Sunday, January 06, 2013

Once I Had a Secret Goal

There were so many episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show that made me laugh the first time I saw them — and still make me laugh today.

There are the classic episodes that everyone remembers, but there are also episodes that are rarely mentioned. Such an episode — at least, in my experience — is the episode that aired 40 years ago tonight.

Titled "Lou's Place," it explored one of the secret ambitions of Lou Grant (Ed Asner), the news producer with the gruff exterior and the heart of gold.

Lou revealed that he had always wanted to have his own bar, but he didn't have enough money to buy one of his favorite watering holes when it became available so he tried to persuade Ted (Ted Knight) to invest in it with him.

But Lou, the hard–boiled newsman, didn't have the temperament to manage a bar — and certainly not with Ted, who kept inventing lame excuses to get his investment money back.

The bar's previous owner had been a gregarious sort who remembered everyone's name and encouraged his patrons to participate in group sing–alongs.

That wasn't Lou's nature, and he knew it. But something needed to be done. The bar was not thriving, so Lou resolved to be just like the previous owner and be lovable.

That proved to be a challenge for Lou.

"I never really cared about being lovable before," he said. "It was always enough that people were afraid of me."

So Lou set out to be just like the previous owner, establishing "happy hour," introducing himself to the patrons and then introducing them to each other, repeating the process every time someone new came in and then leading everyone in a sing–along.

But it didn't catch on with the gang. So Lou, reverting to his true self, decided to give it another try. He announced another sing–along.

"And this time," he said with eyes squinting as he glanced around the room, "I really want to hear it."

And he went around the room like a drill sergeant, barking out orders like "Sing it!" or "I can't hear you" as he went from table to table.

The group did perform better the second time around, but it was a forced performance, and, before they finished singing, Lou decided that he had to sell the place.

I guess some things must be learned the hard way.

But it worked out well for fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. After all, if Lou had found that running a bar was his true calling, he might have left WJM long before the series went off the air.

And, consequently, he might not have gone on to star in his own series, Lou Grant, further defining the character.

Lou's place was in the newsroom.