“I’d like to help you Mary, but I just don’t know how to make it appear that anybody likes and enjoys Ted Baxter.”

mary-tyler-moore-show-season-3-opening-credits-mary-waving-review-episode-guideHappy Holidays, Retrowatchers! If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it was smashing. If not, I hope you had a good Wednesday. We are in the final full week of the year, which is usually a time of reflection. 2013 has been pretty good. I’m grateful that I started this blog, and one of my resolutions for 2014 is to get back to regular postings. The last few months of the year are always crazy, and January serves as the reset button to a normal schedule.

Two things before we start:

1.) Santa surprised me with this book. I had no idea it existed, but am excited to delve in. I will share any insightful facts, fun stories, or juicy secrets with you. Also, I must point out the name: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. Please note who DIDN’T make the title. (coughcoughMurraycoughcough)

2.) While out Christmas shopping a few weeks ago, I found an Andy Warhole-type painting of Mary, Rhoda, and Phyllis at a funky shop called Miss Pixies.  Retrowatchers, it took everything in me not to buy it.  (Well, that and the somewhat steep price tag.) I wish the painting was showcased on the store website so I could link to it. I’ve never seen anything so random, so awesome, and so connected to something that is currently a big part of my life. So, dear reader: If you are ever at Miss Pixies and the painting is still there, let me know.

And now, season three! This week, we discuss the first four episodes of the third season of Mary Tyler Moore, including:
Episode 1: The Good-Time News
Episode 2: What is Mary Richard Really Like?
Episode 3: Who’s In Charge Here?
Episode 4: Enter Rhoda’s Parents

I left these four episodes with two impressions: 1.) Season three gets political. 2.) Martin Cohan is very close to usurping Treva Silverman as my favorite staff writer.

Mary the Riveter!

Mary the Riveter!

The season three opener, “The Good-Time News” threw me for a loop – in the best way. Mary finds out that her predecessor made $50 more a week and when she confronts Lou, he tells her flat out that it is because she’s a woman. “It has nothing to do with your work,” he reassures her. Mary and I are both shocked. I tend to forget that Lou is very old fashioned. He is such a good guy and good boss most of the time; the moments he’s NOT are always jarring.

Lou claims that the previous associate producer had a family to support: “Now why don’t you come back when you have an answer to that.” Mary – who has kept that spine she grew at the end of season two – gives Lou some what-for:

“Because financial need has nothing to do with it. Because in order to be consistent with what you’re saying you would have to pay the man with three children more than the man with two children, and the married man more than the bachelor, and Mr. Grant, you don’t do that. So what possible reason can you give me for not paying me at least as much as a man who had this job before me?”

Their fight is just beginning: The station manager wants Lou to play with the news format, and when Mary agrees, she is put in charge. Lou is livid. He doesn’t see that Mary was expressing her opinion and had the station’s best interests in mind – he insists that she “sold [him] out for fifty bucks a week!”

The good news is that Mary gets her shot. She makes Gordy Ted’s co-anchor and changes the format to a more casual, light atmosphere. The bad news is the whole thing is a disaster, culminating in Mary telling Ted to shut up on air.  One positive comes from Mary’s hard work – she gets her raise. Welcome to the 21st century, Lou!

Can we please discuss this dress?

Can we please discuss this dress?

“What is Mary Richards Really Like?” also addresses the role of women in the workplace. It’s presented more subtly, but on reflection, may actually be the most overtly feminist episode of this batch. Here are the three takeaways:

1.) Are we really to believe that Mary would agree to an interview without checking in with Lou? This isn’t a new concept:  Check with your employer before talking to the press.

