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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

IN MEMORIAM: Mary Tyler Moore, 1936-2017

The world lost a TV icon today with the passing of Mary Tyler Moore at the age of 80. When you think of the greatest sitcom actresses of all time, there are two that stand above the rest: Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore.

Much of the coverage today has focused on her iconic role on her self-titled show but no tribute of Mary would be complete without talking about her brilliant work first on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Laura Petrie. In an era where TV wives were confined to a stereotypical June Cleaver-style housewife role, Moore and the creators of The Dick Van Dyke Show clearly wanted more. They made her a partner in the marriage and quickly realized she was a gifted comedienne and used it to great effect. Who can forget her classic timing as she rolled in on top of a pile of walnuts or frantically tried to stuff an inflatable raft back in its box or tearfully explained to her husband that she told a TV audience that Alan Brady was bald. We also got to see her become a fashion icon and she got to show off her singing and dancing throughout five classic seasons with one of the best casts in the best written show of the 1960s.

After a few years away from TV, she returned with a vengeance in 1970 starring in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, quite possibly the greatest TV show of all time in my opinion. Starring as single career woman Mary Richards, Moore became a feminist icon and a role model for an entire generation. Surrounded by an incredible ensemble, she was the glue that held the entire show together. Turning the world on with her smile, she continued to show her unique comedic timing and talents. Though Mary Richards was nearly perfect in every way, Mary Tyler Moore made her very human and relatable as she suffered through bad dates, a male-dominated workplace, and of course, terrible parties. From iconic moments like her first job interview with Lou Grant to the day everything went wrong starting with a hair bump to her tour de force trying to contain her laughter at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown, Mary's performance elevated what was already a nearly perfect show.

Her two TV roles will be what she will always be remembered for and deservedly so but she had a long career on stage, in film, and on TV. She was nominated for an Academy Award playing against type in Ordinary People and steadily worked on TV movies, a couple short-lived shows, and many guest appearances through the 1990s and 2000s. She was also well known for being a fierce advocate for diabetes research as she herself suffered from the disease for over 40 years. Lucille Ball had a tremendous career on TV but she was always playing one form or another of the "Lucy" character. Mary Tyler Moore amazingly created two incredibly distinct personalities on two shows that will forever be remembered among the very greatest. Mary Richards and Laura Petrie are gifts Moore has left for us to enjoy for years to come. She made it after all.

For my Weekend Rewind on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, click here

For my Weekend Rewind on The Dick Van Dyke Showclick here

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