So THAT’S who Ed Asner was

This Has Gotta Stop

Ed Asner
“Voice Awards-2015

Apparently, I hadn’t raised my daughter correctly. When I told her that Ed Asner had died at the age of 91, there was no glint of recognition. She’s not familiar with WJM, the fictitious Twin Cities television station at the heart of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77).

Whereas I watched almost ALL of those MTM production shows, including the show’s spinoff, Lou Grant (1977-82).

But all was not lost. Apparently, in the online chat, folks were noting that Carl Fredericksen, Asner’s character in the Pixar animated film Up, was reunited with his beloved Ellie. My daughter has seen Up.

Then I asked her if she remembered the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode from 2013 called Monster’s Legacy. Asner played sports coach Martin Schultz. “Was it rural?” Yeah, that was the one. Spoiler: he was the bad guy.

Interesting that, prior to 1970, he often played the “heavy.” I recognized him from a LOT of shows before MTMS. He played five different characters on Route 66, three on The Untouchables, and many more. On IMDB, he had more than 400 acting credits.

He won seven Emmys, more than any other male actor. Three were for The Mary Tyler Show, two for Lou Grant, and two for single performances in the television miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) and Roots (1977). I remember that his slave ship captain’s wig in Roots seemed ill-fitting.

Ed Asner was an unabashed political progressive. He was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) from 1981 through 1985. Fittingly, he achieved a posthumous legal victory as a judge formally denied SAG-AFTRA Health Plan’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit.


My daughter wanted to know if I knew who Eric Clapton was. Well, of course. I have LOTS of his music by Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, and lots of solo work. So naturally, she pointed out his new protest song “This Has Gotta Stop.”

“Last year’s ‘anti-lockdown song’ with Van Morrison, ‘Stand and Deliver,’ suggested ‘that governments scrambling to keep their populations alive are somehow stealing from them.’ The announcement of that song also led to the resurfacing of racist comments Clapton made in 1976, which he apologized for.

I can forgive the old bigotry, though my daughter is less generous. But we share a disdain for the anti-vax stuff. One hates when your heroes turn out to be clods.

Mary Tyler Moore: “girl with the three names”

Danny Thomas thought Mary Tyler Moore had too small a nose to play HIS daughter on his sitcom

When I went to see the movie Ordinary People in 1980, I knew that, like the character Beth, Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week, had a son die tragically, and during the filming period. It’s impossible to ascertain how that event affected her acting. But it was a ferocious performance; one of my friends said, painfully, it reminded him of his growing up.

Mary was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, though she lost to Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter. But it was clear, Beth was NOT “Our Mare!” that we knew from the show named after her, one of the most popular TV shows ever, which “helped define a new vision of womanhood.” Mary Richards is the cultural ancestor of Murphy Brown, Liz Lemon, Carrie Bradshaw, and so many others. There was initial talk of having Mary Richards be divorced, but that was nixed.

That theme, written and sung by Sonny Curtis, who wrote “I Fought the Law”, was changed after season 1. The iconic first line, “Who could turn the world on with her smile?” started in the second season after she actually moved, got her job, and made new friends after a romantic breakup. The theme song’s original first line was “How will you make it on your own?” The last line was also changed from “You just might make it after all,” to “You’re gonna make it after all.”

It’s well-repeated that shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, produced by MTM Enterprises, Mary’s company with second husband Grant Tinker, had people staying home on Saturday nights, and it was true. Here’s the fall CBS Saturday night schedule, with # indicating an MTM show:
1970: Mission: impossible (hr), My Three Sons, Arnie [no, I don’t remember it either], MTM#, Mannix (hr0 -[Mike Connors just died, too – watched that show regularly as well]
1971: All in the Family, Funny Face, New Dick Van Dyke Show, MTM#, M:I (hr)
1972: AITF, Bridget Loves Bernie, MTM#, Bob Newhart Show#, M:I (hr)
1973: AITF, MAS*H, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Carol Burnett Show (hr) – THE classic lineup
1974: AITF, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers#, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Burnett (hr)
1975 and 1976: The Jeffersons, Doc#, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Burnett (hr)

alt MTM opening
Love Is All Around – Joan Jett
Chuckles the Clown’s funeral

John Amos on being on the MTM show

I watched all the spinoffs, Rhoda, Phyllis, and especially the hour-long drama Lou Grant. And those other MTM Enterprises shows were among my favorites: The Tony Randall Show (1976-1978), The White Shadow (1978-1981), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Paris (1979-1980), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), St. Elsewhere (1982-1988), and Newhart (1982-1990)

