FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (11)
May 6, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Sixties (in our periodization: 1964–1973).
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW | 1970–1973 seasons
When I was growing up, my father operated a rooming house that would have been an excellent setting for a sitcom. Alex Lipson, maverick Russian professor and global adventurer, rents out every available space in his large Victorian in quiet, leafy, white-shoe West Cambridge to a rotating cast of students, artists, inventors, spiritual aspirants, grifters, drifters, and cranks. It was not, for the most part, a communal arrangement, but for a while there was a weekly Saturday Spaghetti dinner — hosted by a tenant named Steve Flaherty, scion of South Boston cops and firemen, who had made the migration to Cambridge on a Harvard scholarship. He’d cook up a big pot of red sauce and let us throw noodles at the ceiling to see if they stuck, and the grownups would drink wine from basket-covered bottles, and then at nine o’clock we’d all watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
And what other TV show could have met the occasion? It could only be MTM (meow!), with its deep bench of fully realized main, secondary, and walk-on characters. Like my father’s rooming house, the show was centered on the lives of adults. Mary, Rhoda, and Phyllis didn’t share a kitchen like we did, but they did occupy a grand old Victorian repurposed as affordable housing. And the writing held up to the snatches of character-driven dialogue a kid might overhear in the halls of a rooming house.
Lou: [Pulls scotch bottle out of desk drawer] I was just about to have a drink, and I wouldn’t mind some company. Want one?
Mary: Oh, no thank you.
Lou: I said I wouldn’t mind some company.
Mary: Well, all right. I’ll have a Brandy Alexander.
This is from Season one, episode one, in 1970. Our Mary is a nervous young woman stammering through a job interview, her long hair teased into a modified bouffant and pinned at the back with a barrette. In the original script for the pilot she was a divorcée, but since it wasn’t really, truly the seventies yet, the network objected, and instead she’s On Her Own because she’s been jilted by a fiancé back home. (We wouldn’t get a show built around a divorced woman for another five years, with the introduction of Anne Romano on One Day at a Time.
Viewed through the lens of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the seventies began on September 15, 1973, with the first episode of Season 4 — and specifically at the moment in the new opening sequence when Mary picks up a package of meat, looks at the sticker, and tosses it into her cart with an eye roll of resignation. Inflation has arrived, and by 1975 it will top out at 12%. It was in the air and All Around, and I perfected the toss–eye roll combo for my father’s amusement.
FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on DARK SHADOWS (1966–1971) | Mark Kingwell on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on I DREAM OF JEANNIE (1965–1970) | Luc Sante on SECRET AGENT/DANGER MAN (1964–1968 seasons) | Erin M. Routson on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (1963–1966 run) | Gordon Dahlquist on HAWAII FIVE-O (1968–1973 seasons) | Annie Nocenti on GET SMART (1965–1970) | Sara Driver on THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1964–1966) | Carlo Rotella on MANNIX (1967–1973 seasons) | Adam McGovern on JULIA (1968–1971) | Mimi Lipson on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970–1973 seasons) | Josh Glenn on BATMAN (1966–1968) | Tom Nealon on HOGAN’S HEROES (1965–1971) | Miranda Mellis on THE ODD COUPLE (1970–1973 seasons) | Peggy Nelson on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1964–1967) | Susan Roe on THE BRADY BUNCH (1969–1973 seasons) | Michael Grasso on UFO (1970–1973) | Richard McKenna on DOOMWATCH (1970–1972) | Adrienne Crew on BEWITCHED (1964–1972) | Michael Lewy on STAR TREK (1966–1969) | Greg Rowland on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (1970–1973 seasons) | David Smay on THE MONKEES (1966–1968) | Vijay Parthasarathy on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW (1964–1966 seasons) | Carl Wilson on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967–1973 seasons) | Jessamyn West on EMERGENCY! (1972–1973 seasons).
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