Article by Mary Jo Murphy
“Let’s get her some sex.”
Susan Silver says that was one of her chief contributions as a writer on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Playing the beloved young housewife Laura Petrie a few years earlier, Ms. Moore and her TV husband, Dick Van Dyke, had been made to sleep in separate beds. But it was the 1970s now. Even good girls had sex. Ms. Silver and the other women writing for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” made sure of it.
As Ms. Moore’s new sitcom character, the independent, single career woman Mary Richards, put it in one episode: “I’m hardly innocent. I’ve been around. Well, all right I might not have been around. But I’ve been nearby.”
Ms. Silver said there was no particular feminist agenda for the show. There was, however, an unheard-of number of female writers on it — well over a dozen in the show’s seven-season run that started in 1970. They were encouraged, she said, to write from their own experience, and to let Mary Richards’s proto-feminism derive “organically.”
That made “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” a laboratory for the social issues of the day, which in some cases were being reflected for the first time on prime-time television. Sex, birth control, equal pay, workplace sexism, homosexuality — all took a turn on the show, and not from the bully pulpit but from the “girl” who could turn the world on with her smile.
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