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The Mary Tyler Moore Show
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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a '70s sitcom that reflects the gender relations of a time that saw the birth of the "career woman." Sexual remarks, crudity, and drinking are present in the workplace in a manner that wouldn't be acceptable today. On the other hand, contrary to today's primetime standards, there's very little strong language, minimal physical contact, and nothing beyond double entendres of a general sexual nature. All of the supporting characters are well-meaning, but have their shortcomings (one drinks a lot, another's promiscuity is the subject of multiple wisecracks), but Mary shines as TV's first single, career-oriented leading lady and reminds viewers of some of the challenges met by her real-world counterparts. Tweens likely won't see the humor in this show, but teens who can put the content in its rightful place in history might enjoy it.
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What's the story?
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW centers on Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), a 30-year-old single woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life after a romantic break-up. There she reacquaints with Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), who rents her a room, and meets her upstairs neighbor, Rhoda (Valerie Harper), who becomes her best friend. Mary unexpectedly lands a job as associate producer at the TV station WJM, where she works alongside her bristly boss, Lou (Ed Asner); the comical newswriter, Murray (Gavin MacLeod); and the newscast's often-incompetent anchor, Ted (Ted Knight). Later seasons saw the addition of sharp-tongued Sue Ann (Betty White) to the newsroom, and the eventual departure of Leachman and Harper to their own individual spin-off series. The show cultivated its comedy from workplace relationships, family issues, and the characters' quirky personality traits.
Is it any good?
Insightful, endearing, and humorous at every turn, this classic continues to hold a place atop all-time TV favorites. Thanks to a collectively superb cast and the writers' willingness to cultivate substantial content, The Mary Tyler Moore Show continues to be relevant decades later. Though our tolerance toward some of the issues has changed (strong female leads are now commonplace, as is sexual liberation and marital infidelity that makes headlines in this '70s show, for instance), the difference in how this show and modern ones portray them can prompt lively discussion with your teens.
First airing in 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first TV series to present an entirely modern female character, reflecting the changing American society and women's growing freedom from the traditional expectations of marriage and family. The series opens with her opting out of a romantic relationship that didn't suit her emotional needs, choosing instead a career and her independence. It's not always an easy path to blaze, and she encounters her fair share of naysayers, discrimination, and self-doubt, but her determination to make it work is reminiscent of an entire generation of motivated young women who knocked down barriers in the workplace.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature of gender equality today. How far has our society evolved from the time of the women's liberation movement and The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Is gender equality truly conceivable in every career?
Watch some later series with career-oriented female characters and discuss how the presentation of gender relations has changed over time. Do the women in these more modern series face any of the same obstacles evident in The Mary Tyler Moore Show?
Explore various comedy styles. What role does crudity, sensationalism, and stereotyping play in some of these forms? Where is the line between acceptable and offensive content?
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