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The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Season 6
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Join all of your favorites in the WJM-TV newsroom for the hilarious, heartfelt Season Six of the comedy classic that turned the world on with a smile! This time, love is all around, and while the ever-independent Mary falls head over heels and rekindles an old flame, the level-headed Murray pines away for a secret love of his own. And that's just the beginning--from Lou's outrageously unlikely date with Sue Ann to Ted and Georgette's uproarious wedding, it's time to share the love, the lunacy, and the laughter with all of the gang in this timeless, Emmy Award-winning classic.
Unlike Mary Richards, who is depressed because she is in a rut in the episode "Mary Moves Out," The Mary Tyler Moore Show was never better in its penultimate season. Four words: "Chuckles Bites the Dust." This brilliantly written black comedy, ranked No. 3 by TV Guide on its 2009 list of TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time, is an Emmy-winning episode to die for. In it, Mary is appalled that her newsroom colleagues callously make jokes about the bizarre death of Chuckles the Clown (he was killed by a rogue elephant while dressed as a peanut in a circus parade). But this season is no one-episode wonder. With Rhoda and Phyllis gone, the core ensemble of Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight, and Betty White--Emmy-winners all this season--plus Gavin McLeod and Emmy nominees Ed Asner and Georgia Engel, really step up. Asner is particularly fine throughout, whether bravely attending his ex-wife's wedding, trying to convince Ted Baxter to give up his lucrative new job as a "quizmaster" to stay at WJM, or giving a no-good old flame her much-needed comeuppance. This season offers two dandy Mary and Lou episodes. In "Once I Had a Secret Love," Mary reveals a devastating secret about Lou that seriously threatens their friendship, and in "The Seminar," Mary and Lou visit Washington, D.C., where Mary fears time has passed Lou by when none of his former D.C. cronies initially contact him. Betty Ford has an amusing cameo. McLeod, one of the series' unsung heroes, has one of his best episodes with "Murray in Love," in which he is compelled to tell Mary that he is in love with her. Between Mary's new boyfriend (Ted Bessell from the groundbreaking That Girl) and Ted and Georgette's wedding (Georgette loves Ted, she sweetly tells Mary--"Somebody has to"), the writers continue to further explore and evolve these beloved characters. "Sometimes you really surprise me," Mary admiringly tells Lou in "Mary's Aunt," and so does The Mary Tyler Moore Show --Donald Liebenson
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I'm talking, of course, about "Chuckles Bites the Dust." This episode takes black comedy to an art form when Chuckles the Clown, a character we've only seen once but heard mentioned more than that dies rather unexpectedly. He is leading a circus parade as a peanut and gets squashed by an excited elephant. The jokes the characters tell are downright funny. I laugh almost as hard as the studio audience every time I see it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Not that this classic needs much in the way of an introduction. By season six, the show pretty much revolves around the work life of Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) since her two friends outside of work have now moved out of town (and to their own sitcoms). She's the producer of the six o'clock news at WJM in Minneapolis. She, her boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), and the news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod) have to put up with the bumblings of their arrogant anchor, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Recurring this season are Ted's girlfriend Georgette (Georgia Engel) and happy homemaker (think a 70's Martha Stewart) Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White).
Quite a bit actually changes in the course of these 24 episodes. Mary moves out of her studio apartment to an apartment with a real bedroom. In one of my favorites Ted and Georgette get married on the spur of the moment in Mary's apartment. Lou's ex-wife gets remarried in one of the most awkward episodes of the season. Latter, Lou douses an old flame, literally. Man hungry Sue Ann finally beds the man of her dreams - Lou. Mary's aunt, a respected journalist, shows up for a couple of episodes. And Mary actually has a boyfriend who sticks around for more than one episode in a row. (He lasts two.)
Because the writers and actors are so familiar with the characters, they really hit it out of the park sometimes. As I already mentioned, I do enjoy "Chuckles" and "Ted's Wedding." But my favorite episode of the season (and one of my top in the series) is "What Do You Want to Do When You Produce?" This episode finds Murray taking a job as producer of Sue Ann's show, which he discovers is a menial job. While I saw the climax coming the first time I saw the episode, it still made me laugh so hard. And there are several other very funny moments earlier in the episode, too.
Frankly, turning Sue Ann from a one episode guest star character to a recurring character was one of the best things the show did. Betty White steals just about every scene she is in here. For example, I love watching her try to turn ghetto in "Mary's Delinquent." Since her character is so focused on men and sex, plenty of her lines are double entendres. I'm a little surprised at some of what they got away with in 1975 and 1976 when these episodes first aired. Yes, they are pretty tame by today's standards, but parents might want to remember the show was pushing the envelop as far as they could at this point.
Of course, the downside of focusing on work is we see more of Ted. Don't get me wrong, he can be a funny character, but his arrogant personality can get old quickly. He's best used in small doses, but with fewer characters, they need to use him more.
My other complain about the season is that the lack of continuity really catches up with them. They recast a guest star character for one episode. But the worst example as far as I am concerned is an ex-boyfriend who comes back to town in one episode. According to that episode, he and Mary were engaged until he called it off. Gee, you'd think we would have heard something about that along the way. Granted, we had seen the character twice before, but I still have to go back to watch those episodes to remember him.
You can tell the cast has worked together for a number of years and all got along. It shows with how easily they play off each other. The acting from all the regulars is spot on; they really don't miss a trick. Guest stars this season include before they were famous appearances by John Ritter, Jeff Conaway, and Penny Marshall, as well as a cameo by First Lady Betty Ford. Valerie Harper and David Bessell make appearances as their characters in the spin off series Rhoda. Finally, the hated Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch shows up in the first of his three appearances as Ted's adopted son David.
All 24 episodes of the season are preserved here on three discs. And that's it. We don't get any bonus features at all. With as long as it has taken to release this set, I'm just happy we get them at all. The picture is full frame and the sound in mono. The picture looks like it's been cleaned up a bit. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a 30+ year old show. While we still don't get episode summaries, we do at least get an episode list broken down by disc here, so it is easy to find an episode you are looking for.
My favorite seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show are the early ones, but every time I sit down to watch the later seasons, I am reminded just how funny they are as well. Any fan of this show will be happy to add season six to their collection.
Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Georgia Engel, and the fantastic Ted Knight pick up the slack that Valerie Harper "Rhoda" and Leachman left behind. Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore are still great together and this ensemble cast gels quite nicely even though the show seemed to stumble in season 5.
Although there aren't any special features included on the DVDs, the season is still worth buying. This season has Mary moving to a new apartment building and there are numerous guest appearances by actors who were probably just starting out like John Ritter Three's Company - Season One, and Penny Marshall Laverne & Shirley - The Complete First Season, who would eventually star in their own long running sitcoms.
Also look for a cameo from Valerie Harper "Rhoda Morgenstern" and David Groh "Joe Gerard," and the then first lady, Betty Ford. Another great addition to season 6 is Mary's love interest "Joe Warner" played by non-other than Ted Bessell--who some of you might remember as "Donald Hollinger" from That Girl - Season One.
So if you like classic television or wondered why shows like MTM have such a cult-like following, I highly recommend getting the THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW SEASON 6.