HBO Max recently premiered a two-hour documentary, Being Mary Tyler Moore. Focusing on Moore’s famous sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77), it features footage from an abandoned pilot episode that CBS wouldn’t air. For the first time, fans of the show get to see Mary Tyler Moore and other familiar faces as they haven’t seen them before.
Being Mary Tyler Moore (2023)
Dr. Robert Levine, Moore’s widower and an executive producer of the documentary, told Yahoo! Entertainment that The Mary Tyler Moore Show “did not test well, and the network executives came to them and said, ‘Fix it.'” Obviously, once the problems were addressed, the show was a smashing success.
The pilot footage was shot in early 1970. In the opening sequence, Moore, with a voiceover, provides a backstory for how her character, Mary Richards, got to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She then has an interview at the Six O’Clock News, where she meets Lou Grant (Ed Asner).
The pilot also introduces Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), Mary’s two neighbors who were far less likeable in the pilot than in the actual show!
Levine said this episode was filmed under horrible conditions – and that impacted the final result. He admitted the pilot was “a little bit flat” and that nothing really gelled. After being told to “fix it,” the network worked with James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, the series’ creators, Moore and Grant Tinker, Moore’s then-husband and co-founder of production company, MTM Productions.
Soon after, they created a new pilot that was far more successful. It even saw the first use of Sonny Curtis’ theme song, “Love Is All Around,” instead of Moore’s voiceover. The reworked episode resulted in the series people now know and love.
The documentary is filled with other footage from Moore’s life, some of it from a box filled with home movies that Levine found beside the furnace in his basement. He called the discovery a “God-cidence” because he can’t explain why the box was where he discovered it.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a groundbreaking American sitcom that aired from 1970-77. It’s widely regarded as one of the most influential and beloved television series of all time, and it revolutionized the portrayal of women in media. At the heart of the show is Mary Richards, played by the great Mary Tyler Moore.
Richards is introduced as a 30-year-old single woman who moves to Minneapolis after breaking off an engagement. She secures a job as an associate producer at the fictional television station, WJM, and the series follows her personal and professional journey in the male-dominated world of broadcasting.
One of the show’s central themes is the dynamic between Richards and her boss, Lou Grant. Grant initially doubts Richards’ abilities as a producer, but soon recognizes her talent and supports her growth, with their relationship evolving into a close friendship based on mutual respect and camaraderie.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show tackled various the social issues of the time, such as women’s rights, equal pay and workplace discrimination, with humor and sensitivity. It challenged stereotypes and gave voice to the aspirations and challenges faced by women in the 1970s.
Fun facts about The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show saw the creation of three spin-off series: Rhoda (1974-77), Phyllis (1975-77) and Lou Grant (1977-82).
Rhoda followed Rhoda Morgenstern after her return to New York, while Phyllis was centered around Phyllis Lindstrom and her daughter, Bess, after their move to San Francisco, California. Lou Grant was the final spin-off, and it followed the character as an editor for the Los Angeles Tribune after being fired from WJM-TV.
When producers were casting for the role of Sue Ann Nivens, they decided they wanted “someone like Betty White” for the part. Eventually, someone wisely asked why they couldn’t just get Betty White – and they did. White played Sue Ann Nivens, the host of WJM’s The Happy Homemaker Show, between 1973-77.
Moore once had this to say of the 1966 show, That Girl, which starred Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie and is considered a groundbreaking sitcom for its feminist values: “Anne Marie opened the door, and Mary Richards walked right through it.”
Being Mary Tyler Moore premiered on HBO MAX on May 26, 2023.
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