Why the Mary Tyler Moore Show was the best sitcom – ever

Dear Generation Z,

Late Boomers here. Hey, we know you don’t want to hear this over and over and over (I’ll spare you the “walked uphill to/from school both ways” story), but yesterday we were reminded once again of a powerful force that entered our homes 40 years ago. 

We didn’t even realize it at the time, but it was right there, on our TV sets. We didn’t have remote controls or even cable but we did have an antenna the size of a Yugo on top of our houses, and if that didn’t work we had rabbit ears on top of our TVs. What we did have was Weezie, Archie & Edith, Maude and yes, Mary Richards. 

We’re sorry all you have is Sheldon, Penny and those mind-numbing two broke girls (you’d think they would have saved up some money by now) when we had George Jefferson, Fred Sanford, Hawkeye and Sue Ann Nivens; almost makes us feel guilty. We didn’t even realize our sitcom creators were poking holes in discrimination against minorities, women, gays, you name it by portraying the discriminators as stone-aged buffoons. We start to think that, unfathomable as it may seem in 2017, you might need to hear some of those messages again. 

And oh, we had theme songs; lyrics that are permanently stuck in our heads, that we can sing verbatim even when we can’t remember what we had for supper last night. Give us “Oh the way Glenn Miller played…”, “Well, we’re movin’ on up…” or “Lady Godiva was a freedom rider…” and we’ll take it from there. 

Today you may be wondering why we’re making such a fuss about this lady named Mary Tyler Moore. For many of us, her show was the greatest of all because of its brilliant cast and messaging were more subtle than we inferred from “All in the Family” or “Maude,” but just as memorable. Mary inspired us all but I suspect she particularly struck a chord with women. She was, after all, a female character whose lines were written in large part by women because, you know, women generally understand how women work better than men understand how women work. What a concept. 

Long before women’s marches and gay pride parades, Mary was making her mark as a strong female in an all-male newsroom, one who was not fixated on getting married and took it in stride when she learned a friend was gay. Believe it or not, there was a time when strong females were a rarity and, well, hardly anybody took it in stride when they learned someone was gay. 

For these and many more reasons, we’re sad today. I’m not certain but I suspect that, 40 years from now, you’re not going to be mourning Sheldon Cooper because he rocked your world. We didn’t know it at the time, but Mary Richards did rock our worlds; mainly, though, she turned the world on with her smile. Rest in peace, MTM, love is all around.

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