"Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's deft weave of social history and sharp entertainment reporting explains how [The Mary Tyler Moore Show] made the world safe for Lena Dunham" (Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls)—the making of a classic and groundbreaking TV show, as experienced by its producers, writers, and cast.
When writer-producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns dreamed up an edgy show about a divorced woman with a career, the CBS executives they pitched replied: “American audiences won’t tolerate divorce in a series’ lead any more than they will tolerate Jews, people with mustaches, and people who live in New York.”
Forty years later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of the most beloved and recognizable television shows of all time. It was an inspiration to a generation of women who wanted to have it all in an era when everything seemed possible.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted tells the stories behind the making of this popular classic, introducing the groundbreaking female writers who lent real-life stories to their TV scripts; the men who created the indelible characters; the lone woman network executive who cast the legendary ensemble—and advocated for this provocative show—and the colorful cast of actors who made it all work. James L. Brooks, Grant Tinker, Allan Burns, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel—they all came together to make a show that changed women’s lives and television itself. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted is the tale of how they did it.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran for seven seasons (1970 1977), made it big, and the series remains one of TV's most acclaimed, with 29 Emmys total. Entertainment writer Armstrong's affectionate and meticulous history offers a captivating behind-the-scenes look at all of the personalities who turned the show into a success. Fast-paced and charming, Armstrong's chronicle brings to life writers Treva Silverman (who wrote scripts for The Monkees), Allan Burns (My Mother the Car), and James L. Brooks (Rhoda; Taxi), who labored mightily in 1970 on the scripts for Mary Tyler Moore. The show pulled Moore back from the brink of the career disasters since the end of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and created for her a forceful persona surrounded by actors such as the irascible Ed Asner, the indefatigable Betty White, and the lovably eccentric Valerie Harper. Even more important, Armstrong points out, the show provided significant opportunity for women television writers to establish their careers in an industry in which they were noticeably absent. Armstrong's absorbing cultural history offers the first in-depth look at a series that changed television.
Yearned for more quotes
I enjoyed this hat-tossing walk down Mary Tyler Moore Lane, but I wanted to hear more from Mary. Where were her quotes? The book felt flat and needed Mary's true self woven throughout. I loved reading about the women writers who walked new ground for females in comedy. And I enjoyed reading about how the breakthrough show was a catalyst for women's changing roles in the 1970s. Yet, the book needed to "show" more than "tell."
Overall, a good read; just needed more Mary umph.