Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic

I suppose it would have made┬ámore sense to have actually seen a few episodes of the TV show I was reading a book about. Midway through the book I was able to watch the first few episodes of the first season and had a deeper appreciation for what I was reading. A hilarious glimpse in the 2nd episode of Rhoda’s introduction of herself as “another person in the room” to Howard Arnell (played by Valerie Harper’s real life hubby Dick Schaal) when he only has eyes for Mary. The line was Treva Silverman’s and she went on to produce comedy gold for the show for many seasons before bumming around Europe for awhile to see the world.

The book isn’t well written, wooden sentences clunking together like a poorly built engine. I recognize the challenge the author faced from having conducted many interviews and having to let people’s words shine through your own writing. Like the women who wanted to be sure it came out that they didn’t mind being the only woman in the room, either as a writer or executive, because it “made them feel special.” The author gives us this without comment, missing her chance to point out some obvious pitfalls of women who aren’t woke.

It does provide a detailed picture of the television landscape in the early 1970s, how networks jumped on the Women’s Lib bandwagon to capture viewers and how they quickly abandoned this tact in the latter half of the decade when inflation was hitting and people wanted to lose themselves in fantasy puff pieces instead.

One thing that comes across is the rare environment the team experienced on the show– having a friendly, warm, safe space for the women writers was unusual and something they’d always struggle to recreate in future projects.

Other odds & ends: Betty White was pals with MTM and when asked to be on the show was a bit hesitant to cross the friend/work line. Betty Ford appeared on the show drunk from the White House. One woman executive had to leave her high heels outside the exec bathroom as a signal that she was in there because there was no lock on the door nor any women’s bathroom.