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Saturday nights in the ’70s just wouldn’t have been right without The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Throughout its seven-year run, the series became “one of the most acclaimed television programs ever produced”, and a beloved, enduring favourite among legions of fans. The series is also regarded as one of the most influential of all time, paving the way for more successful spinoff series (Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis) than any other sitcom in history, with its creators going on to make such shows as The Simpsons, The Cosby Show and Cheers.
From 1970 – 1977, Mary Tyler Moore graced our TV screens as the vivacious, affable Mary Richards, determined to “make it after all” as a single, working woman in the big city. After breaking up with her fiancé, Mary heads for Minneapolis to start fresh and lands a job as the associate producer of The Six O’Clock News on fictional TV station WJM, where she meets her gruff but soft-hearted boss Lou Grant (Edward Asner), the cynical but loveable news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod) and the dim-witted, vain anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Moving into the upper suite of a Victorian home, Mary befriends her downstairs neighbour, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), who’s always quick with a wisecrack, and her pretentious landlady-with-a-cause Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).
Two more main characters joined the series in its second and third seasons, Ted Baxter’s gentle, naive but strong-willed girlfriend Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) and the cheerfully acid-tongued host of WJM’s The Happy Homemaker, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White).
Lauded for its breakthrough portrayal of an independent, single woman who wasn’t defined by a relationship to a husband or boyfriend, Time magazine honoured The Mary Tyler Moore Show with a place on its 2007 list of 17 Shows That Changed TV, noting that while the sitcom introduced a character who was “liberating for women on TV”, “Mary was human and strong enough to be laughed with and laughed at, and that was the kind of liberation that mattered most.”
A three-time Golden Globe winner, The Mary Tyler Moore Show won 29 Emmy Awards, including three back-to-back wins for Outstanding Comedy Series from 1975 – 77. Mary Tyler Moore took home the Emmy honours for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including a win for Actress of the Year – Series in 1974. In 1977, the series’ production company MTM Enterprises was honoured with a coveted Peabody Award for “a consistent standard of excellence – and for a sympathetic portrayal of a career woman in today’s changing society as exemplified by The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
In January 2012, Mary Tyler Moore was given one of her highest accolades to date, the Screen Actors’ Guild’s lifetime achievement award. Just prior to receiving this honour, she gave an insightful and moving interview with the New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger as they viewed the series’ finale together.
Relive all the wonderful, hilarious and touching moments of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the first season airs throughout the fall on JoyTV.