Saturday, January 28, 2017

She Made It After All

Mary Tyler Moore, who died this past eek at the age of eighty, was all things to all people - the ideal wife, the spunky career woman, America's sweetheart - but she was first and foremost a feminist icon.
On "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in the 1960s, she played Laura Petrie as an opinionated spouse with a mind of her own, someone who was not afraid to establish a different identity from her husband - and wore pants instead of skirts.   As Mary Richards on her own namesake sitcom, she was not afraid to be without a husband - she didn't rule out marriage but making it on her own came first.  She was her own woman in every way.  She dated.  She took the pill.  She ran WJM-TV's news department like a top.  Just as important, Mary Richards was the calming, professional presence in the newsroom of a third-rate local newscast full of cranks - the curmudgeonly Lou Grant, the frustrated news writer Murray Slaughter, and the dimwitted cheapskate anchorman Ted Baxter.  Of course she was appreciated for her input - why else would Lou, Murray and Ted be seen hugging her enthusiastically ( a bit too much for Ted's hat) in the opening credits?
Of course, Mary Tyler Moore was a force of nature off camera.  She co-founded with her late ex-husband Grant Tinker (he died in November 2016) the MTM production studio (remember the meowing-kitten logo? a gentle parody of the MGM lion), which produced not only her own show but the "Rhoda" spinoff with Valerie Harper and both of Bob Newhart's hit sitcoms, and her life as a diabetes patient and her concern for animal welfare made her an eloquent spokeswoman for diabetes research and animal rights.  
Still, the beauty of Mary Tyler Moore's talent was her ability to be socially relevant and also funny in conventional yet unexpected ways.  Case in point?  "Chuckles Bites the Dust," the funniest "Mary Tyler Moore Show" episode ever made, where Mary Richards chastises her coworkers for laughing over the fate of WJM children's show host Chuckles the Clown - he went to a circus parade dressed as his character Peter Peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him!  Then, at the funeral, as she hears the eulogy for Chuckles and memories of his work ("Remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo's little catch phrase, remember how when his arch rival, SeƱor Kaboom, would hit him with the giant cucumber and knock him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off and say, 'I hurt my foo-foo'"), she starts to laugh uncontrollably,  Encouraged by the minister to laugh for Chuckles, because nothing would have made him happier, she starts . . . crying.  Of course. :-D
I'll continue to laugh for Mary, as I still watch "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on MeTV, and I'll continue to do so, knowing full well that we'll never see her like again.  RIP.

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