“You’re negotiating with [producers] for a major commitment of a couple million dollars. You never are too enthusiastic [about their show] when you’re dealing with them. As a consequence, the creative people think they know everything, but they don’t. While my career depends upon them, at the time they make the deal, they’re the opposition.”
“I know there is a wealth of comedy in my wife’s purse, but I can’t access that.” — explaining why he wanted to hire women to write for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
“If CBS, in the person of Bob Wood, hadn’t understood that a fresh entertainment menu was needed at CBS for success in the long term … if the network hadn’t dropped all the constraints of numbers-driven management just long enough for All in the Family to get in the door … if they hadn’t taken a leap of faith by ignoring the ‘hard’ numerical data of the research which said that America would not find Archie Bunker entertaining—the test results were the absolute lowest—they would have effectively squelched whatever innovation we were fortunate enough to bring to television comedy.”
“Theoretically a ‘nice’ single woman has no sex life,” she said. “What nonsense!”
“Take what you think is your liability and make it your asset as an actor.” — actress Jessica Tandy’s advice to a prematurely balding Gavin MacLeod
If you watch the pilot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show spinoff Phyllis, you notice two things right away: The lady who plays her mother-in-law, Jane Rose, is great, and there’s no way this show is going to be as good as The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The show lasted for two years, but only on the strength of its scheduling, between Rhoda and All in the Family, but it suffered a stunning string of tragedies before ending for good. The woman who plays Phyllis’ new boss, Barbara Colby, was murdered in a random L.A. shooting two episodes into the show. Soon after, Judith Lowry, who played 86-year-old Mother Dexter, died, and just two months later, her 92-year-old on-screen boyfriend, Burt Mustin, died as well.
Incidentally, as you can see in this clip of the pilot, we never learn what Lars — one of the great unseen sitcom characters of all time — died of. Just that it was unexpected, and he left her no insurance money.
We all know Betty White is awesome — it’s possible that by now the U.S. citizenship process includes swearing an oath to our patron saint of graceful aging. But it’s worth looking back at the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which she first appears as the delightfully bitchy Sue Ann Nivens, the “Happy Homemaker” of WJM. She’s manic, she’s passive aggressive, she’s delusional, and she’s just plain “bananas,” as Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) aptly puts it. The climactic showdown between Betty and Cloris is a transcendent clash of comedy titans. Betty deserved an Emmy just for her improvised knee-kick to the open oven door.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and indulge:
Wisdom from Mary Tyler Moore herself: “Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”