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The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Season Four: 1973-74

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: 23.1 (9th place)

The fourth season sees the characters and situations developed to a level of depth and sophistication that few thought possible on a network sitcom. Lou Grant's separation and eventual divorce were a recurring plot springboard that demonstrated the show's remarkable ability to deal with sobering issues of real life in a funny, but not frivolous, way.

Other developments during this peak middle period of the show's development include the addition of Sue Ann Nivens to the regular cast. Betty White's verbally assaultive and sexually voracious character would provide a potent source of fresh plot ideas throughout the remaining three years of the series.

Ed. Weinberger continues to serve as producer, while Jay Sandrich once again directs most of the episodes; and Treva Silverman is executive story consultant in the fourth year.

73 The Lars Affair    First Aired: September 15, 1973
Writer: Ed. Weinberger
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Betty White

Phyllis discovers that her husband, Lars, is having an affair with WJM's Happy Homemaker, Sue Ann Nivens.

This episode marks the introduction of Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, host of The Happy Homemaker Show. Legend has it that the show's creators wanted to add a bitchy, bright, and sexually omnivorous female character to the series and thought that it would be a funny twist to cast against type and use a clean-living, all-American "Betty White type" in the role. On a lark, they sent her the script, she loved the idea, and no male in the WJM newsroom has been safe since.

Cloris Leachman, whose star had risen meteorically since the series began, was busy pursuing other avenues of her career, and so was seen less frequently on the show by this time. However, she did make occasional guest appearances, such as her performance here--for which she was awarded an Emmy.

74 Angels in the Snow    First Aired: September 22, 1973
Writers: Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Monica Magowan Johnson
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Peter Strauss, Elayne Heilveil

Mary's new boyfriend is in his twenties, which suddenly makes her feel very old.

75 Rhoda's Sister Gets Married    First Aired: September 29, 1973
Writer: Karyl Geld
Director: Jerry Belson
Guest Stars: Liberty Williams, Nancy Walker, Harold Gould

Mary and Rhoda fly to New York for the marriage of Rhoda's sister, Debbie.

This prototype version of Rhoda's sister was not the same one used in the spinoff series Rhoda. It must've been some honeymoon: Poor Debbie vanished and was never heard from again.

76 The Lou and Edie Story    First Aired: October 6, 1973
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Priscilla Morrill, Darrel Zwerling

Lou and his wife, Edie, separate after raising a family, leaving Lou heartbroken.

A compassionate development in the life of one of the show's most interesting, and real, characters. The relationship of Mary and Lou continues to develop in subtle and complex ways that mirror the way two real people might grow close--by building a fond attachment, without ever really identifying their shared emotion as love. The script would win a well-deserved Emmy, surely a sign that the television industry was keenly aware of the show's ever-blossoming level of sophistication.

77 Hi There, Sports Fans    First Aired: October 13, 1973
Writer: Jerry Mayer
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Dick Gautier, Gordon Jump, John Gabriel

Mary wants more responsibility, so Lou awards her the task of firing the WJM sportscaster.

78 Father's Day    First Aired: October 20, 1973
Writers: Ed. Weinberger, Stan Daniels
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Liam Dunn, John Holland

Ted is nervous at the prospect of a reunion with his long-lost father.

79 Son of "But Seriously, Folks"    First Aired: October 27, 1973
Writer: Phil Mishkin
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Jerry Van Dyke

When Mary's old comedy-writer boyfriend joins the newsroom staff, he concentrates more on Mary than his work.

80 Lou's First Date    First Aired: November 3, 1973
Writers: Ed. Weinberger, Stan Daniels
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Florence Lake, Priscilla Morrill, Jeff Thompson

Lou, now a bachelor, asks Mary to drum him up a date for an awards banquet.

81 Love Blooms at Hempel's    First Aired: November 10, 1973
Writers: Sybil Adelman, Barbara Gallagher
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: William Burns, Barbara Barrett, Meg Wyllie, Roy West

Rhoda falls head over heels for the manager of the department store where she works.

82 The Dinner Party    First Aired: November 17,1973
Writer: Ed. Weinberger
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Irene Tedrow, Henry Winkler

Mary is surprised when a congresswoman accepts her rhetorical invitation to a dinner party.

Henry Winkler plays one of the dinner guests in a role that predates his imminent fame as a star of Happy Days.

83 Just Friends    First Aired: November 24,1973
Writer: William Wood
Director: Nancy Walker
Guest Star: Priscilla Morrill

When Lou becomes Mary's perennial dinner guest, she decides to reunite him with Edie.

Directed by Nancy Walker, the actress we usually thought of as Rhoda's mother.

