One of the most amusing things about moving to Milwaukee many years ago is that most people I left behind in New York were convinced I was moving to Minneapolis. I even remember my first year here when a dateline for an article in Billboard magazine listed Minneapolis for an article that was actually about one of our local radio stations. But I had decided that I'd like Milwaukee better. I loved the fact that Milwaukee was such an underdog that people couldn't even rememember it. I liked the accessibility to but distance from Chicago and while I really like winter, I was scared off a little by the car heater stories.
But there was one way that I thought Minneapolis had it all over Milwaukee. When it comes to television afilliation, I am absolutely a "Mary Tyler Moore" show man over "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley." When one of the latter shows come on rerun, I drift away after a couple of minutes. If I spot the former, I hope for a marathon.
It's hard to believe that there was a time when Saturday night was appointment television. That period with "All in the Family", "The Bob Newhart Show", "The Carol Burnett Show" and whatever that fifth show was that rotated in and out of the slot unsuccessfully are some of my happiest tv memories. And honestly, not as much Archie Bunker, but someday I'll wax a few hours about Bob Newhart, perhaps in conversation with my sister Merrill.
Just an aside about the opening theme, which features not one but two department store images. A shot of Donaldson's disappeared after season one (I think the store might have moved to an ugly downtown mall structure) and after a few seasons, the Daytons image also vanished, but if you're watching the inaugural sesason (where Mary is wearing a wig to change her image from Laura Petrie), you can still spot both of them. Oh, me and my department store rambles. I still kick myself for walking by the Powers Dry Goods going out of business sale and listening to my friend Eric who told me, "Oh, there's nothing left. You don't need to go in there." Oh, the regret.
But back to amazing television. I was so thrilled when Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted was announced. The title is a take on an inconic television history, Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel, by Bart Andrews, which I think I read many, many years ago. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong not only did much research putting together this history of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," she interviewed many of the women writers, Grant Tinker, and the beloved Valerie Harper.
I loved this book! Here's my staff rec that I wrote up after I devoured it.
"Fact: Mary Richards was originally going to be the assistant to a gossip columnist.
"Fact: the initial audience reaction to Rhoda Morgenstern was virulently negative. (And one of the writers made a tiny fix to the first episode that changed that hate to love.)
"Fact: CBS had so little faith in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” that they planned to bury it in a bad time slot between “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Hee Haw.”
"Fact: whether you have memories of staying home every Saturday night to catch the greatest lineup in television history, or spent hours watching marathons in the decades following, any fan of Mary Tyler Moore and her eponymous show would adore this new pop culture history.
"Pop culture writer Armstrong went well beyond regurgitating TV Guide stories to go straight to the folks who made the show what it is—from creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns to writers like Treva Silverman and Gloria Banta, to execs Grant Tinker, Fred Silverman and even the show’s original naysayer, Allan Dann. (And yes, Armstrong also interviewed Valerie Harper.) So much fun, so many stories, and lots more drama than you can imagine—Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted is just about as entertaining and informative as a book like this can be."
So I sent in my rec to Simon, nominated it for the Indie Next List, and moved on. This was one of those books that I really read for myself. I didn't expect there would be a budget for a tour, and I wasn't even sure if my rec would drive sales. Folks would probably find this book due to good reviews and interviews, and Armstrong is decently connected in the media world. There was already an excellent preview of the book in Entertainment Weekly.
And sadly, we've all heard about Valerie Harper's cancer diagnosis, revealed just after the publication of her memoir, I, Rhoda. Sigh.
It turns out that my rec made its way to Armstrong, who let me know that she in fact was going to be staying with folks in Chicago for a few days and had room in the schedule to come up for an event with us on Tuesday, June 4, 7 pm.
Because Armstrong had another book coming out this spring called Sexy Feminism, which she wrote with Heather Wood Rudulph, we decided to call this evening's presentation "Mary Tyler Moore and the Modern Woman." And to add to the fun, Mel read Sexy Feminism and liked that too. Here's her rec.
"Sexy Feminism is an excellent primer for anyone uninitiated in, curious about, or wanting to reconnect with feminism. Fourth wave feminism is complex--this book can help you make sense of the history, current struggles, and possible future of the Feminist Movement. What does being feminist mean at this exact moment in time? Sexy Feminism answers this question with educational and entertaining prose."