This week we lost a bonafide TV legend with the passing of Mary Tyler Moore at age 80. We’re at a point in time now where many of our favourite TV stars from the 1960s and 70s are starting to disappear, and that saddens me greatly when I think back to how important they were to the popular culture of my youth.
Though she first gained stardom on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966, Mary really hit it big just a few years later on CBS with her own The Mary Tyler Moore Show starting in 1970. This show, along with others like All In The Family and The Bob Newhart Show were part of a new era on CBS that featured more contemporary, sophisticated themes after what was known as "Rural Purge", in which folksy, small town series were being cancelled (despite still high ratings) in favour of shows that would attract viewers who were young urban professionals. Mary Tyler Moore and her MTM Productions would become one of the major players in this new media trend.
What’s striking about the series is the basic decency and genuine goodness of its central character, Mary Richards, which I’m sure comes about naturally through the delightfully charming Mary Tyler Moore herself who really does typify the All-American Girl. One can’t help but root for Mary, and I’m sure that all viewers just fell in love with her. That era of TV is still magical to me, as I don’t think that same type of character could exist today in modern TV’s cynical and edgy style of sitcoms, sadly enough. Also, back in the early 70s, in those pre-VCR (and way before PVR) years, viewers had to make a point of staying home to watch these shows as they were broadcast, or miss out altogether. As a result, we all had a shared culture where viewers were aware of most of what was on our dozen or so TV channels, and would talk about the shows with each other at school or the office the day after they aired. We also watched these series on the one TV in the living room along with our family members, so I think that families were much closer and shared similar values as a result.
And Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and iconic TV stars of that 70‘s era, which is why there was such an emotional outpouring of adoration and sadness throughout social media at the news of her passing. So dear Mary, thanks for your legacy of great entertainment. There will never be another one as special as you, and you always did turn the world on with that big beautiful smile!