I’m gonna write this recap after all!
Like many, I was sad to hear of the death of Mary Tyler Moore earlier this week. Though I was born in 1982, long after both of her hit sitcoms were off the air, I am one of those people who loved not only the theme song, but the moment where she excitedly throws her tam in the air.
And earns the death stare of all death stares.
That’s perhaps as immortalized as MTM throwing her tam!
One of my friends is currently watching The Dick Van Dyke Show (another program with an equally bouncy theme song, and an equally barrier-breaking role for Mary Tyler Moore), so I decided there was no time like now to start watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Because I’m watching three shows already (actively working on Psych, Sliders, and The Flash), and that is just not nearly enough.
“Love Is All Around” is the pilot episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and aired on September 19, 1970. I looked this up – it premiered on a Saturday, which is surprising to me. I’ve always known Saturday to be a historically bad night for television. During most of my childhood, with the exception of The Golden Girls and Empty Nest, I never saw Saturday as a good night for any show, except for of course, Saturday Night Live, and I’m not even liking this show in its current form.
46 years ago, I guess Saturday night wasn’t a happening night? Or everyone just really wanted to watch Mary throw her tam in the air. I have no idea.
She didn’t need to watch. She lived it!
Anyway, at the risk of death stares from people other than old ladies in kerchiefs, let’s get this started. As the pilot episode begins, we are immediately drawn in by that snappy theme song.
I never noticed this (and probably because I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics), but during the first season, the lyrics assure us that “You might just make it after all.” Maybe its me, but that doesn’t feel positive. “Might” implies that “Mary may not have a chance!” I’ve only heard the version where she “made it after all!” which is obviously more positive and speaks volumes of the actual success of our character. If you ask me, Mary Tyler Moore “made it after all” by breaking barriers in two different decades and on two different and very successful shows. So a lyric change was definitely warranted!
At the risk of this turning into a rant on suppressing women via theme songs, let’s move on to the actual episode, shall we?
After that snappy theme song, we open on a large house in winter (my mom was telling me on the weekend that the house just went on the market) and our heroine, Mary Richards, is arriving at her new apartment, along with friend Phyllis Lindstrom, who is showing her the apartment. Tagging along is Phyllis’s daughter, Bess, who doesn’t understand why she has to call Mary “Aunt Mary.” She also doesn’t why understand “Aunt” Rhoda (“that dumb, awful girl Rhoda”), isn’t able to have the apartment. You see, Bess likes Rhoda and thinks she is funny. And as you’ll find with the pilot, you probably won’t like Rhoda either – apparently the character did not initially test well. That changed pretty quickly (being an establishing episode), and audiences warmed up to her because of the belief that if a kid could like her (you’ll figure out Bess as we go through the episode), then an audience could too! She got a spin-off, so how bad could she have been, you say?
You’re curious to see where this is going, right?
Anyway, Phyllis signed a year’s lease for Mary to live there, just to keep Rhoda out of there. But Rhoda is pretty steadfast in her belief that she will get the apartment.
Proven by this.
Rhoda is outside cleaning the windows…on the apartment she felt she was due to get. It turns out that Rhoda Morgenstern is a brash New Yorker who believes this once-vacant apartment is hers. Um, Rhoda dear, you have an apartment here. In the same house.
The two don’t meet on the best terms, and Mary winds up telling her (and Phyllis) about the circumstances behind her moving to Minneapolis (her doctor boyfriend didn’t want to commit). Rhoda further tries to convinced Mary that the apartment is hers because she spent a month’s salary putting carpet in (not true), and isn’t willing to budge on her wanting of this apartment.
Phyllis offers to have Mary stay with her that night, and Mary says she has several job interviews in the meantime. We don’t see the several, but we do see the one we’re required to see.
Mary arrives at WJM-TV’s newsroom, where she is greeted by Murray, who informs her that the Secretary job has been filled. Mr. Grant says he will see her anyway, as Murray sing-songs “It’s been FILL-ED!”
Lou meets with Mary, and decides he needs a drink, but decides to have coffee instead after Mary asks for a “Brandy Alexander.” The Secretary job has been filled, but has another job that he would consider her for. And of course, he asks her the important questions: “How old are you” and “what religion are you.” You know, the really important questions.
The 1970s, people! These questions were important!
Lou likes the neighborhood Mary lives in, since it has some of the best saloons in town. Mary informs Lou that the questions he asks are not allowed, so then he sarcastically asks her marital status. Mary doesn’t want to answer those personal questions, and informs Lou of such. And then comes one of the most famous pop culture quotes of all time, but was at the time just a simple line of dialogue.
“You’ve got spunk!”
“I HATE SPUNK!”
But, obviously he is impressed, and hires her for an Associate Producer job – it pays $10 less a week than the Secretarial job (but if she can get by on $15 less a week, she can be a Producer). He gives her a trial run, beginning with the next day.
And no handshake. The 1970s. Catch the inequality!
Meanwhile, back at the house…
Bess and Phyllis have finished setting up Mary’s furniture (Bess coordinated the setup herself – such a clever girl!), and Phyllis tells Mary some “shattering” news: Mary’s ex-boyfriend is coming to see Mary, thanks to Bess, even though Phyllis reminds her it was “mother’s news.” He’ll be coming the following night.
