Wednesday, January 25, 2017

When Love Was All Around

"Love is all around,
No need to waste it.
You can have a town.
Why don't you take it?
You're gonna make it after all."

Paul Williams

Mary Tyler Moore died today — and so did another piece of my childhood.

Saturday nights in the 1970s were that generation's must–see TV — in no small part because of Moore. Oh, sure, there were others who contributed to it. All in the Family got things started, followed by M*A*S*H, followed by Moore, followed by The Bob Newhart Show, followed by The Carol Burnett Show. All great shows with great casts. It was truly a golden age for television.

I had dinner with my father tonight, and we reminisced about Moore. Dad still remembers episodes of that show and chuckles at the thought of them. Now that's comedy. When you can think about a sitcom episode you saw more than 40 years ago and you still laugh, you know it was good comedy.

And The Mary Tyler Moore Show was good comedy. Dad still laughs at the thought of almost every character on that show — Mr. Grant, Murray, Ted, Sue Ann, Georgette, Rhoda, Phyllis and especially Mary. They were all so well defined by the people who portrayed them. If there is such a thing as a flawless sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was one.

Around my house — and millions more, no doubt — the routine on Saturday nights was to settle in for three hours of almost nonstop quality entertainment on CBS. There was seldom a reason to change the channel.

Clearly it was a collective effort, and there were many memorable characters on TV in those days, but Moore always stood out. She was beautiful, yes, but she was also very talented, a once–in–a–lifetime kind of talent.

By the '70s, Moore wasn't exactly a new face. She had been Dick Van Dyke's award–winning co–star on The Dick Van Dyke Show for five years in the '60s, then she dabbled in movies for a few years before she returned to the small screen. When she made her return, she did so as a single working woman. There were lots of single working women in the real world, but none that I can recall on television.

They found a voice in Moore. She was a great role model for those women — for everyone, really, but especially for those single working women, some of whom were also mothers. Moore didn't play a mother in her role as Mary Richards, but she made her own contributions to the challenges of parenting, both in her personal life and on the stage.

After her TV show came to an end in 1977, she made more movies. Her most noteworthy had to be "Ordinary People," Robert Redford's directorial debut. Ironically, the movie made its theatrical debut about a month before Moore's only child accidentally shot and killed himself.

That was the movie that showed the world just how talented Moore was. She wasn't merely the warm and loving Laura Petrie or Mary Richards of her successful sitcoms. She was also the icy, emotionally distant Beth whose family was falling apart in the wake of her oldest son's death.

Apart from her acting, Moore was an animal rights advocate and a spokeswoman for issues related to diabetes, a disease from which she suffered for more than half her life.

In the '70s, Moore was known as a liberal and generally supported Democrats, but she became a self–described "libertarian centrist" who leaned conservative and watched Fox News. In 2009 Parade magazine reported that she said she would have campaigned for Republican John McCain in 2008 if she had been asked.

She led a remarkable life, and the world was privileged to share it with her.