The influence of Mary Tyler Moore as a television role model was illustrated Wednesday night by the decision of “The NBC Nightly News” to lead with her death on a day President Trump made a lot of news.
Moore’s death was the second story on ABC’s “World News with David Muir” only because Muir had an exclusive interview with President Trump that made plenty of news and led the newscast.
The two network newscast reports on the star of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” were similar. They included the famous optimistic scene in the opening credits when Mary Richards (Moore’s character) threw her hat in the air and another scene in which Lou Grant (Ed Asner) told her that she had “spunk” before adding: “I hate spunk.”
But for my money, the best piece on Moore’s influence came at the end of NBC’s newscast when veteran reporter Andrea Mitchell narrated a report about the influence the show with Moore’s name in the title had on future newswomen. The piece included tweets from Robin Roberts, Katie Couric, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb about Moore being a female role model.
Mitchell said “the path-breaking, all-American single career girl” Moore played was “an inspiration to all of us who broke through in an age when bosses were gruff and women were told we didn’t belong in the newsroom.”
The veteran reporter – who was shown in an old photo at the start of her career -- ended the tribute by saying to Moore: “You helped us believe we could make it after all.”
Tom Fontana, the Buffalo native whose TV writing career began on a MTM produced program, “St. Elsewhere,” was a close friend of Moore’s. Their friendship began during talks about “St. Elsewhere.” Moore and Fontana discussed doing a series together a few times. It never happened.
I reached out to Fontana for a statement about Moore’s death and her place In TV history.
“Besides changing the soul of television,” wrote Fontana, “Mary was the epitome of grace and style, who turned the sadness in her own life into joy and laughter for the benefit of others. She was – and is – an inspiration in everything I write every single day.”
WBBZ-TV, the station that runs classic TV shows, will air a three-hour collection of episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The first episode of the series that ran for seven seasons in the 1970s will start the tribute. In the episode, Mary Richards is hired at WJM-TV in Minneapolis. Of course, the classic “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode from season six in which Chuckles the Clown dies is among the six episodes that WBBZ plans to carry. It airs at 3:30 p.m.
And at 4:30 p.m., WBBZ will air the classic series finale that includes a group hug of the show’s cast.
Of course, WBBZ isn't the only channel airing Moore tributes. Cable's Sundance TV will air all 24 episodes of the final season of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.
And WNED-TV, the local PBS station, will air the 2015 documentary, "Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration," at 5:30 p.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Tuesday.