The next morning…
Rhoda bring a locksmith to change the locks on her apartment, and then spots Mary, all primped despite the morning. After a lovely misunderstanding (and the locksmith not wanting any involvement in “breaking and entering”), he leaves. Rhoda informs Mary that she hopes things work out for Mary and her ex-boyfriend…so she can have the apartment.
Mary informs Rhoda that in spite of everything, Rhoda is a hard person to dislike. Rhoda leaves on that, but not before telling Mary that she moved to Minneapolis because she couldn’t find a place to live in New York City (why Minneapolis, I have no idea!).
But now it’s time for work!
Mary is sharpening pencils, which is far beneath even what a Secretary does in their day-to-day, so for an Associate Producer, it is even worse!
Lou needs to see Ted Baxter, to which Mary jumps eagerly at the chance to retrieve him from makeup. Lou, however, objects and sends someone else. Mary asks Lou for more work, and begins to question why she got hired, to which Murray replies that Lou was “probably bombed” at the time.
Ted arrives, and yes, that IS Ted Knight. And he’s wearing a makeup bib. You see, kids, Ted is tad um, what’s the word. Ego-driven. And vain. And he can’t pronounce anything worth a damn, so Murray refers to him as the “Marcello Mastroianni of Minneapolis” newscasters (because he has trouble speaking English too).
Lou’s wife calls to speak to him, since she is leaving to visit her sister for a month, but he says he’ll speak to her when she gets home. There’s more important business to be had – seeing what words Ted pronounced incorrectly recently…which includes “Chicago.” Lou pulls the makeup bib off, with Murray informing Lou that Ted wore it halfway through the newscast the previous evening.
Mary receives a phone call from her ex, Bill, and invites him to visit her apartment that evening.
Phyllis believes that Mary will be getting back with Bill, and then marrying him, all because of this visit.
The door buzzer reveals a surprise at the door – a bombed-out-of-his mind Lou Grant, who is upset that his wife is gone for a “whole month” (but yet, he didn’t want to talk to her when she called), but Mary believes the visit is more sexual in nature (“That’s it, I got the job because of my great caboose!”). Lou decides to write his wife a letter…on Mary’s typewriter.
Then Bill, Mary’s ex-boyfriend (though they never call him “ex” – was that forbidden in 1970?) arives at the apartment. While Drunken Lou is still there. Mary is smitten by the roses Bill got her (“Roses in winter!” to which Lou drunkenly repeats and types it into his letter to his wife, among other aspects of the conversation. Mary sees a note attached to the flowers, but Bill is adamant she doesn’t read it. And I could see why: they were “borrowed” from a patient at the hospital. Uncle Buddy, the note says.
Makes the poem given to Matt and Julie’s mom on the Christmas episode of It’s Your Move seem like the greatest gift ever, right? At least that was addressed to the correct person…and personal!
Bill and Mary talk about the subject of marriage, and Mary says she waited two years. Um, wow, give her an “A” for persistence, some people wait longer. 1970, folks. Bill tells her that he is there because he “loves” her, but he says it quite awkwardly. But Mary decides a relationship with Bill just isn’t meant to be, and says “goodbye,” without having to really say goodbye.
And of course Drunken Lou needs a stamp. Because timing is everything, right? And speaking of timing, it is time for Bill to leave…forever.
Bill leaves, but not before encountering Lou at the door. Mary gives Lou a stamp (at first, she gives him a Christmas Seal, a sign of the times, folks). Lou, in his drunken wisdom, says Mary didn’t lose much, but Mary knows the opposite is true – he lost out on a great wife. Mary feels terrible (“rotten”), but lucky. She WILL make it after all!
Lou leaves, but not before encountering nosy Rhoda at the door. She tells Mary “if that was Bill, you’re not missing much.” Rhoda heard the whole thing, thanks to a heating duct that goes “all the way up” to Rhoda’s apartment. And as the chords of the closing theme begin to play under the scene, we see Mary and Rhoda talking to each other, and perhaps the beginnings of a beautiful friendship are blooming.
She’s gonna make it after all, folks!
And with that, the closing theme of the show, the credits, and the knowing that Mary Richards, single and 30 years old (they really drove that fact home alot in this episode, but I guess it was the times?), with her Associate Producer job, her good looks, and fierce determination, was going to do what the theme song declares…in season two. Because the theme song in season one sings an entirely different tune, and there is no “might here,” just “will.” She will make it after all!
I’d say she is off to a great start. And I’m seven episodes in and LOVE this show, so obviously it is off to a great start for me too! All seventies jokes aside – I’m a child of the 1980s and the world I came of age in is totally different from the one people like Mary Richards (or even my mom) had to work in. I find it hard to believe how different the world was for a working woman (or a single one, for that matter) in 1970, but how far women have come in those years. We definitely have Mary Richards (and of course, the woman responsible for her growth, Mary Tyler Moore!) to thank for that progress.
Just think, she would turn the world on with her smile for seven more years, and she was just getting started!
And with the throw of our tam (or rather, the click of the “Publish” button), I close out my tribute to Mary Tyler Moore, and the show that really helped moved single young women forward in the world. Thank you for that ability, Mary! You DID make it after all! 🙂
Still not amused.