2.) On the issue of sexism in the workplace: Would reporter Mark Williams treat a man how he treats Mary? He flirts throughout the interview, and asks Mary write out her answers when his tape recorder is out of batteries, claiming he doesn’t know shorthand. He ends the interview by asking her out, and while Mary is charmed, she also feels pressured: If she says no, will he write a bad article? Mark’s article turns out to be positive for Mary, but negative for Lou. Mary is painted as a heroine for working in the harsh newsroom environment. Again: He wouldn’t have praised Mary’s predecessor for putting up with Lou Grant’s drinking and Ted’s ego. This is a tricky subject, because of course a work environment that is traditionally male will be hard for a female to navigate. The reverse is also true – think about male nurses or elementary school teachers. I’m not saying that Mark’s article doesn’t hold some truth, but it is definitely one of the more political statements the show has made.

3.) After their date, Mark straight up asks Mary if he can spend the night. When she refuses, he says “Okay” and leaves. Mary is floored:

I have no problems with this scene. Mary’s reaction is priceless, and her conversation with Rhoda is very authentic. Frankly I was surprised to see them take on the topic of sex in such a real way. My problem is with what comes next: Mark returns and basically says exactly what Rhoda predicted. The stronger ending would be to close at Mary and Rhoda’s discussion.

I do find it interesting that this episode was written by a woman, Susan Silver. Is the whole thing a commentary on the pioneers of woman writers in television? A running gag throughout the episode is people asking Mary why anyone would want to interview her, and her pat response is because she is a woman in television and the news. Did Susan Silver, Treva Silverman, Pat Nardo, Gloria Banta, and Jenna McMahon have similar experiences?

This is an admirable episode; my problem with it is not the questions it poses, but that it feels very disjointed. The thread from Mary being interviewed for being a pioneer to telling Mark she won’t sleep with him is tenuous. While I like that Silver raises these points – and the network allowed her – I’m not sure the episode works as a whole. But still: I applaud her for starting the conversation about women in the work place, and for having the guts to write that scene between Mary and Rhoda. I don’t imagine many television shows in 1972 featured women talking about whether or not they are comfortable having sex after the first date.

Cohan vs. Silverman: Who will win out season three?

Cohan vs. Silverman: Who will win out season three?

The final two episodes are a double header from Martin Cohan. Retrowatchers, you know my love for Treva Silverman runs deep. She was without a doubt the VIP of season two. Season three may just go to Cohan. He is certainly off to a great start, and it is not surprising he co-created two long-running shows a decade later.

“Who’s In Charge Here?” sees Lou promoted to program manager. As one might expect, he’s not happy about it:

Lou: Up there I’m really going to have to work at being good.

Mary: Yeah I think I know what you mean. Down here you were good without even working.

The (not so) crazy thing is that Lou is actually a very good program manager. He may not feel comfortable in a huge office sitting at a desk without any drawers, but he takes the job seriously, intent on making his own imprint. It’s fun to see Lou actually work. Unfortunately, the executives aren’t as excited, and just as quickly as he left, he’s back in the newsroom. We knew it wouldn’t last, but it’s nice to shake things up every once in awhile.

For me, the best part of this episode is not seeing Lou thrive, but watching Phyllis become Mary’s cheerleader.* She encourages Mary to put herself in the running for Lou’s job. According to Phyllis, it is Mary’s duty as a woman in the workplace to take whatever she can get. Phyllis admits that she is a product of old stereotypes: She’s a stay at home mother who has never worked. But Mary isn’t. I love seeing Phyllis in Mary’s corner, and unlike other causes Phyllis has taken on, this seems sincere.

*Yes, that’s right, Retrowatchers. Phyllis was my favorite part of an episode. What can I say, she is growing on me. You win this round, Leachman.

When Lou gives the job to Murray – because he is a man – Phyllis is outraged: “This affront to you is an affront to all womankind!” While I wouldn’t go that far, I do agree that Murray is a lousy news director.

Harold GouldAfter three episodes revolving around the role of women in the workplace, “Enter Rhoda’s Parents” offers a more traditional MTM story. The biggest thing to come from the episode: We finally meet Rhoda’s father, and he is just as delightful as expected. Played by Harold Gould, Martin Morgenstern is the yin to Ida Morgenstern’s yang. The two make a great pair, and Gould fits right in with Nancy Walker and Valerie Harper. I was happy to see that Gould was not recast for Rhoda; it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Martin.

