Hello Retrowatchers! Believe it or not we’ve come to the end of season one. That went fast, didn’t it? I am a champion TV marathoner, and even though watching one season over four weeks is relatively slow for me, it still flew by.
Let’s get to it: This week we discuss Mary Tyler Moore season 1, episodes 21-24.
My first thought after finishing these was: Well that was fun! Second thought: Ask and ye shall receive. Last week I said I wanted more episodes involving Lou and Rhoda; this week we get two spotlight episodes for Lou and one for Rhoda. Thanks, MTM writers!
Let’s start with Rhoda. For a character who made such a huge impression on me, it’s interesting that she only has two episodes where her story drives the plot – episode 6, “Support Your Local Mother”, and episode 23, “Smokey The Bear Wants You.” The 17 episodes in between show Rhoda in a mostly supporting role, but she also slowly develops as a character. In those 17 episodes, we learn she is a fantastic gift giver (I still can’t get over the rotisserie); a fierce and loyal friend – more on that later; the person to call on when your apartment is robbed or to ease a tense social situation; a lover of doctors; the fastest quipper this side of Lorelai Gilmore; and despite her constant self-degradation, a confident woman who knows her worth. Many of these qualities are seen in “Smokey The Bear Wants You.”
Rhoda and Mary meet the handsome Chuck Pelligrini (played by West Side Story’s Michael Callan) at gas station waiting for Rhoda’s car to be fixed. He gives them a ride home. Both women are taken with the handsome Chuck, but he only has eyes for Rhoda. They start dating, and everything is going great except for one thing: Chuck has a lot of money for someone who doesn’t seem to work. After a few failed attempts, Rhoda finally gets the truth: Chuck recently quit his job as vice president of a successful company. While the money was good, Chuck wasn’t happy and plans to go back to school to become a forest ranger.
This does not go over with our New York City born-and-bred Rhoda Morgenstern. “Can you imagine me living up in a treehouse with a guy in a boyscout hat?” she asks Mary. But because she like Chuck so much, Rhoda agrees to a weekend camping/hiking trip. This also does not go over well: “I now know the thrill of having a raccoon watch me change.” The episode ends with them still together, but I don’t see a future for these two. Still, props to Rhoda for making an effort.
While I enjoyed “Smokey The Bear Wants You,” Rhoda’s episode was not quite as strong as Lou’s episodes, in particular episode 21, “The Boss Isn’t Coming to Dinner.”
Oh Lou. Just when I think you can’t win my heart anymore, you prove me wrong again. We begin after Lou’s youngest daughter’s wedding. The gang meets back up at the station, where Lou is eager to go home to a kid-empty house and connect with his wife, Edie. Mary takes this opportunity to invite Lou and Edie over for dinner. Lou wants to delay it a couple of weeks, after he’s had a chance to enjoy being an empty-nester.
A few weeks later, Mary extends the invitation again, only to get rebuffed. This happens several more times and naturally, Mary starts to feel rejected. She finally decides to invite Edie directly and discovers that the Grants have separated. It turns out Edie’s idea of being an empty-nester doesn’t jive with Lou’s – she enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Or, as Lou puts it: “She’s a co-ed!”
In the hands of lesser writers, this episode could have gone a different way. Lou asks Mary to join him at the bar for some womanly advice on the situation. He quickly also invites the rest of the gang, and Mary can’t get a word in edgewise. Lou, Gordy, Murray, and Ted do not think it is proper for a woman in her 40’s to go back to school. Furthermore, they all agree that women don’t really know what they want, much to Mary’s annoyance. Finally, Mary can’t take it anymore and gives all them men some whatfor. She ends her rant by telling Lou, “You’re not ‘winning’ anything. You’re just losing.”
