Now that you can watch all of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu, I’ll occasionally be sharing some of my favorites here, in case you want to skip around to some of the highlights or want a prompt for a rewatch.
If you do watch on Hulu, you’re likely to start at the beginning with the pilot “Love Is All Around,” and lucky you: This is one of the greatest pilots of all time. It wasn’t a huge hit with its early test audiences, and critics seemed too distracted by Mary’s singlehood to get the full impact of this smooth, flawless introductory episode. (If you want to appreciate how hard it is to make a great pilot, check out the first Seinfeld, which is both boring and not at all indicative of how spectacular the show would ultimately be.)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s Sept. 19, 1970, premiere on CBS beautifully displayed the polished, character-driven style that creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns were known for. Here we meet Mary, a 30-year-old woman starting her life over on her own after a breakup with a fiancé. She seems tentative and nervous, but she also snaps back with strength just when she needs to. This was a quality that would drive the show, and it’s demonstrated here twice, in two pitch-perfect scenes. One is rightfully famous: Mary goes in for a job interview at the local TV news station, where she dodges inappropriate questions about religion and marital status lobbed at her by the cantankerous boss Lou Grant. “You’ve got spunk,” he growls, pausing just the right amount. “I hate spunk!” She gets the job anyway, setting up a duo of foils for the ages.
The other scene is less famous, more understated, and a tearjerker if you’re in the right mood. Mary’s ex shows up hoping for another chance, but short on concrete promises. When she turns him down, he says, “Take care of yourself.” She answers, “I think I just did.”
It’s all there from the beginning: Mary’s inner struggle, represented best by the gruff boss who would turn quite tender in the course of their relationship, and Mary’s iconic status as an independent woman of the 1970s.