I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Season One: 1970-71
1970-71: THE FIRST SEASON
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
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.
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
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.
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.
When Mary is asked to baby-sit for Phyllis, she soon finds herself
losing a friend and gaining a daughter.
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.
A sensitive but incompetent ex-football player wants a job as WJM's
sportscaster and won't leave Mary alone until he gets it.
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.
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.
Snowbound in the WJM newsroom, Mary faces the challenge of producing
an up-to-the-minute election broadcast without any incoming results.
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.
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
Times, as well as in the immensely popular miniseries
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.
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.
A young cameraman is so enchanted with Mary that he invents tall tales
describing their romantic involvement.
Depressed because she has to work on Christmas Day, Mary tries to create
some Yuletide spirit in the WJM newsroom.
Mary dates her former boyfriend's brother, much to the consternation
of his parents.
Mary faces the prospect of leaving WJM when she's offered a promotion
by a rival station.
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.
Mary is the victim of a rare Minneapolis crime spree when her apartment
is burglarized twice in as many days.
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
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
Veteran actress Pat Carroll, late of The Danny Thomas Show,
portrays the disagreeable patient.
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.
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
Rhoda falls in love with a successful businessman who plans to drop
out of society and sign up as a forest ranger.
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
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.