"How will you make it on your own?" These lyrics from the original version of the Mary Tyler Moore Show's theme song, "Love Is All Around" were the first words heard by the viewers as 30-year-old Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) left her hometown and drove into Minneapolis in the opening episode of the series' inaugural season. Hoping to find new professional vistas -- and, incidentally, to get over a failed romance -- Mary moves into an attic apartment in the building managed by pretentious flibbertigibbet Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). Almost immediately, the sweet, insecure Mary finds herself embroiled in a war of words with her New York-born neighbor Rhoda Morganstern (Valerie Harper), who had wanted the attic room for herself. Despite this bad beginning, Mary and Rhoda would soon be the closest of friends. Answering a want ad posted by local TV station WJM-TV, Mary has an unforgettable interview with Lou Grant (Ed Asner), irascible, hard-drinking producer of the station's nightly news broadcast. "You know what?" Lou effuses to Mary. "You've got spunk." Pause. "I HATE spunk!" Even so, and despite her complete lack of experience in the TV world, Lou offers Mary the job of the newscast's associate producer. This allows her to become acquainted with the rest of the staff, including good-natured news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), weatherman Gordy Howard (John Amos), and especially anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), whose monumental ego is matched only by his miniscule brain.
Most of The Mary Tyler Moore Show's first-season episodes deal with Mary's efforts to acclimate herself to her new surroundings, her new job, and her new friends, and also her ongoing search for "Mr. Right" in the dating field. Incidentally, when the series was in development, Mary was supposed to have been a divorcée, but this notion was squelched when CBS executives, acknowledging the popularity of Mary Tyler Moore's previous series The Dick Van Dyke Show, worried that audiences would conclude that "Rob and Laura Petrie" had broken up! In another bit of trivia, it should be noted that the original pilot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show had been filmed in the traditional one-camera "movie" style, minus a live studio audience. That the decision to shoot the series with three cameras in front of a crowd was a wise one can be determined by a peek from the existing clip of the first pilot's "Mary meets Lou" sequence: the characters are there, the lines are there, but the warmth, the heart, and the immediacy are not.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended its first season as the 22nd most popular series in America. It also took home its first Emmy awards, for Outstanding Supporting Actor (Ed Asner); Outstanding Supporting Actress (Valerie Harper); Outstanding Directorial Achievement (Jay Sandrich, for the episode "Toulouse-Latrec Is One of My Favorite Artists"); and Outstanding Writing Achievement (James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, for "Support Your Local Mother," in which Nancy Walker makes her first appearance as Rhoda Morganstern's obstreperous mom, Ida). ~ Hal Erickson
Cast & Crew
Mary Tyler Moore - Mary Richards
Edward Asner - Lou Grant
Ted Knight - Ted Baxter
Gavin MacLeod - Murray Slaughter
Valerie Harper - Rhoda Morgenstern