. Producer Allan Burns recently recalled that this gestation period, so rare in television, contributed immeasurably to the overall quality of the series because it allowed the producers time to refine and adjust the backlog of scripts to reflect new developments as the series evolved.

This premiere episode offers ample evidence of just how sharp the series was from the very start. Already, the characters are well-rounded enough to carry a number of classic scenes, not the least of which depicts Mary's WJM job interview. Here, Mary first experiences Lou Grant's peculiar worldview when he tells her she's got spunk . . . and he hates spunk.

2 Today I Am a Ma'am    First Aired: September 26, 1970
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Richard Schaal, Jack DeMave, Sheila Wells

When a man in his twenties addresses Mary as "ma'am," she panics at the prospect of being an old maid; finally she and Rhoda invite two unlikely bachelors over for dinner, one of whom brings his wife!

This episode features Richard Schaal's first guest appearance. Schaal, then Valerie Harper's real-life husband, got his start at Chicago's Second City improvisational theater in the 1960s and later worked with his wife in Paul Sills' Story Theatre. He would appear semi-regularly on Mary Tyler Moore throughout the first few seasons, invariably playing one of Mary's, uh, "less sensitive" suitors.

This was also the first episode written by Treva Silverman, one of the many women who would script for the show and also one of the most prolific writers for the series. Though Silverman contributed many uniformly strong scripts essential to the development of the series and its characters, she is best remembered as the author of many of the early episodes that explored and defined the friendship of Mary and Rhoda.

There always seemed to be a sting of truth in those early scripts that centered on the pair's struggles to find success and gain independence as two thirtyish single women. Silverman invested her observations of these often painful situations with an authenticity that had rarely been seen on sitcoms--and has been seen far too infrequently since.

This humorous approach to looking at the ways we cope with all the painful indignities of everyday life would come to define the comic philosophy of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and would eventually be adopted as a kind of house style for all MTM Productions.

3 Bess, You Is My Daughter Now    First Aired: October 3, 1970
Writer: John D. F. Black
Director: Jay Sandrich

When Mary is asked to baby-sit for Phyllis, she soon finds herself losing a friend and gaining a daughter.

4 Divorce Isn't Everything    First Aired: October 10, 1970
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Alan Rafkin
Guest Stars: Shelley Berman, Jane Connell, Pat Finley, Dave Ketchum, Gino Conforti, Vernon Weddle

Rhoda and Mary deceptively join a group of divorced singles to qualify for a cut-rate trip to Europe.

Another painfully funny Treva Silverman script. This time Silverman takes the desperation shared by members of a support group for divorced people and milks it for every laugh. The fact that Mary and Rhoda seem willing to exploit these people so that they might save money on a vacation only makes the situation all the more painful--and that much funnier. The dark humor of the mildly maladjusted therapy group is territory that was to be mined more fully on MTM's The Bob Newhart Show.

5 Keep Your Guard Up    First Aired: October 17, 1970
Writer: Steve Pritzker
Director: Alan Rafkin
Guest Stars: John Schuck, Tim Brown

A sensitive but incompetent ex-football player wants a job as WJM's sportscaster and won't leave Mary alone until he gets it.

6 Support Your Local Mother    First Aired: October 24, 1970
Writers: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Director: Alan Rafkin
Guest Star: Nancy Walker

Rhoda's mother pays a visit but ends up spending all her time with Mary when Rhoda refuses to see her.

Incredibly, CBS initially refused to allow this script to be shot, insisting that a story about a daughter who turns her back on her mother was not suitable for a comedy. "Their hair turned white," Allan Burns told journalist Paul Weingarten. "They said 'This is not funny. You can't shoot this show. You can't.'" The writers finally appealed to Grant Tinker, who calmly okayed the script, despite the network veto. Later, this classic episode--one of the funniest of all the early scripts--went on to earn an Emmy Award for writers Brooks and Burns.

7 Toulouse-Lautrec Is One of My Favorite Artists     First Aired: October 31, 1970
Writers: Lloyd Turner, Gordon Mitchell
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Hamilton Camp

Mary's fledgling romance with a professional writer hits a snag when she discovers that she's at least a foot taller than he is.

8 The Snow Must Go On    First Aired: November 7, 1970
Writers: David Davis, Lorenzo Music
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Richard Schaal, Ivor Francis, Robert Rothwell

Snowbound in the WJM newsroom, Mary faces the challenge of producing an up-to-the-minute election broadcast without any incoming results.

9 Bob and Rhoda and Teddy and Mary    First Aired: November 14, 1970
Writer: Bob Rodgers
Director: Peter Baldwin
Guest Stars: Greg Mullavey, Henry Corden

It's professional glory but personal strife for Mary when she's nominated for a Teddy Award at the same time that Rhoda's new boyfriend appears to be more attracted to her than to Rhoda.

The first of many shows to revolve around the durable premise of the local Minneapolis broadcast award, the Teddy. Here the comic potential of the Ted Baxter character is in full swing as he is once again left at the starting gate in the Teddy derby.

Guest star Greg Mullavey would later appear as Mary Hartman's husband in Norman Lear's soap-opera spoof, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

10 Assistant Wanted, Female    First Aired: November 21, 1970
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Peter Baldwin
Guest Star: John Amos

Mary unwisely hires Phyllis as her new assistant.