But it’s the original Dick Van Dyke Show where I learned about Mary Tyler Moore, the “girl with three names” who Danny Thomas thought had too small a nose to play HIS daughter on his sitcom, but who he recommended to play Laura Petrie to Dick’s Rob. And when I was eight and a half when the show started, I noted that she was pretty.

But there was something about the episode It May Look Like a Walnut, featuring Danny Thomas, a month shy of my 10th birthday. I couldn’t have identified it at the moment, but I later realized that Laura Petrie rolling out of a closet on a wave of walnuts was sexy as all get out.

DVD show opening
DVD/MTM song and dance
another DVD song and dance
I Am a Fine Musician
It May Look Like a Walnut – 5 minutes

Growing Up with Mary Tyler Moore: The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Larry Mathews Shares Memories of His TV Mom
Mary Tyler Moore’s Greatest Quotes

I’ve watched Mary Tyler Moore in all sorts of projects, from Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman Special, to at least four other series she starred in, to that not very good Mary Richards/Rhoda Morganstern reunion in 2000, to a 2013 appearance in Hot in Cleveland with Betty White and Georgia Engel. Before the Dick Van Dyke Show, I probably saw her in a bunch of shows, but I never watched a show hosted by Boris Karloff called Thriller

The Fatal Impulse (1960) – small role for MTM
Man of Mystery (1962) – a substantial role for MTM, though she doesn’t appear until 10 minutes in

Dream three-hour night of television

In my mind Frasier was just an odd continuation of Cheers.

Someone asked Ken Levine, who wrote for the TV sitcoms Cheers, Frasier, MASH, and several other shows: “What’s your dream three-hour night of television, including any shows from any decade, including now.” He explained: “I’m going to cheat. I’m just going to concentrate on comedies. Dramas take up two slots. So here are my all-time favorite sitcoms.”
10:00 MASH
10:30 CHEERS

Keeping that in mind, I picked:
The Simpsons – OK I haven’t watched more than thrice in the last decade, but those first years are strong enough
The Dick van Dyke Show – compare and contrast the family dynamic of these first two shows
The Mary Tyler Moore Show – and back-to-back MTM
Barney Miller – one of those perennially underrated shows
MASH – even though it should have ended when Radar went home early in season 8, rather than dragging on a couple more years
Twilight Zone Hey, I have this (and Van Dyke) on DVD

But his respondents had some great cheats. One wrote: “My 10 o’clock hour would be a rotating mix like Four in One (1970-71) or its successor the NBC Mystery Movie, but would involve the hour-long MTM shows: Lou Grant, The White Shadow, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, etc.” I rather like that, even that short-lived James Earl Jones show called Paris. And indeed, if I could do the same with the comedies, all the better; Mary Tyler Moore would share the slot with Newhart, WKRP in Cincinnati, even The Tony Randall Show, in which he played a judge.

Also, in my mind, Frasier was just an odd continuation of Cheers. With that cheat:

The Dick Van Dyke Show
The MTM sitcoms
Twilight Zone
The MTM dramas

What would YOU pick?
A production number from the 1986 Emmy Awards. “It’s a mess of TV stars singing snatches of — or merely walking on to — their shows’ theme songs.”


Book Review: After All by Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore’s her second marriage, to television producer Grant Tinker, seemed to epitomize the emotional distance both of them operated on when things were less than optimal.


As a television personality, there is probably no one I enjoyed more than Mary Tyler Moore. She appears on my Top Five favorite TV shows of all time, The Dick Van Dyke Show; her eponymous show is on my Top 20 list.

Looking forward to reading her autobiography, I was mystified by the fact that, for much of her professional life, she was a bundle of insecurities. Her success on her own show and Van Dyke’s she attributed to the talented performers, writers, and producers around her. Her failures, on other shows and on stage, are her fault. Such insecurity is odd, and not particularly appealing.

There is a certain arm’s length in her retelling of her growing up with a distant father and alcoholic mother, told in short chapters. A neighbor briefly molests her when she was six, and her mother refused to believe her; it’s told, as much of the book is, in this matter-of-fact manner. Later, the deaths of her younger sister and her son are likewise relayed.

Interestingly, her second marriage, to television producer Grant Tinker, who ran her production company, MTM, seemed to epitomize the emotional distance both of them operated on when things were less than optimal, though they appeared fine when things went well.

The book became so frustrating that, halfway through reading it, I actually blogged about it. Chris Honeywell nailed it: tanha, “a Buddhist idea which seems to correspond to ‘cravings, lusts, and focusing on self without introspection.'”

Then I started having second thoughts. I spoke to a friend of mine who has gone through therapy. The therapist has said to my friend, “Why aren’t you screaming” about the painful events being shared? Maybe when one has experienced enough emotional venting, one may come off as cavalier about the tough issues.

The most interesting chapter, and, at 12 pages, one of the longest, is when Mary finally gets sober. She went to the Betty Ford Clinic and was incensed by the tough treatment. “Then leave,” one nurse said.

After All, by the end, was a rather honest book. Not always pleasant, not what we might have expected from “our Mair,” but thorough.
Mary Tyler Moore nearly skipped the audition for “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.

Dick Van Dyke: “I’d go to work with terrible hangovers. Which if you’re dancing is hard.”

52 minutes of Carl Reiner talking about writing. He created The Dick Van Dyke Show.

States by TV Show

My pick: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, about which he said, “But that was before my time and I never really cared for it.” Which doesn’t really wash.

There was a piece was published on the Huffington Post identifying every state of the U.S. by one movie, which Andrew Shears ultimately responded to with a map of his own for TV series, shown above. I thought I’d comment on what I’D pick in the TV category, with the annoying, self-imposed added limitation that I had to have actually watched one full episode for the shows I selected.

Alabama – His and my pick: Any Day Now, a pretty obscure show (pictured).
Alaska – His and my pick: Northern Exposure, though he doesn’t even seem to consider Men In Trees.
Arizona – His and my pick: Alice.
Arkansas – His pick: 19 Kids and Counting (which I’ve managed never to have heard of). My pick: Evening Shade.
California – His pick: Baywatch, actually a reasonable choice. My just-to-be contrary pick: The Streets of San Francisco. (My wife suggested The Beverly Hillbillies.)
Colorado – His and my pick: Mork and Mindy, though I was tempted to pick Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Connecticut – His and my pick: Gilmore Girls, though I was tempted by Bewitched.
Delaware – Is there ANOTHER show besides The Pretender?
District of Columbia: He makes no pick. My choice: West Wing, over Murphy Brown.
Florida – His pick: The Golden Girls, a perfectly good choice. My pick: Miami Vice.
Georgia – His pick: Dukes of Hazzard. My choice: the person doing the Wiki post makes a compelling case that I’ll Fly Away was based in Georgia, so I’ll go with that; otherwise, I’d pick Designing Women.
Hawaii – His and my pick: Hawaii Five-O – the original one.
Idaho – His and my pick: The Manhunter, mine by default, although I think I watched it only once or twice.
Illinois – His pick: Roseanne (to be contrarian). My pick: The Bob Newhart Show, if only because he never even mentioned it; he didn’t mention Chicago Hope, either, but my second choice would have been that medical drama it went up against, ER.
Indiana – His choice: Parks and Recreation. My choice: Eerie Indiana, which wasn’t very good, but probably saw more episodes of it.
Iowa – His pick: American Pickers, which I’ve never seen. My pick: Apple’s Way, a “wholesome” show starring Ronny Cox.
Kansas – His pick: Jericho. My pick: Gunsmoke; if I had gone more contemporary, Smallville.
Kentucky – His pick: Justified, which he hasn’t seen, over Promised Land, which he has. I’ve seen neither. My pick: Daniel Boone.
Louisiana – His pick: Billy the Exterminator, which I’ve never heard of. My pick: Frank’s Place, one of the first shows I ever heard being described as a dramedy (pictured).
Maine – His and my pick: Murder She Wrote, though Dark shadows crossed my mind.
Maryland – His pick: The Wire, which I REALLY need to watch someday. My pick: Homicide: Life on the Streets.
Massachusetts – His and my pick: Cheers, though St. Elsewhere was REALLY tempting. As he wrote, “Seems like the place to put legal and police procedural dramas, like Ally McBeal, Crossing Jordan, Fringe, Boston Legal and so on.”
Michigan – His and my pick: Freaks & Geeks, one of his and my favorite shows ever.
Minnesota – His pick: Coach. My pick: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, about which he said, “But that was before my time and I never really cared for it.” Which doesn’t really wash, since he mentioned older shows such as I Love Lucy and Bewitched. And Coach?
Mississippi – His and my pick: In the Heat of the Night, in a narrow category.
Missouri – His and my pick: The John Larroquette Show.
Montana – His pick: Buckskin, a western from the 1950s. He says “It’s the only show I could find that was set there,” and he may be right, but I’ve never seen it. My pick: NONE.
Nebraska – His and my pick: The Young Riders, with thin pickings.
Nevada – His pick: Reno 911! as a contrarian pick. My pick: Vega$, though I watched a lot of Bonanza in the day.
New Hampshire – His and my default pick: The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire.
New Jersey – His pick: The Sopranos, which I’d have selected if I had ever seen an entire episode, rather than five minutes here or there. My pick: Baretta.
New Mexico – His pick: In Plain Sight. My pick: Roswell, which I saw once; have never seen Breaking Bad.
New York – His pick: Seinfeld “seems the only show fitting of that stature.” Well, feh. I could make a case for the original Law & Order, where NYC is a vital element of the program. My pick: The Dick van Dyke Show, which had TWO New York cities represented, Manhattan by day, New Rochelle by night. My alternative contrarian pick would be Buffalo Bill; NY State is NOT just NY City.
North Carolina – His and my pick: “The classic program,” The Andy Griffith Show.
North Dakota – His pick: My Secret Identity. My pick: NONE.
Ohio – His and my pick: The Drew Carey Show “because no other show is as proud of Ohio as that one.” True enough, with TWO theme songs (Moon Over Parma, Cleveland Rocks) mentioning places in the state. I do, though have a soft spot for WKRP in Cincinnati.
Oklahoma – His pick: Saving Grace, which I’ve never seen. My pick: either The Torkelsons or its sequel, Almost Home; I know I saw ONE of them, maybe both.
Oregon – His pick: Little People, Big World, which I’ve never heard of. My pick: Saved, a short-lived medical show I saw maybe twice.
Pennsylvania – His and my pick: The Office.
Rhode Island – His pick: Family Guy. My pick: Providence or Doctor Doctor.
South Carolina – His pick: Army Wives. My pick: NONE.
South Dakota – His pick: Deadwood. My pick: NONE.
Tennessee – His pick: Memphis Beat. My pick: Davy Crockett or Filthy Rich.
Texas – His pick: Walker: Texas Ranger. My pick: Friday Night Lights, over King of the Hill and Dallas.
Utah – His pick: Big Love. My pick: NONE.
Vermont – His and my pick: Newhart, with slim pickings.
Virginia – His and my pick: The Waltons, though A Different World was considered.
Washington – His and my pick: Frasier, though the theme from Here Come the Brides flashed through my head.
West Virginia – His and my pick: Hawkins, starring Jimmy Stewart.
Wisconsin – His pick: “That 70s Show is probably the show younger folks (including myself) associate with Wisconsin. Happy Days usually attracts a little older crowd.” My pick: Picket Fences, based in the fictional town of Rome. I will say, though that Laverne & Shirley, a lesser show, evoked Milwaukee strongly for me.
Wyoming – His and my pick: The Virginian.

So my list has two shows each with Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and, possibly, Annie Potts.

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