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Channel 3:

"She helps me make it, after all"

by P. Kellach Waddle



ABC has done a lot of things right lately. (Nonwithstanding this now scuttled dreadful Wasteland show, but I digress and my dissertation about the new fall TV season is next time.) One of them is their nifty and snappy Yellow and Black advertising shtick now that says "TV is Good." Yes, the black box that has been blamed for everything from illiteracy to bad fashion statements to inappropriate haircuts to general mind-rotting IS good. And one huge reason it is good is.... One word.

Mary.

Just intoning her name makes me all warm and fuzzy. And if you have to ask "MARY WHO?" then I am afraid I am going to have to get nasty again and tell you that in the words of Mr. Hat from South Park, "You go to hell! , You go to hell and you DIE!". Mary Richards of course. And Mary's wondrous, luminous, beloved portrayer, Mary Tyler Moore.

When I have gone under any dire emotional or personal stress, there are things on TV that simply make it all better for 30 mins. And one of those things is Mary.

How could you NOT adore her? One of the biggest reasons so many of us fell in love with her is because dear Mary was perfect. How was she perfect? Pardon the Zen here...but because she WASN'T perfect. And she wasn't afraid to admit it. And the actress herself never shied away from making sure Mary's all-to-humanness was always accentuated.

On recent Mary episodes shown on the glorious Nick-At-Nite channel we saw inside the usual beautiful career woman and best friend show us, that GASP! like the rest of us, the wonderful Mary had a mean streak. Well, if not a MEAN streak per se... she defintiely demonstrated she wasn't exactly comfortable on her throne of martyrdom to which all of her worshippers (both in real life and on the show) had exalted her. Her cranky Yankee pal Rhoda had taken up with a fellow named Bob who decided he was much more taken with Mary. In a closing "Let's be honest" talk with her friend, Mary said she had to admit part of her LIKED Rhoda's man having the hots for her more than the soon to be ex-Mrs. Gerard (Oh my. You GO Mary!) To continue to dig the honesty grave deeper she THEN started to tell Rhoda how pissed off she was that Rhoda just decorated odd looking store displays and Mary, an esteemed journalist didn't make as much money as Rhoda (Back in the time when TV news still could HAVE a character spout the esteem of its profession and not illicit ironic bales of giggles.) Mary had growing resentments against friends she loved just like the rest of us.

And speaking of having the hots for someone, despite it not being a show where such things were thrown at one using envelope-pushing borders of taste, the beloved MTM Show's writers wanted us to see, if only the inference being SO subtle, that she wasn't a virgin. Mary takes up with an older guy (Murray's dad) and in a blink-and-you-miss-it-implication that Mary did the horizontal Hula with Murray's pop, she tells Murray at work one day.."Well this morning, your father said....." Hubba Hubba. Thoroughly modern was Mary indeed, beneath her flipped-up hairdo and her demurring to never call Lou by his first name but ONCE in 168 beautiful episodes.

Mary in all her humanity made us worship her more when we saw her make sacrifices for some not-nice folks. In order to let Ted "impress" his visiting brother, Mary let Ted pretend they had spent the night together! On a much later episode, when horny Sue Ann is dumped from her "Happy Homemaker" show and Lou puts Mary in charge of whether to give the unqualified Sue Ann a job in the news room, Mary relents and gives SA the job because Lou tells her "Mary, when you came to work here .. you weren't very qualified either.. and you know what I noticed.. a hole in your stocking. That hole was so sweet and made you seem so vulnerable, I took a chance on you." ( Sob...sob...sob...I don't think anyone cried after Titanic as much as I cried about Lou noticing the hole in Mary's stocking.)

It isn't just Mary Richards herself that makes me all mushy. Memories of the mechanics of the show itself make me all warmer and fuzzier. Mary was part of a powerhouse line up that at one time had a staggering number of top 10 shows proving that once upon a time children, people DID watch TV on Saturday night. (All In The Family,Bob Newhart, MTM, M*A*S*H, Carol Burnett..."Walker Texas Ranger" THIS, CBS!) Not to mention the final legendary episode was the first nighttime REAL finale I had ever seen. Other canceled shows just usually get to that point disappearing with no goodbye.

Mary Tyler Moore herself deserves her icon status even apart from her being Mary Richards . Her biography has shown her honest and brave battles with diabetes and alcoholism and break up of a 20-some odd year marriage. Even her ventures far away from Mary Richards make us still love MTM. When she flossed after oral sex and showed off her bra in Ben Stiller's hilarious and warm Flirting With Disaster. When she said "penis" on SNL and the F word on David Letterman. And when even in her 1980 Oscar-Nominated-Star turn as a complete bitch in Ordinary People you didn't stop idolizing her, your eyes just gleamed all the more in admiration of this lady-for-all-seasons.

And when I said earlier ABC was doing things right? Well ever since Uber-clueless TV bitch Jamie Tarses, programmer of entertainment at ABC, was "let go" last summer, her successors have undone her snooty claim that she wasn't pursuing ABC's announced plans for a Mary and Rhoda movie.

I am sure MTM is sometimes frustrated with her status, most of all her other TV ventures have been unmitigated disasters (I mean, her first post-MTM show was a variety hour with David Letterman, singing and dancing. What was poor Mary thinking? )...and she is still seen even as she ages gracefully into her 7th decade as the perky 30 yr. old driving her nifty white car to make it in Minneapolis.

But she has the power to change hearts. On the most dreadful days, there on N-A-N in the middle of the night is the lovely song that I still sing at the top of my lungs...and most of all...there she is doing what anyone else doing would look like a lunatic even attempting...pitching her hat in the air. (TV Guide recently said the first time she did that on the first episode is THE MOST important moment in the HISTORY of the medium.)

All these things about Mary make me, of course, want to hug her. But when that song starts and we see the news room and the familiar yellow font, I don't even need a hug anymore. Seeing it all makes me feel hugged anyway. And makes me think there on those sad 3:30 A.M.s where I might think I have had it with everything, her darling presence makes me think I, too...am going to make it after all.








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