Mary Tyler Moore, who died Wednesday, wasn’t just beloved. She was the kind of beloved where they build you a statue. Moore’s statue is in Minneapolis, where her best-known character, Mary Richards of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, worked for the fictional television station WJM. She’d already won two Emmys playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but Moore cemented her icon status when Mary Richards walked into that job interview. Even if she got off to a rough start with Lou Grant, her soon-to-be boss, who kept a bottle of whiskey in his desk. He wanted her to join him for a drink. She asked for a Brandy Alexander.
He didn’t mean a Brandy Alexander.
Mary Richards was not TV’s first working woman, or its first woman on her own. But before Mary, if you saw a woman without a partner at the center of a TV comedy, she was probably a widow, like Diahann Carroll’s single mom on Julia or Lucille Ball on the show she did after I Love Lucy, which was, perhaps unsurprisingly, called The Lucy Show.
Mary didn’t have a living husband, a dead husband, an ex-husband, or even a permanent boyfriend like Marlo Thomas did on That Girl. It wasn’t that she didn’t want one. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong wrote Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, a history of the show. And in 2013, she told NPR how Mary stayed single for so long: The show tried out some possible boyfriends, but “no one was good enough for her.”
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