And here is where Lou stole my heart again: Everyone leaves (except Ted, of course) and Lou excuses himself to make a phone call. He calls Edie, and after stalling a little bit says, “Listen, if you’re not doing anything tonight…I’m coming home.” It’s the sweetest Lou moment to date – which is saying something. It is then followed by the funniest Lou moment to date:
I’ve laughed at a lot of things in season 1, but I don’t think I’ve laughed louder or harder than I did when that punchline came through. Bravo, writers. It was completely unexpected, yet after I recovered from laughing, I thought – you know, that’s actually a very accurate representation of married life. In a way, it’s just as sweet as sweet as Lou’s earlier declaration.
After watching the episode, it occurred to me that this is the first storyline revolving around Lou. In my post last week asking for a Lou episode, I didn’t realize that we had yet to have one. He was introduced so strong and is such a well-rounded character, I just assumed we had. Unlike Murray who is still somewhat of a mystery, Lou was formed from get go. Other episodes involve him- the pilot where he gets drunk and talks about Edie, and “He’s All Yours” where his nephew is hired, but this is the first Lou-centered plot.
The second Lou spotlight also serves as the season finale. As much as I appreciated “The 45-Year-Old Man,” it did pale in comparison with “The Boss Isn’t Coming to Dinner.”
When a new station manager is hired, everyone at WJM is fearful for their jobs, especially when the popular Big Chicken is fired due to low ratings. Lou, being Lou, rallies the troops and tells them no one is getting fired under his watch. Trouble is, it’s Lou that new boss Mr. Phelps wants to fire. He blames Lou for the low news ratings. The gang finds this out when Mr. Phelps calls the staff sans Lou into his office. They are all surprised and devastated, no one more so than Mary.
Not wanting Lou to find out his fate from Mr. Phelps, Mary gently breaks the news to him. He takes it pretty well: “When you’re in TV, changing jobs is a part of life. Ten years in one job is too long.” Mary suggests that Lou go to the station owner, famed cowboy Wild Jack Monroe, but Lou refuses. After all, he has his pride. He says that he’s had dozens of offers for other jobs – the trouble is, they were all from the same station. When Lou calls to accept, he finds out that the station is going through a youth movement, and at 45, Lou is too old.
The gang meets at Mary’s house to figure out how to save Lou’s job, and they decide to pay Wild Jack a visit. Supposedly, the owner has a soft spot for Lou. Wild Jack (played by real-life cowboy Slim Pickens), certainly lives up to his name. Mary enters his apartment to find him on a fake horse.
This is a pretty low-stakes episode. Like “Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II,” we know Lou isn’t going anywhere. However, I appreciated it as a companion piece to the Christmas episode. In that one, Mary gets a new job and Lou pulls some strings to get her to stay. In the season finale, Lou gets fired and Mary does everything she can to get him back. It’s a nice bookend to the season. These people are family.
Episode 22, “A Friend in Deed”, is another example of what I discussed last week regarding guest star appearance working better when they involve the whole cast. Fortunately, this one does. It’s not a serious episode; it’s just plain funny.
Twinks McFarland, Mary’s childhood friend from camp, gets a job at the station as the new receptionist and is thrilled to reconnect with Mary. The feeling is not mutual. Twinks never moved on from camp, and the two have nothing in common. That doesn’t stop Twinks from inserting herself into Mary’s life – getting chummy with Rhoda (who reacts to Twinks just as you would expect), and the WJM gang. Mary tries to end the friendship but is only pulled in deeper when Twinks asks her to be the maid of honor at her wedding. Twinks’ best friend from California can’t make it and the day is fast approaching. Of course Mary agrees, and when Rhoda tries to get Mary out of it, she ends up a bridesmaid.
This leads to the second largest laugh I produced watching season 1: The revelation of Mary’s maid-of-honor dress. It is truly a thing of beauty:
“All you need is a lamb,” Rhoda says. “You can go as Little Bo Peep.” That reminds me…
In the end, all of Mary’s efforts are for naught: Twinks tells Mary that her best friend can make it after all, so Mary doesn’t have to be in the wedding. Mary should be relieved, but she’s spent weeks helping to plan the wedding, throwing Twinks a bridal shower, and bought the horrible dress. Rhoda, being the awesome friend she is, points this out to Mary and encourages her to stick up for herself for once. Mary does; unfortunately it falls on deaf ears.
