Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

One of my favorite finds during my research for Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted is Joe Rainone, a Rhode Island accountant who spent his early 20s sending exhaustive five-page critiques to the Mary Tyler Moore producers every week. Mind you, this was the early ’70s, so that meant trudging up to his parents’ office every Saturday night to clack out his double-spaced analyses on a manual typewriter. This also meant watching the show live, with the rest of the nation — no VCRs, no DVRs. He was perhaps TV’s first recapper. Now we’re used to producers getting instant feedback from fans on every moment of every episode, for better or worse. But at the time this turned out to be so intriguing that the producers started counting on his weekly feedback, sometimes even wondering, as they conceived a plotline, “What will Joe Rainone think of this?”

They enjoyed…

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