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RERUNS TO RE--WATCH

Mr. Gra-a-nt, Has It Really Been 20 Years?

February 17, 1991|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For seven glorious seasons, Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile as perky Mary Richards in the classic television series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Fans can relive the series' golden moments Monday when CBS presents Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was one of the most innovative TV series of its time, the first to explore the world of an independent thirtysomething career woman. When the series began Mary Richards had just broken up with the man she had been dating for four years and she had moved to Minneapolis to start her life over. She rented a studio apartment and got a job as assistant producer of the local news on WJM-TV.

The series also boasted some of the most memorable supporting characters to grace the TV screen. There was Mary's blustery boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), her best friend Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), her nosy landlady Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), obnoxious dimwitted news anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), good-natured news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), the "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nevins (Betty White), and Ted's sweet, but addled wife Georgette (Georgia Engel).

The writing and producing staff was equally first-rate. Among the writer-producers was James L. Brooks, who went on to produce "Terms of Endearment" (which won him two Oscars) and "Broadcast News"; he is currently co-executive producer of "The Simpsons." He worked with the show's creators, Allan Burns, who later created and produced "FM" and "Eisenhower and Lutz," and Ed. Weinberger of "Taxi" fame.

During its seven seasons, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" won 27 Emmys including outstanding comedy series (three times); outstanding comedy actress (six); outstanding supporting actor for Asner (three) and Knight (two), and outstanding supporting actress for Harper (three), Leachman (two) and White (two).

Hosted by Moore, the special will feature numerous clips from the series, which aired on CBS from 1970-77. Also on hand will be the series' regulars: Asner, Harper, Leachman, White and Engel.

Moore, Brooks, Weinberger and Burns held a press conference recently in Los Angeles to talk about the series and the special.

"It is very comfortable watching clips of the series," Moore said. "For a while in New York, they ran three shows back-to-back starting at 1 in the morning. I would say, 'I will watch this one show.'

"But then I would have deep circles under my eyes because I would watch all three and enjoy them on a level I wasn't able to the first or second rerun because I was still critical of myself and would wonder if I could have been better. I see all the other people to a much deeper degree than I did before."

Moore said, in retrospect, the series went off the air too soon. "Maybe we should have had another year or two," she said. "Everyone was so anxious to move on, not to do another things, but fearful that we would repeat, that we be wouldn't fresh and innovative."

"When I saw the clips the other day, I was blown away with Mary," Brooks said. "I was amazed. There aren't many women with that kind of comedy skill and ability and looked that good...

"The show was a miracle. It was one of those great things that happened to us. Because Mary had an on-air commitment for CBS, we had time (to prepare). We spent months and months casting."

Asner, who was best known for his dramatic guest-starring roles on TV, gave a terrible audition, Burns recalled. "I think Ed was one of our last possibilities," he said. "We had read so many people, our hopes were so high for him and then he came in and didn't do very well.

"We sort of hung our heads and 15 minutes later he came back and said, 'I was absolutely awful. Tell me what is it you really want to do and I will do it for you.' We talked to him for awhile and he did it. We had lots of times to second-guess ourselves and it paid off."

"The character of Ted Baxter was supposed to be a good-looking leading man type," Moore said. "Then Ted Knight came in and inspired a new concept."

"Gavin came in to read for Lou Grant," Burns said. "After he read it, he said he didn't want to play that part. He wanted to play Murray, so we read him again."

"Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show" airs Monday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS.

Reruns of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" air Monday-Friday at 5:30 p.m. on KDOC.

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