These last four episodes were a very strong end to MTM season 1. As I’ve said, I had my doubts going in, and even though it took me awhile, I am glad I started this project. Over the course of 24 episodes, I’ve come to know and love Mary and the people in her life. Turns out it’s a classic after all. I think she just might make it, guys.
-Gordy makes an appearance in both “The Boss Isn’t Coming to Dinner” and “The 45-Year-Old Man, and fits in seamlessly with the gang. I like having him around, even if he’s not in every episode, and I like that he is taken in as one of their own.
– Speaking of Gordy, the most successful running gag in these batch of episodes is in the season finale where everyone assumes Gordy is the sportscaster. Everyone, from Ted, the station manager, and even Wild Jack, complements Gordy on his sports reporting. Turns out Gordy is the weatherman. A confession: I thought Gordy did the sports, too. In fact, in an earlier post, I credited him as the WJM sportscaster. Is this a meta-joke by the writers or did Gordy switch occupations? Either way, it’s hilarious, and made me laugh every time.
– Ted’s drink of choice is a creme de menthe frappe. Of course it is.
– Mary’s friend Twinks is played by Pat Finely. I looked her up, sure that she had gone on to a successful career. Not so much. She had a recurring role on the Bob Newhart Show, but except for that, her credits are pretty sparse. A Google search brought up next to nothing. Anyone know what happened to her? She was quite good as Twinks.
– Twinks’ last name after she is married will be Tvedt. Mary thinks this is just tragic: Twinks Tvedt.
– Chuck’s big life change prompts the WJM gang to think about what they would do if they had the finances to change their life. Lou says he’s happy doing what he’s doing. Murray would climb mountains, building raft to sail Tahiti, and wallpaper his rec room. He knows how to live large, our Murray. Ted would be Cary Grant. His fallback: a king.
-Both Lou and his wife are considered “old.” Lou is 45 and Edie is 43. First of all, that’s way too young to have three grown children! Second of all, it’s not old.
It has to be noted that Rhoda and Lou were on fire this week. Here’s a few of their gems:
– “I look at a separation as I look at two boxers going to their separate corners between rounds. It doesn’t mean the fight is over, Mary. It just means they’re resting. “ – Lou, “The Boss Isn’t Coming to Dinner”
-Mary asks after Edie whens she finds out the Grants are separated and Edie is back in school:
Mary: How’s Mrs. Grant doing?
Lou: Oh B’s and C’s.
-“You’re the only person I know who’d take a trip rather than lie.” – Rhoda on Mary’s inability to be direct with Twinks, “A Friend In Deed.”
– “He has some stupid idea of being happy.” – Rhoda on Chuck, “Smokey the Bear Wants You.”
“I suppose you feel like Mary Poppins or something?” – Lou showing appreciation to Mary for getting his job back in “The 45-Year-Old Man.”
Nothing to report this week. Murray was pretty quiet.
– Don’t trust warm and friendly people. – Lou Grant
– The best kind of reunion is where you don’t know anybody. – Lou Grant
– You don’t know what a deprived childhood is until you’ve sung campfire songs on the subway – Rhoda Morgenstern
– What Lou learned after having three daughters who dated mysterious men:
1.) You have to let people make their own mistakes
2.) He was wrong about every almost suspicion he was had
3.) How to follow someone in a car without being spotted.
That’s it for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed season 1 as much as I did. A programming note: Next week’s post could be delayed until the weekend. In fact, with the new TV season starting, the weekly postings could be kicked back to the weekends all together. I’ll keep you updated. Look for the next post sometime around Sept. 21 or 22.
Up next, we dive into season 2:
The Birds… and… um… Bees
I Am Curious Cooper
He’s No Heavy… He’s My Brother