May 23, 2023
Melinda Head

Being Mary Tyler Moore

Being a trailblazer

Mary Tyler Moore changed the way women were portrayed in television.

During a time when women were often relegated to roles as housewives, mothers or love interests in movies and on television, Moore’s character, Mary Richards, was a single, independent woman who worked as a news producer for a fictional Minneapolis TV station.

Not only did Mary Tyler Moore play the lead role, but she and her husband Grant Tinker produced “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, fueled by emerging “Room 222” writers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. MTM Enterprises, went on to produce other wildly successful TV shows, including spin-offs Rhoda (starring Valerie Harper), Phyllis (starring Chloris Leachman) and Lou Grant (starring Ed Asner), as well as The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. Wow, that’s quite a roster.

In last week’s blog about “The Mother”, a new Netflix movie about a female assassin, we pointed out that JLo started her career as a dancer. The same is true of Mary Tyler Moore. Surprisingly, MTM never took acting lessons. It was her dancing that opened the door to other opportunities.

Mary Tyler Moore and JLo both started their careers as dancers

“We thought we were the best dance team since (Fred) Astaire and (Ginger) Rogers.” (Dick Van Dyke commenting on his on-screen relationship with Mary Tyler Moore)

Carl Reiner, creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was Moore’s opportunity of a lifetime. According to Reiner, MTM “had great gams” (legs) and was “a beautiful girl”. During the audition, she only had to read the first line and Reiner knew he had his co-star. Loosely modeled after Carl Reiner’s life, the sitcom centered on fictitious TV comedy writer Rob Petrie (played by Dick Van Dyke), his stylish capri-wearing wife Laura (played by Mary Tyler Moore) and their young son Ritchie. They went on to make 158 episodes between 1961 and 1966, winning 15 Emmy Awards along the way.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran from 1970-1977 and earned 29 Emmy Awards. All great things must come to an end, and after 168 episodes, the Team had given audiences all it had to give, but not without having made a huge mark on the world. She made it after all.

“Being Mary Tyler Moore” will be released by HBO on Friday, May 26th. Stay tuned for a remarkable story that delves into the life and legacy of one of America’s most beloved and important TV icons.

“I was blown away by Moore’s talent and her impact on popular culture … I wanted to make a film that would capture her essence and show how she changed the world.” (James Adolphus, Director, Producer, Cinematographer, “Being Mary Tyler Moore”)

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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