John Amos debuts as Gordy the Weatherman in the first of many appearances. The show's creators thought that it would be funny to have a black weatherman at a time when most blacks in broadcasting were still relegated to the sports booth. Amos later achieved far greater fame as the star of Norman Lear's Good Times, as well as in the immensely popular miniseries Roots.

11 1040 or Fight    First Aired: November 28, 1970
Writers: David Davis, Lorenzo Music
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Paul Sand

Mary's tax return is audited by a romantically inclined IRS man.

The auditor is played by Paul Sand, though the part was originally tailored for the talents of Bob Newhart. Writers Music and Davis were undaunted when the nightclub comic passed on the role--they would get a second chance two years later when they created and produced The Bob Newhart Show for MTM.

And Paul Sand was certainly a worthy substitute. Yet another talented comic actor who--like Valerie Harper and Ed Asner--got his start with improvisational theater director Paul Sills in Chicago. In 1974, Sand also landed his own MTM series, when Jim Brooks and Allan Burns created the highly regarded, but short-lived, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.

12 Anchorman Overboard    First Aired: December 5, 1970
Writer: Lorenzo Music
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Bill Fiore

Mary tries to bolster Ted's sagging confidence after he bombs at a women's club speaking engagement.

Mary's role as den mother to the WJM staff is by now firmly established in this first of many episodes to explore her paradoxical, but characteristically protective, attitude toward the newsroom's terror, Ted Baxter.

13 He's All Yours    First Aired: December 12, 1970
Writer: Bob Rodgers
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Wes Stern

A young cameraman is so enchanted with Mary that he invents tall tales describing their romantic involvement.

14 Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid    First Aired: December 19, 1970
Writers: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Ned Wertimer

Depressed because she has to work on Christmas Day, Mary tries to create some Yuletide spirit in the WJM newsroom.

15 Howard's Girl    First Aired: January 2, 1971
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Richard Schaal, Henry Jones, Mary Jackson

Mary dates her former boyfriend's brother, much to the consternation of his parents.

16 Party Is Such Sweet Sorrow    First Aired: January 9, 1971
Writer: Martin Cohan
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Dick Clair

Mary faces the prospect of leaving WJM when she's offered a promotion by a rival station.

17 Just a Lunch    First Aired: January 16, 1971
Writers: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Director: Bruce Bilson
Guest Stars: Monte Markham, Joyce Bulifant

Mary becomes involved with a charming newsman--the only problem is that he's married.

Joyce Bulifant makes her first appearance in the semi-regular role of Marie Slaughter, Murray's faithful and understanding wife. The faithful and understanding wife is the most thankless role in television, but Bulifant held her own throughout all six remaining seasons. Before signing on with MTM, she had been a regular on Bill Cosby's first NBC sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show.

18 Second-Story Story    First Aired: January 23, 1971
Writer: Steve Pritzker
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Bob Dishy, Burt Mustin, Vic Tayback

Mary is the victim of a rare Minneapolis crime spree when her apartment is burglarized twice in as many days.

19 We Closed in Minneapolis    First Aired: January 30, 1971
Writers: Kenny Solms, Gail Parent
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Elliot Street

Murray is given good news, and bad--his play about life in a newsroom is finally going to be produced, but Ted Baxter will play a featured role.

20 Hi!    First Aired: February 6, 1971
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Pat Carroll, Bruce Kirby, Robert Casper

When Mary is hospitalized for a minor operation, she finds that even her sunny disposition can't dispel the clouds that hang over her curmudgeonly roommate.

Veteran actress Pat Carroll, late of The Danny Thomas Show, portrays the disagreeable patient.

21 The Boss Isn't Coming to Dinner    First Aired: February 13, 1971
Writers: David Davis, Lorenzo Music
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Paul Micale

Mary is shocked to learn that Lou and his wife, Edie, are separating.

Though the series wouldn't really tackle Lou's divorce for another two years, the seeds of compassion that Mary will feel for Mr. Grant are very clearly planted in this episode. The writers probably didn't realize it then, but they were setting the stage for what was to become one of the most graceful love affairs in popular fiction--the unconsummated romance of Mary Richards and Lou Grant.

22 A Friend in Deed    First Aired: February 20, 1971
Writer: Susan Silver
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Pat Finley

Mary's long-forgotten childhood friend arrives and begins ingratiating herself with each of Mary's newsroom friends.

Pat Finley would later play Bob's sister, Ellen, on The Bob Newhart Show.

23 Smokey the Bear Wants You    First Aired: February 27, 1971
Writer: Steve Pritzker
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Michael Callan

Rhoda falls in love with a successful businessman who plans to drop out of society and sign up as a forest ranger.

24 The Forty-Five-Year-Old Man    First Aired: March 6, 1971
Writer: George Kirgo
Director: Herbert Kenwith
Guest Stars: Slim Pickens, Richard Libertini, Richard Roat

Lou Grant is the scapegoat when the show's ratings falter, but Mary tries to convince WJM's eccentric station owner to give him his job back.

Western character actor Slim Pickens plays the cowboy station owner with such reckless abandon that it's a pity his character was used only as a one-shot in this single episode.

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