Originally published on Huffington Post, 05/13/2013
I was one of the original writers of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” It was like starting on top and as I often say, downhill after that for the next twenty years of a career. Actually, the career was good all the way through, but the experience on “Mary” was the best! The most responsive writer/producers, the most welcoming “family” of the cast, and certainly, an iconic show which can still be seen today, thanks to reruns (and I wish I got residuals, but that’s another post).
Recently, a new book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, by Jennifer Armstrong, came out and I was again amazed and thrilled to see what the reaction was, lo these many years and a new century since we first asked “if we could make it on our own.” (Sing theme song to yourselves here.)
I was interviewed by Jen and provided some pictures and unbelievably, they all made it into the book. It’s embarrassing, for me and my ex! His haircut will haunt him forever… and since one of my outfits that I actually wore to the Emmy’s looked like something I stole from Ginger on Gilligan’s Island (don’t ask), I should be hiding in shame. But it turned out be the most gratifying and wonderful experience a girl (sorry, woman) could get.
You live on old credits just so long, but to see the response to this, particularly at a panel we just did at the 92nd St Y — ok, Tribeca branch, but still — it was amazing. Fans of the show who knew much more than I did and whose lives were impacted by the show were in attendance — guys as well as girls. Hmmm… The overall impression was that this show touched people personally in a way that most TV sitcoms today do not.
I’m not one of those people who say there is nothing great on now. I love “Modern Family,” “The Middle” and can appreciate “30 Rock, but the connection the MTM characters had, their reality, their humanity, seems to have jumped into the living rooms of the viewers and stayed until now!
OK, today there were a few potential stalkers… but no problem. (A long time ago, I did a panel in which one guy wanted to know about Pumpkin… my dog! No freakouts this time, just nice, nice
I joked that I should be wearing hotpants as yes, I actually did in those days and it was
profiled and indelibly lives in a TV Guide article, but they don’t make them with Depends.
Remember this reference.
Anyway, I think back to those days and how Mary Richards and I were just living our lives and
not “making a statement.” The results of those lives paved the way for women who
needed a role model in media, among them Oprah and Katie Couric. At the time, the producers wanted women’s stories which were inherently different than men’s; the references, the fact that women dont “go get cleaned up,” as one of the guys said, before I corrected him: We take a bath or a shower. These little nuances that put women’s lives up on TV and gave birth to the women of today, be they Tina Fey or any other woman who created a sitcom and can trace their ambition to Mary.
But in all honesty, I never expected to get such nachas (that’s gratification in French) from something I was just doing… a long time ago.
I was feeling really good about myself and the fact that I was still well-preserved; someone in the audience said, “I must have started writing when I was 4.” I then got home and had a bit of
a reality check. The phone rang and a guy on the other end said,”Hello, Susan ?” Warily, I said yes… who is this? And he said “It’s Jim and I’m calling for a company that makes life alerts for the elderly!”
I hung up. Depends must be coming soon. Now, if someone would just do a show for Baby Boomers which was relevant to our lives as much as Mary was to Feminism. Call your networks and ask! I’m available.