Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Review: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Armstrong

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

Because The Mary Tyler Moore Show is my friend and wonderful Guest Reviewer's favorite show, this book and post is all hers.


Cheryl's Review:

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Armstron

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted will tell the story behind the making of TV classic The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013, the book will offer readers a glimpse inside the lives of the groundbreaking female TV writers who lent their real lives to scripts, the men who created the indelible characters, the lone woman in the network executive ranks who cast the legendary ensemble, and the colorful cast of actors who made it all work. James L. Brooks, Grant Tinker, Allan Burns, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel — they all came together to make a show that changed women’s lives, and television. Here’s how they did it.”

I’ve been a huge fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show for about twenty years, ever since I took a TV writing class in college and my professor showed us an episode. I own all the DVDs and I still laugh, even at the episodes I’ve watched numerous times. Over the years, I read After All by Mary Tyler Moore, recently finished I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper (thanks to Michelle’s suggestion), and own trivia books about the show. I once won movie tickets in a radio contest for correctly answering a trivia quesiton about the show. In sum, it’s my all-time favorite television show. When I saw there was a new book coming out about the show I was excited and am incredibly grateful to Michelle for getting me the advanced copy. For a new book written more than forty years after the show started demonstrates the show’s long-lasting effect on the history of television and culture.

As a fan, much of the book, though enjoyable to read, was more or less the same information readily available through other books and documentaries. Armstrong utilized numerous books, articles, and interviews for her tribute but surprisingly, nowhere in her index was Love is All Around: The Making of the Mary Tyler Moore Show by Robert S. Alley and Irby B. Brown (1989). Essentially, Armstrong’s book was an updated and expanded version of Love is All Around.

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted chronicles how the producers and writers met and created the show, casting, character development and relationships, and plots and storylines. It contained anecdotal details, such as how the creators and writers met, but the core was the oft-heard story of how CBS didn’t like the original premise of making Mary a divorcee (fearing people would think she divorced Dick Van Dyke), the first taping of the pilot was not well-received, and the overall prediction by many was that it wouldn’t last beyond its committed thirteen episodes. Yet the show takes off and still ranks as one of the top Emmy winning shows in all of television history.

Where Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted differs from Love is All Around is that there are more details about people’s personal lives, relationships with each other, and background prior to joining The Mary Tyler Moore Show. These details were interesting, especially the parts about how the show, for the first time in television history, purposely hired and elevated female comedy writers. From her introduction, I expected the book to mostly be about the female writers and was disappointed there wasn’t more about them. Armstrong also briefly interweaves how the show and its characters affected feminist and women’s history. Mary Richards was the first thirtysomething woman on television to focus more on a career than finding a husband. Recent shows with a similar premise (Sex and the City, 30 Rock) are often tied and compared to The Mary Tyler Moore Show for that reason.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, even though I only learned a little bit more about the show and the people involved. For readers who do not know the behind-the-scenes details of the show, it will be a great read. For readers who know the history, it will be a pleasant walk down memory lane about the people and characters from one of the greatest shows in television history.

Thank you to Wendy at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy and thanks, once again, to my awesome friend and passionate book reviewer, Cheryl.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

                                              red headed book child