The second thing I took away from “Enter Rhoda’s Parents”: More wheels in motion for a spinoff. Mary and WJM are secondary to this story – it is all Ida Morgenstern. The episodes three biggest scenes are all motivated by Ida: Telling Rhoda she suspects Martin is cheating on her, giving Martin a tour of WJM, and Martin finally convincing her that he has been faithful. I am not complaining – unlike “His Two Right Arms”, this is a kind-of-sort-of backdoor pilot that works. We know and love Rhoda and Ida, and Martin is a fantastic addition. Most impressive is how Rhoda is clearly a product of her parents: She has Martin’s wit and Ida’s insecurity. Rhoda may be baffled by the logic behind Ida’s infidelity suspicions, but I can picture her coming to the same conclusion.

My only complaint? No Ted! I’m not sure why he wasn’t in the newsroom scene, though I can’t complain. Nancy Walker is a delight.

Well done, Martin Cohan. Well done.

Other Thoughts:
– As mentioned, Martin Morgenstern is played by Harold Gould. Gould was a character actor probably best known for this role and for playing Miles Webber on The Golden Girls. However, I recognized him from his two-episode stint on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, where he played bad guy Edwin Griffin (aka The Prankster’s father.)
– More feminism in the work place: Mary wears a pantsuit for her interview with Mark Williams. It marks the first time she has worn pants to work, and Lou requests she never do it again.
– Even though it was written 12 years prior to Who’s the Boss?  the episode title “Who’s In Charge Here?” makes me laugh. Was this an early contender for the show? Also, thanks to Community, we know without a doubt that the Angela is the boss.

-“Enter Rhoda’s Parents” answers a question I’ve been wondering from the pilot: Mary’s mysterious closet also houses her bathroom.

1970s vs. Today:
– Rhoda talks of dating a stewardess in “The Good-Time News.” Mary says they are called stewards. It will be a few more decades until flight attendant takes hold.
–  Mary does an editorial about population growth and the estimates are that if population continues to grow at same rate we will be 7 million by “the year 2000.”
– Rhoda and her parents have “chicken in a bucket with Chad Everett for dinner.” My guess is they were watching Medical Center.

There were many. Just  a few of my favorites:
“We’re talking about news here. News. Our job isn’t to make people laugh. … News is truth, Jack. And I’m not going to make it into something fake.” – Lou Grant gets serious.
– “I’d like to help you Mary. But I just don’t know how to make it appear that anybody likes and enjoys Ted Baxter.” – Lou on the new, lighter WJM News format.
– “I sleep in the raw.” – unsolicited fact from Ted Baxter
– “They don’t want any new ideas. They just want me to sit behind my desk and look like a program manager. Take the money and smile. That’s not me, Mary.” – Lou Grant
– Mary: Oh don’t you look pretty!
Ida: It’s probably the new shoes.
(This is my new line for compliments, replacing Lorelai Gilmore’s “It’s the shower, I gotta try it more often!”)
– “I’ll just sit here in the dark and try to figure out where it all went wrong.” – Ida Morgenstern, world’s worst sleepover guest.
– “Oh hey Mary. You’re late. I’ve missed your bright smile and infectious vivacity around this otherwise humdrum newsroom.” – Murray finally gets a winning line!

Life Advice:
– The only reason to dress up for a meeting is if you are insecure. – Ted Baxter
– There is no such thing as too sexy. – Rhoda Morgenstern
– A desk needs drawers, mainly for storing liquor. – Lou Grant

That’s a wrap for this week, folks! I am excited about season three – it is off to a great start. Next time, we discuss episodes 5-8, including:
– It’s Whether You Win or Lose
– Rhoda the Beautiful
– Just Around the Corner
– But Seriously, Folks

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