Mary Tyler Moore was a comedic actress in such programs as The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) and the self-titled show Mary Tyler Moore (1970-1977). Moore won two leading actress Emmy Awards for her role as Laura Petrie. She added another four for her role as Mary Richards. Those that know of Moore as an actress are likely to point mostly to these two leading roles as a largely comedic actress. To do so is appropriate to a notable degree.
Before moving on to my larger point, let us not forget two significant contributions. First, Mary Tyler Moore also won a Golden Globe for best actress in a drama for her role as Beth Jarrett in the Robert Redford film Ordinary People (1980). Redford said the following in the Los Angeles Times:
Mary’s energy, spirit and talent created a new bright spot in the television landscape and she will be very much missed. The courage she displayed in taking on a role,(‘Ordinary People’), darker than anything she had ever done, was brave and enormously powerful.
Second, Moore’s production company, MTM Productions, produced popular and influential television. Among those shows include spinoffs to Mary Tyler Moore (1970-1977), including the comedies Rhoda (1974-1978) and Phyllis (1975-1977) and the drama Lou Grant (1977-1982).
In original content, MTM Productions gave us The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), St. Elsewhere (1982-1988), and Newhart (1982-1990). As a distribution company with CBS, Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM Productions gave us Evening Shade (1990-1994) and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998).
People Magazine helped give us feedback from celebrities to the passing of Mary Tyler Moore on January 25th, 2017. Contemporary comedy legend Carol Burnett said that Moore “was a pioneer on television and also one of the sweetest, nicest people I ever knew.” Co-star Ed Asner indicated Moore was “a great lady I loved and owe so much to. I will miss her. I will never be able to repay her for the blessings that she gave me.” Ellen DeGeneres said Moore “changed the world for all women. I send my love to her family.”
Comedians and serious actors alike offer praise to Mary Tyler Moore as an influence to their careers. Other woman comedians that do not cite Moore as an influence do emphasize a significantly less morals-based humor than did Moore. Go to YouTube for footage of Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) or the self-titled show Mary Tyler Moore (1970-1977). Compare that to humor by Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, or Whitney Cummings.
Women and Hollywood points out a much more provocative sensibility in women’s humor than in the days of Mary Tyler Moore. For example,
Schumer and Kaling represent a subtle shift from Cummings and Silverman, who seem hell-bent on out-boying the boys club that comedy is. These new voices
don’t shy away from indelicate topics like sex or body humor — because most modern women are a few steps beyond Jane Austen-style manners. But they don’t
try to beat the guys at their own game, either.
Kaling showed with her Fox sitcom The Mindy Project this season that she can do a killer awkward-shower-sex scene and poke elaborate fun
at women’s love-hate relationship with romance. Schumer’s show, which just wrapped its first season, gave us a sketch on “porn from a female point of
view,” which shows mostly how ridiculous (and occasionally gross) sex is for women, all hairy chests coming at them and being slammed repeatedly from
behind. This stands in stark contrast to those “porn for women” send-ups that show men with waxed chests doing housework. Because, ha ha, women have no
desires beyond a clean house! Schumer acknowledges both female desire and the silliness of what we must endure to fulfill it. And don’t even get
me started on the sketch about a women’s magazine brainstorming those horrible sex tips they always have. Just watch it.
I am not a modern woman writing this salute to Mary Tyler Moore; I am commenting on women’s comedy as a man. Clean humor can still get laughs. I invite you, again, to seek out clips of Mary Tyler Moore offering you that humor. As Women and Hollywood suggests, checkout clips and see. Here is one clip each from Mary Tyler Moore (1970-1977) and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966).
Matt – Friday, January 27, 2017