As the semester winds down and my required reading list for seminary begins to shrink, I usually treat myself to some non-academic books on subjects that interest me. That’s why I picked up Love is All Around: The Making of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Corina and I are classic TV fans. We like old television shows, and one of our favorites is Mary Tyler Moore. The show originally ran from 1970-77 and featured some of the most memorable characters in television history.
First there’s the all-American Mary Richards, trying to make it on her own as a single woman in her 30’s in Minneapolis.
Then, there’s her neighbor and friend, Rhoda Morgenstern, a fast-talking Jew from New York.
Phyllis Lindstrom, the landlord – a feminist trying to raise a child according to the newest books.
Lou Grant – Mary’s boss at the low-rated TV station, WJM.
Ted Baxter – the clueless anchorman whose big ego leaves no room for a brain.
Murray Slaughter – the everyman news-writer, trying to stay above water and support a family.
Georgette Baxter – the ditsy, lovable woman who falls in love with Ted
Sue Ann Nivens – the man-crazy “happy homemaker”
Even the supporting cast is fantastic: Gordy the weatherman, Ida Morgenstern (Rhoda’s guilt-inducing mother), and Mary’s on-and-off boyfriend played by Jerry Van Dyke.
Mary Tyler Moore is a television treasure. If you haven’t seen the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode (in which Chuckles the Clown goes to the circus dressed as a peanut and gets “shelled” by a rogue elephant), you have missed a hilarious part of our television history.
Unfortunately, Love is All Around is a rather bland book that seeks to celebrate The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but fails to adequately chronicle its history. The authors interviewed the writers and cast of the show and simply “copy-pasted” their responses into the text of the biography. There’s hardly any authoring done in this book. At times, you forget who is speaking.
Furthermore, the authors are obsessed with the political dimensions of Mary Tyler Moore, seeking to write the history of this show as if it were a treatise on feminism. But even the quotes of the cast and crew diminish their thesis. “We weren’t trying to make overt political statements, only capture the feeling of the period,” they say. But the authors refuse to take “no” for an answer.
Any fan of Mary Tyler Moore will catch political overtones in some of the episodes, but often feminism is mocked (think – Phyllis) as much as it is celebrated. Mary Richards may have been independent, but she never sacrificed her “lady-like” behavior. This show’s writers were brilliant in the way they averted the politicization of this show, all the while poking fun at all sides of the culture wars. Mary Tyler Moore was never like All in the Family, even if the authors of this book would have appreciated such a comparison.
If you like Mary Tyler Moore, buy the 4 seasons that have already been released on DVD. You’ll enjoy them a lot more than this pallid effort to pay tribute to a television classic.
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog