Thursday, March 04, 2010

The "Mary" ("Tyler Moore" - like) Show

Back in late December of 1985 and early 1986, CBS debuted a sitcom, titled, "Mary," which starred television icon Mary Tyler Moore, James Farrentino, John Astin and Katey Seagal, among others.

After failing to find a hit with various variety shows (one also called "Mary," following something else called "The Mary Tyler Moore Hour"), Tyler Moore instead returned to her sitcom "route" with the new "Mary."

Years before, of course, CBS and Tyler Moore had found a ratings bonanza alongside critical praise with her legendary situation comedy, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970-77). A decade or so before that, the actress made her weekly sitcom debut in another ground-breaking CBS series, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-66).

Then along came the new "Mary" sitcom in 1985.

This time, Moore portrayed "Mary Brenner," a fortysomething divorced writer who once held a respectable position with a fashion magazine that went out of business. Today, she writes a consumer-assistance column for the Chicago Eagle tabloid, run by Managing Editor and ladies' man "Frank DeMarco" (Farentino). Also working at the Eagle were the cynical, chain-smoking columnist "Jo Tucker" (Sagal, pre-"Married With Children"), the condescending theater critic "Ed LaSalle" (Astin, from "The Addams Family" and the visually-impaired copy editor "Tully" (David Byrd, who would later appear on "Life Goes On").

It was all very, well, "Mary Tyler Moore Show"-esque. "DeMarco" was reminiscent of "Lou Grant" (as played by Ed Asner on the first MTM show), "Ed Lasalle" was "Ted Baxter" (Ted Knight), "Tully," who was slightly bald, reminded us of "Murray Slaughter" (Gavin McLoud), while the tough "Joe Tucker" was an obvious descendent of "Rhoda" (played by Valerie Harper).

Truth is, this "Mary 1985" was a pretty good show. And it was funny.

Unfortunately, CBS didn't give it a chance, and it was cancelled after only 13 episodes. But it could have been a contender.

Tyler Moore and CBS then once more tried weekly comedy a few years later with "Annie McGuire." But that show (produced on film, with no audience and no laugh track - like "The Wonder Years") didn't cut it.

Meanwhile, it sure would be nice to see released on DVD those 13 episodes of that mid-1980s "Mary" sitcom.

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