Sunday, November 10, 2013

More on Moore

So in episode 19 season 1 of The Mary Tyler Moore show Murray has his play produced and the show is trashed by a local critic, but it turns out the critic hates everything, including My Fair Lady and Hamlet.

This inspired me to see what critics had to say about the MTM show back in the day. Well the New Yorker, which can't STFU about the current TV series Girls had nothing to say about the original Girls.

But the New York Times's John J. O'Connor wrote this weirdly snarky review about what is now generally agreed to be the gold standard of television sit-coms, on April 21, 1971:
"Mary Tyler Moore" is a sitcom. 
That is not my latest contribution to the literature of graffiti. That is a fact. A sitcom, as the trade pros would have it, is a situation comedy, one of the most fragile, abused and perishable of television formats. For one super-successful "I Love Lucy," there are probably a couple dozen super-embarrassing duds. A few still manage to survive, though, and at least occasionally are worth closer inspection. 
The "Mary Tyler Moore Show," already on TV's crowded re-run trail, can be seen Saturdays at 9:30 PM over the Columbia Broadcasting System. Among the magic few, it is a new half-hour comedy series this year that actually will be returning next season. 
The format? Mary, a bachelor girl perched precariously around age 30, works for a TV news station in Minneapolis, where - as the bouncy introductory song puts it - she "just might make it after all." So the situations revolve around Mary at work as indispensable secretary-Girl Friday, and Mary at home, as an attractive unmarried on the brink of affairs as numerous as the series is long. 
All right, already, it's a format, no better or worse than most formats. There's the potential for mass empathy, with all those bachelor girls out there in the real world, along with their families and myriad suitors. And there's the potential for longevity, with Mary looking healthy enough to keep cavorting at least until the ripe old age of 45. 
With little or no need for character development, the emphasis is on plot, and that is the key ingredient in the long-running television series…
The creators, writers and producers of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" are James Brooks and Alan Burns. The plots tend to be breezy, somewhat inane and, after three minutes, utterly predictable. It's all much like your average Broadway comedy. And of course there are the contemporary "swinging" touches, much in the way pre-marital sex and a certain eight-letter word were used to update the cliche format of the film "Love Story."
Within the familiar plots, however, the viewer can find a good many first-rate bits and pieces. The program's strongest points are the actors. Miss Moore's Mary is a most agreeable bundle of leggy charm. And her two steady friends make effective foils - Cloris Leachman as Phyllis and especially Valerie Harper as the wise-cracking Rhoda. Miss Harper, currently in Broadway's "Story Theater," can pick up a piece of candy, mutter "I should just apply this thing directly to my hips," and manage to make an ordinary line very funny. 
At the television station, Mary's boss is Grant, played to a superb Edgar-Kennedy slow burn by Edward Asner. Grant's complimentary nature runs to exhortations such as "Keep up the fair work, Murray!" Murray (Gavin MacLeod) is the resident copy supplier, and Ted (Ted Knight) is the egomaniacal newscaster, complete with silvery mane… 
…And so it goes in the world of situation comedy. Nothing terribly significant but, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show" at least, enough to pass a pleasant half hour.

Some thoughts:

"Certain eight-letter word"? What does that mean?

The critics adored that line "can pick up a piece of candy, mutter "I should just apply this thing directly to my hips" - they always mention it.

What does Edgar-Kennedy slow burn mean?
Oh, never mind, found it.
Something else I discovered - thanks to the MTM show I learned that they packaged ice cream in Minneapolis in 1970 like Chinese takeout. (Mary Richards had her tonsils out and everybody kept giving her ice cream.)