Mary Tyler Moore died Wednesday at age 80, and many radio and television programs have been offering salutes and appreciations ever since. Today, it's our turn. But first, an appreciation from my perspective as a TV critic. Mary Tyler Moore managed to star in one of the best and smartest comedies of the decade in two different decades. In the s, when almost all of the situation comedies were dumbed-down fantasy shows like "My Mother The Car," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was a singularly modern and believable comedy about, in part, a loving husband and wife.
As an actress, she brought vitality, sexuality and an awful lot of stubbornness and strength. Whatever part she played, Mr. Grant was right.
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She had spunk. Here she is in a flashback sequence on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," angrily lashing back at Rob after he jilts her at the altar. He'd gotten in an accident on the way to the wedding, but she doesn't know that yet. Everybody was here. Even my Aunt Mildred was here. She came all the way from Ohio. Rob suspects the hospital accidentally switched infants, giving their kid to another couple on the maternity ward named Peters. I can handle it. It's at the funeral of a colleague, the children's show TV host known as Chuckles the Clown. Mary had spent most of the episode berating her colleagues for making tasteless jokes all week at the weird way the clown died.
If you don't know, find the episode, which is called Chuckles Bites The Dust.
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She doesn't find their humor the least bit funny, but at the service itself, as the reverend - played by John Harkins - gives his eulogy for Chuckles, Mary - and Mary alone - starts giggling and laughing until the reverend singles her out. It's hilarious, and it's all built on character.
Go ahead. Laugh out loud.
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Don't you see? Nothing would have made Chuckles happier. He lived to make people laugh. Tears were offensive to him, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry.
But to embody a decade, a gender and a generation not once but twice is plenty for any one lifetime. Terry Gross spoke with Mary Tyler Moore in MOORE: Happy Hotpoint was the logo of Hotpoint appliances come to life, an elf, a little figure with a shock of blond hair protruding from her little gray pixie cap that also had ears on it. But I was Happy Hotpoint, and I would, in these commercials, be superimposed on ice cube trays, skating, popping out of the washing machine, speaking to Harriet Nelson and saying things like, hi, Harriet, aren't you glad you use Hotpoint appliances?
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Except my voice was higher then, so it sounded a lot more pixie-ish ph than it does now. What had happened was that at that time, and this was immediately after graduating from high school, I also got married immediately after graduating from high school. And about a month after that, I was pregnant, and these commercials were almost impossible to do anymore because I had my breasts bound down to begin with even before I was pregnant because pixies are supposedly of neuter gender. And to try to do that after I was even 1 month along and certainly into two and three was impossible, and so we had to stop.
And I think they just went to straight commercials after that. And I went on to happily have my baby a few months after that. Well, after you had your baby, you were the voice of the woman in the answering service for the TV detective Richard Diamond. That was played by David Janssen, and it was - I guess it had started on radio. And one of the successful elements of it was a character called Sam - short for Samantha - who was the answering service woman who took Richard Diamond's telephone messages.
This was, of course, predating answering machines, and he would check in with me two or three times every episode. And I would answer in the sexiest imaginable voice, hi, Mr. And nobody ever saw Sam. You were allowed to imagine her to be your idea, your fantasy of the most gorgeous creature ever, certainly far from the reality of Mary Tyler Moore who, at the time, was a fast 23 or 22 years old freckle-faced, all-American, girl-next-door type. And that really had its classical parameters and dimensions, and they were established and they hardly ever varied, except as to whether or not the wife was the star of the show, in which case she was the funny one.
Or if she were the straight man for the male star and she was then totally supportive. But all these wives were kind of obedient and, you know, a representative of the vows to love, honor and obey. They hardly varied from that. And with Carl Reiner's character the way she was written, Laura actually had opinions of her own.
And while she was asserting herself, she also didn't make Dick Van Dyke look like a dummy. It was a matter of two people.
I mean, society's expectations at that point still said, hey, wait a minute, lady. You only go so far here.
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But I think we broke new ground. And that was helped by my insistence on wearing pants, you know, jeans and capri pants at the time because I said, I've seen all the other actresses, and they're always running the vacuum in these little flowered frocks with high heels on.
And I don't do that, and I don't know any of my friends who do that, so why don't we try to make this real? And I'll dress on the show the way I do in real life. They pointed specifically to - they used the term cupping under.
And I can only assume that that meant, you know, my seat, that there was a little too much definition. And so they allowed me to continue to wear them in one episode - one scene per episode and only after we checked to make sure that there was as little cupping under as possible. But within a few weeks we were sneaking them into a few other scenes in every episode.
And they were definitely cupping under. And everyone thought it was great. They were not envious of the fact that their husbands had a crush on me. It was OK with them. They were the first to - you know, when I would meet people, they'd say, my husband loves you so much and he thinks you're so sexy.
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And this was - it was an odd thing because they were also able to identify with me as a friend, as a girlfriend. There was no resentment and no fear. Well, I think that that speaks so well for the character and your portrayal of her. Why capri pants?
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Why not And a man named Jack Hanson owned it, and it's now no longer there. And he deed these trousers. And they came in all fabrics and all price ranges from cotton to the finest moire silks. And I adored these pants.
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I loved them. I lusted after them. And I could just barely afford the cotton ones.
But when I had a paycheck and it was on a regular basis from, you know, dancing in the chorus, I would make sure that I added another pair of pants to my wardrobe.