Just about every piece of criticism I’ve ever read about The Mary Tyler Moore Show (or just plain Mary Tyler Moore, which is the title in the opening credits) goes to great lengths to talk about how it’s one of the greatest sitcoms in TV history. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not. When you start attaching the label “greatest” to pieces of pop culture, there tend to be expectations involved, and surely that’s the case if the viewer is new to the show. I’ve got a massive amount of unconditional love for Mary Tyler Moore, but I watched this particular set with a more critical eye than I normally would, and tried to be a little bit more objective throughout my viewing.
The truth is that a fair amount of this series is horribly dated by today’s standards. What made the show so groundbreaking at the time – the idea of a career woman making it on her own without the help of a man – today seems awfully quaint and naïve. Further, there’s a great deal of sexism that pops up from time to time. Sometimes, when it’s from anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), it’s appropriately funny because Baxter is supposed to be a clueless buffoon. Other times, however, it comes from Mary’s boss, Lou Grant (Edward Asner), and it’s these instances that may very well have the power to get under people’s skin. Lou wasn’t like Ted, or even Archie Bunker for that matter: he was an intelligent, decent man, and a good boss, so it becomes all the more obnoxious when Mary is still expected to get him his coffee. In this season, when Mary is promoted to producer, she has to beg Lou to give her more responsibility; in his mind, giving her the title was plenty. Much of the series is probably an accurate reflection of what single career-minded women were going through in the ‘70s, so it’s really important to take all that into context when watching the show.
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