"She helps me make it, after all"
by P. Kellach
ABC has done a lot of things right lately. (Nonwithstanding this now
scuttled dreadful Wasteland show, but I digress and my dissertation
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.