A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show represents a turning point in how the media presents female characters, centering on a liberated thirtysomething career woman who isn't looking to be someone's wife. Her surrounding characters treat her with varying levels of respect based on their opinions about women in the workplace, but she wins them over with her aptitude for the job and her kindness. Over the course of its seven-year run, the show addressed serious issues like divorce, death, addiction, infidelity, and discrimination, all in a thoughtful (but ultimately humorous) manner. Themes include compassion, integrity, and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Mary represents the first round of modern career women; she's independent, self-sufficient, and hard-working. She seeks out romantic relationships, but isn't willing to sacrifice her goals for a man's, and she leans on her friendships for quality companionship. Her male coworkers don't always exercise decorum in her presence, but she forms close friendships with them over time. Quirky character types (a promiscuous woman, an incompetent news anchor) are a major part of the show's laughs.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Innuendo and double entendres are as racy as the content gets. Several characters' sexual escapades are implied, but nothing beyond kissing is shown onscreen. Men comment on women's figures in terms that would be unacceptable in the modern workplace, as when Mary's boss tells her that she has "a great caboose."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mixed drinks and liquor are present in most social gatherings and in the workplace, where the boss keeps a stash in his desk drawer. Some characters show signs of overindulgence (hangovers, drunken slurred speech, etc.). The issue of addiction arises in an episode that shows Mary overcoming her dependence on sleeping pills.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.