84 We Want Baxter    First Aired: December 1, 1973
Writer: David Lloyd
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: John Amos

Phyllis convinces Ted to forgo his news career and run for city council.

This is the first Mary Tyler Moore episode written by David Lloyd, who had once written jokes for both Jack Paar and Merv Griffin. Lloyd's daughter, a fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, suggested that he submit a script--which he did, without ever watching the show! Working from character descriptions his daughter gave him, Lloyd constructed a sample script that was good enough to land him a regular spot on the writers' roster. A gifted comedy writer, Lloyd would contribute many of the show's most memorable later episodes.

85 I Gave at the Office    First Aired: December 8, 1973
Writers: Don Reo, Allan Katz
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Tammi Bula, Bruce Boxleitner

Mary hires Murray's daughter, Bonnie, to work in the newsroom.

86 Almost a Nun's Story    First Aired: December 15, 1973
Writers: Ed. Weinberger, Stan Daniels
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Gail Strickland

Georgette is prepared to join a convent after she spies Ted with another woman in his dressing room.

87 Happy Birthday, Lou    First Aired: December 22, 1973
Writer: David Lloyd
Director: George Tyne
Guest Star: Priscilla Morrill

Mary plans an unwanted surprise party for Lou's birthday.

The decision to separate Lou from his wife has become a bonanza for new plots involving Lou and Mary. Actor Ed Asner rises to the challenge by developing the irascible old news hawk into a compelling portrait of a man facing middle age, suddenly alone.

88 WJM Tries Harder    First Aired: January 5, 1974
Writer: Karyl Geld
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Anthony Eisley, Ned Wertimer, Regis Cordic

Mary begins to have doubts about the integrity of her own show after she dates the anchorman at a competing station.

89 Cottage for Sale    First Aired: January 12, 1974
Writer: George Atkins
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Star: Michele Nichols

Phyllis tries to convince Lou to let her sell his house, despite his sentimental attachment to it.

90 The Co-Producers    First Aired: January 19, 1974
Writers: David Pollack, Elias Davis
Director: Jay Sandrich

Mary and Rhoda become producers of a show that features the unlikely team of Ted and Sue Ann.

91 Best of Enemies    First Aired: January 26, 1974
Writers: Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Monica Magowan Johnson
Director: Jay Sandrich

Mary and Rhoda have a blowup that threatens to devastate their friendship.

92 Better Late . . . That's a Pun. . . Than Never     First Aired: February 2, 1974
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: John C. Chulay
Guest Star: Jennifer Leak

Mary writes a joke obituary that Ted reads on the air, forcing Lou to punish her with a suspension.

93 Ted Baxter Meets Walter Cronkite    First Aired: February 9, 1974
Writer: Ed. Weinberger
Director: Jay Sandrich
Guest Stars: Walter Cronkite, John Gabriel, John Pringle

Ted develops delusions of network stardom when Walter Cronkite drops by the newsroom.

94 Lou's Second Date    First Aired: February 16, 1974
Writer: Ed. Weinberger
Director: Jerry London

Lou dates Rhoda, causing all sorts of speculation in the newsroom.

Valerie Harper left the cast after this episode to star in Rhoda, which would begin the following fall.

95 Two Wrongs Don't Make a Writer    First Aired: February 23, 1974
Writer: David Lloyd
Director: Nancy Walker
Guest Star: Shirley O'Hara

Ted horns in on a creative-writing course that Mary's attending and then has the nerve to paraphrase and plagiarize her touching personal reminiscence.

Writer David Lloyd seemed to possess an understanding of Ted Baxter's character that few of the show's other writers could touch. The episodes that he wrote with Ted as a central character are among the funniest ever aired, as this particular show aptly demonstrates. Ted's boyish malevolence is exploited in a chilling fashion in the scene where Ted claims Mary's assignment as his own and then reinterprets it aloud in class, leaving her to stammer out a new composition on the spot. A comic masterpiece that presents actor Ted Knight at his finest.

96 I Was a Single for WJM    First Aired: March 2, 1974
Writer: Treva Silverman
Director: Mel Ferber
Guest Stars: Richard Schaal, Penny Marshall, Arlene Golonka, Robert Riesel

Mary goes on location for an in-depth report on the singles scene.

The scene where Mary and Lou must improvise an entire half-hour show on location from the suddenly deserted single's bar is another hilarious example of a staple MTM situation--as a well-intentioned Lou and Mary find themselves struggling to endure a magnificently embarrassing predicament while trying not to reveal the slightest discomfort.

Penny Marshall, who plays one of the singles, would soon achieve lasting notoriety as one half of Laverne and Shirley.


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