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You’re Gonna Make It After All!

Culture | September 18, 2017

Who can turn the world on with her smile? Mary Richards, that’s who! Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) was the beautiful, fresh-faced, single, career woman on the hit television sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary was thirty-something, never married and set out on her own, in that iconic 1970 Ford Mustang, after breaking up with her fiancé. She landed in the big city of Minneapolis and the rest, my friends, is history!

Upon arrival in the big city, Mary Richards was starting to realize the gravity of her situation. She was in unfamiliar territory and was about to find out what she was really made of. Mary found herself living in a modest, 3rd floor apartment of a beautiful Victorian house. She made fast friends with her housemates/neighbors, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). The 3 women could not have been more mismatched in terms of their personalities but for some reason it just worked. Rhoda, the sarcastic, divorcée and more adventurous of the trio, was always trying to draw Mary out of her shell. She was very blunt and often said what Mary was thinking but would never dare say. Phyllis, the snobbish, married, mother of one daughter, Bess, was, in her own mind, always jockeying for position in Mary’s life, with Rhoda. Phyllis seemed to have the carefree life of the “kept” wife of Dermatologist, Lars, who by the way, was never actually seen on the show! It was ironic, however, that although Phyllis liked to be taken care of, she was always pushing women’ lib. Rhoda and Phyllis were constantly trading insults, leaving Mary as the unofficial referee.

Let’s not forget what brought Mary to Minneapolis in the first place. She was a young career woman in search of a job that would allow her to be independent of a man and stand on her own two feet. She never gave up on men, altogether, but was determined to make it on her own. After landing her big break at WJM Television Station as the Associate Producer of the 6 O’clock News, she settled in and quickly won the hearts of her co-workers. Much like her friends/neighbors, Mary’s work family was equally mismatched and lovingly dysfunctional but again, it worked!

Lou Grant (Ed Asner), Producer of the news program at WJM, had a gruff and abrasive exterior with a no-nonsense personality. The one and only exception to this rule was Mary Richards. Although Lou was Mary’s boss, for some reason, she always had his ear. Lou had a fondness for Mary and looked out for her much like a big brother or uncle would. In turn, Mary looked out for him as well, often counseling him on matters in his personal life.

Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), portrayed the dim-witted, self-absorbed, stingy Anchorman of the Six O’clock News. He often, unknowingly made mistakes in reporting the news and was oblivious to the actual nature of the topics he was reporting on. Despite that fact, Ted regarded himself among the country's best Anchormen. He was often criticized and was the butt of many jokes but never doubted his own greatness! Later in the series, he found true love and married Georgette (Georgette Engel) who was as ditzy as Ted was obnoxious.

Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), who sat directly next to Mary in the newsroom, was the head writer of the News. Murray, who was married and had several children, was Mary's closest co-worker as well as her close friend. Murray may have been Ted’s toughest critic and made no bones about the fact that he found Ted to be somewhat of a glorified idiot.  

Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), was another television personality and hostess of WJM's The Happy Homemaker show. Sue Ann seemed to flit in and out of the newsroom with her superficially, cheerful demeanor, all the while making judgmental comments which were usually directed at Mary and Murray. Sue Ann was not shy about being strongly attracted to Lou and often made sexually suggestive overtures directed mainly at him. For all of her efforts, she was never able to get his attention!

The Mary Tyler Moore show boasted a stellar cast, earning Emmy Awards 3 years in a row (1975-1977); not to mention the American Writers Guild ranking it No. 6 in its 2013 list of the 101 Best Written TV Series of All Times. The show continued to live on long after its final episode in 1977. Mary was truly a pioneer in the portrayal of women being something other than a housewife and mother. Many women began to see the many possibilities that were to follow.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.