Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Day Ted and Georgette Got Married

Mary (Mary Tyler Moore): You do love him?

Georgette (Georgia Engel): Of course, Mary. Somebody has to!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was consistently good for seven years, then voluntarily bowed out while the ratings were still high. In other words, they left 'em begging for more.

The episode that aired 40 years ago tonight has always been one of my favorites. It was sitcom script writing at its finest performed flawlessly by a top–notch cast. Ahhhh, they just don't write 'em — or perform 'em — like that anymore. More's the pity.

The episode that made its debut on this night in 1975 centered on something that we've all experienced — a wedding. Even if you have never been married, you have probably participated in one or, at least, attended one. Maybe more than one.

And, centered around this universal theme, the story gave perfect capsule glimpses into the hearts and souls of the characters in the series.

Yet, true to tradition, this wedding was about the bride, Georgette (Georgia Engel). She was the girlfriend of Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) and a recent addition to the ensemble. The viewing audience hadn't had much of a chance to get to know her yet, but that would change. Yes, this wedding, like all the others, was about the bride. Strangely, though, the title of the episode was "Ted's Wedding."

Let me share samples of the dialogue with you.

The episode opened with Georgette and Ted having Saturday brunch at Mary's apartment. Mary was trying to be sensitive to Georgette's concerns that everyone in the newsroom treated Ted with disdain, but Ted really hadn't been helping his own cause, even with Georgette. For months, he had been proposing to her, she had accepted, then he found a way to get out of it and she allowed him to do so. This had happened so often that Ted was treated like the fabled boy who cried wolf. No one, least of all Georgette, took his proposals seriously.

Anyway, Mary was making an effort to include Ted in more things, and her way to get the ball rolling was to invite Ted and Georgette to brunch at her apartment. She also tried to include Mr. Grant (Ed Asner), explaining to him that this kind of thing would make Ted a better anchorman — instead of being preconditioned to be oafish and vain by the negative perceptions of his peers.

Adopting a professorial demeanor, Mr. Grant told Mary that she was speaking of the "self–fulfilling prophecy," in which a person's behavior is governed by the assumptions of others. People expect a certain kind of behavior from someone, be it good or bad, and that is precisely what they get.

Mary was fascinated to learn that there was an entire theory devoted to what she had been thinking. She was also gratified that Mr. Grant understood what she was talking about, and that knowledge emboldened her.

She said she wanted Mr. Grant to join them for brunch, and, in one of the most delightful exchanges I believe I have ever seen, Mr. Grant wiggled out of it by asking Mary what her assumption had been about his response. She conceded that she had assumed that he would say no.

"Well, there you are!" Mr. Grant exclaimed with a triumphant grin on his face. "Personally, I'd have loved to have come. I probably would have had the time of my life. But your previous assumption made it impossible for me to come. You do see that, don't you, Mary?"

And so it was that Mary found herself having brunch alone with Ted and Georgette. Mary complimented Georgette on her dress, and Ted was inspired to propose — again — this time with an onion roll in his mouth.

But this proposal was met with a frosty resistance from Georgette, who asked Mary if she and Ted could have a few minutes of privacy. Mary went into her bedroom.

Georgette told Ted she had doubts that he had ever been serious about marrying her. "If you really wanted to marry me," she said, "you wouldn't talk about it. You'd do it."

Ted protested that he'd get married that day if he could.

"We can, Ted," Georgette countered. "We've had the blood test. We have the license, and it's still valid. We can call and get a minister over here. We can call our friends and tell them to come over here. What else do we need?"

Then mousy Georgette, usually so soft–spoken you couldn't hear her if she was shouting into a megaphone, delivered her character's best line ever. With her hands on her hips, she said, "So whaddya say, buster? Ya still wanna get married?"

Ted was just as assertive in his reply. "Yes, I do."

Then came The Shriek. I know you've heard The Shriek. You may even have emitted a Shriek — but only if you're a female. It seems to be a biological characteristic that only females possess.

The Shriek brought Mary running into the living room. "What would you do if I told you there's going to be a minister over here with all our friends in the next half hour to have a wedding?" Georgette asked her.

Mary's reply: "Vacuum!"

Getting the wedding together in half an hour was a bit more problematic.

Mary called Mr. Grant and had to talk him into coming over instead of watching a basketball game. Besides, she said, if everything was done quickly, he could get to the bar before the game was over.

Murray (Gavin MacLeod) had to be dragged away from his son's football game — he was the coach.

The minister was playing tennis, but Georgette said his wife had assured her she would try to get in touch with him. Georgette didn't tell the minister's wife why he was needed. She only said it was an emergency.

"I wasn't sure he'd interrupt a tennis game for a wedding," she told Mary.

Ted tried to get his mother to come over, but she declined. After hanging up, Ted explained that she had to wash her hair. "But we can save her a piece of cake," Ted said. "We do have a piece of cake, don't we, Mary?"

"The whole wedding was put together in half an hour," Mary replied as the doorbell rang and she went to answer it. "You can't expect too much preparation on that kind of notice."

Enter Sue Ann (Betty White), the Happy Homemaker, radiant in wedding attire and carrying flowers for the ceremony, champagne and rice for after the ceremony and a veil for Georgette to wear — as well as a gift for the "happy couple." Sue Ann was always the bridesmaid, never the bride, and she was always ready for the occasion. And she wouldn't tolerate slackers. "What are you all standing around with your thumbs up your noses for?" she demanded. "We've got to get this show on the road!"

Part of getting that show on the road was settling on a best man, and Mr. Grant wound up with the honor.

Turned out his primary responsibility as best man was to reassure Ted that he was doing the right thing.

"If you're going to get married," Mr. Grant told Ted, "you're going to have to stop acting the way you do."

"What way?" Ted asked.

"The way you act," Mr. Grant said somewhat evasively. But he could see he wasn't getting through so he tried a different approach.

"Ted, what I'm trying to say is, you gotta become different."

Ted still didn't understand.

"Look," an increasingly exasperated Mr. Grant said, "you know how you always are?"

Ted said, "Yeah."

"Don't be that way," Mr. Grant told Ted.

The minister was played by John Ritter, and he arrived dressed in his tennis clothes and carrying a tennis racquet. He was newly ordained and unprepared to conduct a wedding ceremony, but Georgette suggested that they should each say something instead of repeating vows. Ted, as an anchorman, was accustomed to having Murray write the words he would deliver so he had Murray come over next to him and whisper in his ear what he should say. It came out like this:

"Georgette, I promise ... to be a devoted husband ... and to never give you cause ... to regret ... having married ... such a cluck!"

Anyway, when the wedding was over and everyone had left, Mary, Ted and Georgette looked at each other.

"Well," Mary said.

"Well," Georgette said.

"Well," Ted said. "What's for dessert?"