"Mary Tyler Moore: In Her Own Words"
We were lucky that our creative people were so tuned-in to what was
happening in the world. It wasn't that Jim Brooks and Alan Burns created
The Mary Tyler Moore Show because they were interested in polemics for
women's rights -- it wasn't that kind of program. But they were interested
in what was happening to women in our society and, like all good writers,
they wrote about what was foremost in their minds.
Remember that when our show went on, we were considered very radical -- so
radical that there were prophecies of instant disaster. Mary Richards was
not a widow. She'd never been married. She even hinted at having an affair!
She was a mature woman in her thirties, not a young girl having a fling
before marriage. She wasn't even hunting for a husband! She was an ambitious
career woman interested in her own work and making it on her own. Nothing
like Mary Richards had happened in television before.
The original writers were eventually joined by people like David Lloyd, Ed
Weinberg and Stan Daniels -- as well as by such first-rate women writers as
Charlotte Brown and Tricia Silverman. (Women like Joan Darling got their
first chance to direct on our show too). Well, in devising situations for
Mary -- problems out of which the comedy could develop -- these writers
looked naturally to the basic issues of the women's movement: unequal
opportunity, unequal pay, chauvinistic attitudes. We were lucky because all
our creative people were so aware and understood so clearly what was going
on in the world and because they had such a sense of personal responsibility
toward the subjects they wrote about.
There is no doubt that the success of our show opened the way for other
television shows about women. Our own spin-offs Rhoda and Phyllis, for
instance, are proof of this, as are some of Norman Lear's shows like Maude
and One Day at a Time. But I had nothing to do with it. I'm always annoyed
when people give me the credit for developing our company, MTM Enterprises,
and when they talk of my business acumen. I'm married to a very intelligent
and perceptive producer, Grant Tinker, and he built the company and he runs
it. I don't. I have no more to do with it than any other wife who might
offer a suggestion about her husband's business. My primary interest is in
developing my new series for 1978 -- I wish some new direction could be
found, perhaps using music and dance within a comedic format.
I was never a militant women's libber -- though I have been very vocal about
some of the inequities we still have. There's a lot of Mary Richards in me -
- but there's also a lot of Laurie Petrie, the housewife I played on the
Dick Van Dyke Show.
Television is my medium -- I'm convinced of that. I'm no longer concerned
with doing a great movie, a great Broadway show. Of course, if a great part
came along, I'd take it, but how many great women's parts have you seen in
movies lately? Or on the stage? As Shirley MacLaine said: "Television is the
only medium that takes women seriously, that treats them as intelligent,
functioning human beings."
My first series was Richard Diamond, Private Eye with David Janssen. I
played Sam, the answering-service girl. All you ever saw of me was a pair of
legs. And you heard my voice -- low and husky and sexy. Talk about your sex
object! We've come a long way from that. I have. All women have. I like to
think Mary Richards was in some way responsible.
- from The TV Book, ed. by Judy Fireman (Workman Publishing Co., 1977)
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