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A DVD package worthy of TV's most beloved sit-com
on July 9, 2006
Not only is The Mary Tyler Moore Show one of the very best - and probably the most beloved - situation comedy of all-time, this Season One collection is one of the best television DVD box sets on the market. The fact that Fox really did Season One right made it all the more unfortunate that plans for Season Two were shelved for so long - now, though, I can write this review with all the delight I can muster, knowing that the long-awaited Season Two set is finally set for release. It will have a hard time topping this one, but the important thing is that it and the remaining five seasons of the show are released because, as an online petition made clear, we want our Mary.
I really don't know how anybody cannot love this show. Mary, Lou, Murray, Ted, Rhoda, Phyllis - these are characters we all know and love (OK - I'll admit Phyllis is hard to love). This show was just one classic moment after another, right from the start of the very first episode. Each half hour was a guaranteed good time with good friends. I was late for the premiere, not coming into the world until the night of the third episode, so I can't really speak from experience about how different and ground-breaking a show this was back in 1970; as a matter of fact, I didn't really like the show when I was very young - proving just how dumb little kids can be. Looking back now, though, it's impossible not to view this show as a real product of the 1970s. Here, in Mary Richards, was a new kind of female character - a single, independent thirty-year-old woman making it on her own in what had traditionally been a man's world. At its heart, the show was all about the life of a young professional, single woman in a new, feminist era - yet the show was not overtly feminist. Heck, Mary Richards was exactly the kind of woman any man in his right mind would want to marry. I also have to note the fact that Mary was the only woman I know of who always looked good in the fashion debacle that was the 1970s. Then there was Rhoda, an altogether different kind of new woman. Lou Grant, of course, is a product of traditional thinking, but even he proves flexible - in his own grouchy way - of adjusting to change. I could go on and on about these characters: good old Murray, Ted Baxter, even Gordy the weatherman. Ted Knight was nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal of the one-and-only Ted Baxter.
In many ways, the show's first season was my favorite. The original cast gelled instantly, Mary was at her perkiest, and the opening montage and music were perfect - the show's opening changed a little bit from one season to the next. Sonny Curtis' Love Is All Around was the perfect theme song, and the hat toss at the end became an instant cultural icon. Not only do you get all 24 shows from that magical first season in this DVD box set, you get all kinds of great extras: commentary on select episodes, an MTM trivia challenge (a piece of cake for us true fans), a still gallery of images related to the show's first season, clips from the Emmy Awards of 1971 (where Ed Asner and Valerie Harper took home awards for best supporting actor and actress in a comedy series, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns won for outstanding writing achievement in a comedy - for an episode CBS adamantly opposed making, and Jay Sandrich won for outstanding directorial achievement in a comedy) - not bad for a show that the clueless suits at CBS absolutely hated in the beginning. That leads me to the spectacular 90-minute documentary from 2002 that is included in this collection. It is an incredibly informative, entertaining look back at the show by almost everyone involved in its creation (only one of the writers, Lorenzo Music, and of course the great Ted Knight were no longer with us at that time). It's really a remarkable story, one that really reinforces the wonderful affinity everyone on this series enjoyed with one another. It's almost impossible to believe some of the problems the show faced in pre-production, especially the disastrous first live run on what became known as Black Tuesday - and who could have guessed that Gavin MacLeod initially read for the part of Lou Grant, or that CBS did all it could to get Ed Asner replaced?
Basically, what I am trying to say is that this Season One set was and is a dream come true for all of us MTM fans. If you care anything at all about quality television at its best, you will add The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season One to your personal collection.