When I see old television shows from my childhood that are now on Hulu and Netflix I am reminded that back in the day my favorite show was not the same as my young friends. Their favorites were The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver.
I never screamed when David Cassidy sang, “I think I Love You” on the Partridge Family. I do, however remember a poster of him that seemed to be on the bedroom wall of all my friends. He was okay and so was the show, but I didn’t dream of one day being his sweetheart. I am also relatively sure that my parents wouldn’t let us watch it anymore after his risque appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.
My friends thought Christopher Knight who played Peter On the Brady Bunch was crush worthy. Again, the Brady Bunch was okay, but I always wondered why they needed a housekeeper when Carol was a stay at home mom. It didn’t occur to me that there were still plenty of men and women in the sixties and into the seventies that believed women, especially mothers, needed to be home cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids. No wonder Florence Henderson’s character was portrayed as the world’s most perfect mother, what else did she have to do? (Florence Henderson wanted Carol to have a job but the producers wouldn’t go there). Alice was the one who kept things going.
The show that I didn’t want to miss started with a graphic, that for 1970, was very high tech. I remember asking my mom how they made it look like that on television. She didn’t know. Next there was the very charismatic and upbeat song. The first line, ‘”Who can turn the world on with her smile?” lets us know this is no ordinary female. The song seemed to hint that we should prepare ourselves for a spunky woman that could hold her own among male colleagues. Every time, even now, when I hear the final verse of the song, “You’re gonna make it after-all” I feel empowered.
Of course, the show is outdated now, but it was cutting edge and pushing the limits in it’s time. The fact that my father hated the show only made me more intrigued. It must have aired on Lodge Night, because I would watch it with my mom and sister. If Dad was home he ruled the t.v. as the king of his castle. I don’t recall Mom and my sister enjoying it as much as I did but I doubt I talked about since that would have opened me up to my sister criticism. I loved the way the “old biddy” is caught shooting Mary a dirty look when the introduction goes to a freeze frame. In my mind it made the hat toss equal to an “in your face” to the old bat with the disapproving scowl. Her character wasn’t ditzy like Barbara Eden’s Jeannie or always worried about doing something a husband would disapprove of like Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha. Mary Tyler Moore’s, Mary Richards had a mind of her own and spoke her opinions and thoughts. I wanted to be like Mary and have a job and an apartment in a city. I wanted make it on my own.
Mary Richards didn’t have to be ignorant to get laughs. She was witty and intelligent. Mary might have lived in a small apartment but she wasn’t borrowing money from her parents or depending on a husband or boyfriend to take care of her. Never once did we see her begging Lou or Maurie to repair her car. We also didn’t see her calling home and blubbering to her parents about how she felt like she was missing out on life because she wasn’t married and childless. Mary was the driver on the road of life compared to most the women I observed that seemed to be at best stuck in the passenger seat.
The Mary Tyler Moore show was a little more realistic than most of the other sixties sit-coms. Mary wasn’t rich, she was barley making ends meet, but she did. She didn’t have a perfect love life yet she didn’t moan and groan over it. We also knew she was lonely at times. She showed us that getting emotional from time to time wasn’t a weakness that hurt her job performance. It made her real and human even if poor old Mr. Grant didn’t know how to handle it.
No one gets to have a perfect life. Off camera she struggled with alcoholism, and diabetes, she was married three times. She lost her only child when he accidentally shot himself. She lost her vision 6 years before she died. Through it all, she moved forward. It has been three years since she died at age 80. While she was here, she lived out loud and blazed trails. One could say, she really did make it after all and inspired a lot of girls to do the same.
Thank you Mary Tyler Moore. You were my role model before I knew what a role model was. I am going wear a hat today and toss it up in the air in your honor.
It’s Ground Hog Day and Super bowl Sunday. Enjoy!