[This originally ran Feb. 4; R.I.P. Ted Knight, who passed away 30 years ago today.]
This was before Gavin MacLeod captained the Love Boat, greeting the has-beens of Hollywood. Before Ed Asner’s newspaper covered L.A. with two reporters, a weird photographer called Animal and a half-assed assistant city editor who did little but crack jokes. Before Ted Knight ran Bushwood Country Club in the classic movie “Caddyshack.”
Bet you know where this is going …
All three were in the original cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a groundbreaking series that ran seven seasons on CBS in the 1970s. Ms. Moore was already an established TV star, having done five seasons of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” This time around, with the women’s lib movement rising, she was a role model producing local TV news as a thirtysomething single woman. (Many successful women, including Oprah Winfrey, cite Ms. Moore as an inspiration.)
How about work/life balance? Sure. Ms. Moore went home every night and dealt with Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman. Both characters were spun off into successful shows, as was Mr. Asner’s.
The series was a ratings juggernaut until 1977, when the numbers slipped and the producers decided to end it. Ms. Moore went on to Broadway, then played against type in the 1980 coming-of-age movie “Ordinary People,” which picked up four Oscars in Robert Redford’s directing debut. She was nominated for best actress but lost to Sissy Spacek of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
Oddly, Ms. Moore never had much success on TV after her signature series. Two variety shows flopped in the late 1970s. So did her 1985 comeback sitcom, “Mary,” canceled after 13 episodes. But down periods of her career were brief. Research tells us she was never deemed washed up enough to sail on the Love Boat, even though she knew the captain.