On January 25th, we lost one of the most influential women in television. Mary Tyler Moore was not only a television icon, but she also revolutionized the way television was viewed.
Mary was known to most Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show. Laura was the on screen wife of Robert Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) and a stay at home mom.
Rob, a TV comedy writer for the Alan Brady show, would try to balance his suburban house life and work in the city. Occasionally Rob would bring his work home with him and accidently get Laura involved.
The show was revolutionary for its time, Rob and Laura emulated the first on-screen modern couple at a time in television when couples couldn’t sleep in the same bed or even say the word pregnant.
Mary created an on-screen wife that most wives in America could relate to, she once even got into some trouble with the network when she wore Capri pants in a few episodes. The Dick Van Dyke show ran for five seasons and continues to live on thanks to online screening on Netflix and Hulu.
After her run as Laura, Mary landed her own show, The Mary Tyler Moore show, and once again she made her mark on the industry. Mary Tyler Moore played the role of Mary Richards, a single thirty-year-old working as an associate producer of the evening news in Minneapolis.
In many ways, the show was even more ground breaking than The Dick Van Dyke show. First off, Mary Richards was single. During the 1970’s it was taboo to see a woman who was thirty and unmarried, and to have a woman portrayed like that on television was unheard of.
Having a job was also new to television, most women of the time were stay at home wives so it was a change of pace when audiences saw Mary going to work. One of the most inspirational episodes was in season 3 when Mary discovers that the man who had previously held her job made more money than she did, so Mary took a stand and eventually she received a raise.
If going to work and being single were concepts that were unseen in the seventies, then women talking about having sex on TV was revolutionary. Mary Richards was one of TV’s first characters to openly and casually discus the matter of sex.
It wasn’t Sex in the City type discussion but it was acknowledged that she had sex. The Mary Tyler Moore show received high praise including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and the show is currently steaming seasons 1 through 3 on Hulu.
Thanks to Mary Tyler Moore many shows were inspired by her show and character. Tiny Fey took inspiration from Mary’s show to create 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Shows like 2 Broke Girls, Hot in Cleveland and Friends all took cues from the Mary Tyler Moore show in portraying single working women on the silver screen.
So our hat’s off to Mary Tyler Moore for inspiring the next generation of women, we owe her our thanks.