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Mary Tyler Moore Show and Its Spin-Offs

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by ClassyCo, Jun 4, 2019.

  1. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I have been a regular viewing fan of the 1970s gem The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which pioneered the notion of a single woman headlining a prime time series. I have the complete series on DVD, via the assistance of my local Walmart, and I watch it frequently.

    Like many hits, the producers and network team behind Mary Tyler Moore's show wanted to duplicated the success wherever possible, thus opening the door for two spin-offs: the highly successful Rhoda, and the short-lived Phyllis.

    MTM Enterprises was the word.

    Any fans here?
     
  2. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Yes, it was never a big ratings winner here but I was a big MTM fan, and there was a third spin-off, Lou Grant, which, unusually, was a one-hour drama.
     
  3. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Lou Grant, for some reason, I always forget that one.

    Interestingly, the premiere season of Phyllis was sixth, Rhoda was seventh, and I think The Mary Tyler Moore Show was nineteenth. That speaks something, that maybe, perhaps, the audience liked the secondary characters better than Mary? But, in turn, the parent show suffered without Phyllis, and especially without Rhoda, while the other two didn't sustain themselves because their ensembles and story lines, from my gathering, weren't always strong.
     
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  4. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    No, it just means Mary's show had to make it on its own, while the spin-offs had the parent series to help them set sail with a built-in audience.

    Interestingly, the first season of MARY TYLER MOORE comes off as a bit loud ('60s comedies filmed in front of a live audience were often delivered like a stage play, and MARY inherited some of that initially) and the early jokes at Ted's expense often just came down to his mispronouncing things. (And it's hard to believe today that the simple satirizing of the revered silver-haired newsreader image was hysterical at the time, just because the show had the chutzpah to do it). Yet, in 1970, the show came off as incredibly fresh, given what else was on TV at the time. There's a deeply melancholy flavor to Season 1 that I still find rather poignant, in keeping with the cusp of the '60s/'70s, even though the show is just finding its way.

    A good group of writers and producers, the characters on MARY soon became more nuanced and developed, and the program barely ever made a misstep during its seven season run (earning a record number of Emmys and nominations) and was viewed at the time by critics as the closest to perfect a TV sitcom had come, at least up until that point and well-beyond, and I tended to agree. And even then the series seemed a '70s period piece -- not so much in terms of topicality (as MARY mostly avoided the politics of, say, ALL IN THE FAMILY and many of the Norman Lear shows) but in tone.

    The spin-offs, on the other hand, were spin-offs. RHODA started out with a bang, but the network wanted Rhoda married by the eighth episode. The wedding garnered huge ratings, but it doomed the show by shoving the lead character into a miscast marriage (David Groh was okay, but not the right actor) so Rhoda's adventures as a swinging single in NYC were sabotaged -- at least until the producers divorced them, and then Rhoda's delayed sojourn prying disco era lounge lizards' hands away no longer worked either. So RHODA often didn't know where to go. And, as so often occurs when a wise-cracking sidekick gets her own show, the edge is removed once that character moves center-stage... I think PHYLLIS was frankly too neurotic a character to work as a lead star; the show's ratings dropped fast and also didn't seem to know what it wanted to be. LOU GRANT, of course, was a drama and pretty well done (although, oddly enough, I missed it most of the time).

    [​IMG]

    But I've run across a number of intelligent-but-predatory people who still despise the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW with a passion -- they seem to gutterally resent the fact that such a vulnerable, spasming character like Mary Richards would be the sympathetic, central role, and feel Lou Grant should or ought to smash her like a bug in the first episode... Which is --- fascinating.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  5. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Indeed. I would go so far as to name it my favourite '70s show.
     
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  6. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Addict

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    Had Barbara Colby not been murdered and Judith Lowry not died, “Phyllis” would have been much better.....
     
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  7. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I own The Mary Tyler Moore Show in its entirety, while I've seen little --- if any of to be precise --- of the two spin-offs. Spinning off popular or crowd-pleasing secondary characters, or, guest stars in some cases, was apparently trendy in the 1970s. Norman Lear had the majority of his hits because All in the Family introduced them to the TV audience.

    For a long while, despite my considerable favoring of classic TV, I had refused to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Through online forums, such as this one, and discussions with other classic TV fans, I had convinced myself that by watching the show that had been so hyped, I would be disappointed. I remember catching some reruns during a Fourth of July marathon a few years back, and I caught on to the jive of it quickly, and I became a fan. I bought the first and six seasons (an odd combination, I know) from Walmart, before a couple ago, I found the complete series there for thirty-five dollars.

    I know Rhoda and Phyllis each suffered from format and cast changes, and perhaps network disappoint in shows they felt had potential to have long runs like the series they spun off of.
     
  8. Grant Jennings

    Grant Jennings Soap Chat Fan

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    As TJames03 noted, "Phyllis" suffered from the loss of two cast members; actress Jane Rose (Audrey) was seriously ill when the second season wrapped. Though ratings had declined toward the end of the second season; overall ratings were better than "Rhoda" (which would be renewed for another season) and equal to "Mary Tyler Moore". It is believed that the deaths of Colby, Lowry and uncertainty over Rose's return that led CBS to cancel "Phyllis".

    I always loved the Jerry Herman parody theme song. The opening features vintage footage from a Hollywood musical of a male chorus - performing in blackface!

    I think American audiences at that time weren't used to lead characters who were complicated and potentially unsympathetic. Even now, such characters are more likely to appear on cable (such as Selina on "Veep") or streaming shows - never the "big 3". I think Phyllis has a lot in common with Basil Fawlty, another brilliantly funny, but not always likable character.
     
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  9. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Addict

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    Rose died soon after the show was cancelled, so there would have been a third death to death with. I think the show could have still survived an overhaul of Phyllis moving out on her own at the beginning of the third season and just dropping the entire aspect of her life with Audrey.....
     
  10. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    It seems like Phyllis was doomed from the beginning...
     
  11. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Addict

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    Barbara Colby was murdered only three episodes into the series. As a matter of fact, she was murdered shortly after filming episode three (by about a few hours). Judith Lowry was great, but she was very old and it was no surprise when she passed away.
     
  12. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Yes. I always thought a Phyllis spin-off was an odd choice for that reason. It's probably also the reason why a suggested Alexis spin-off from Dynasty never came about. It's difficult to see how an ongoing series could be made to work. Nowadays of course the anti-hero is a more common sort of character.
     
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  13. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    I cant believe this was ever a plan?
     
  14. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Joan says there was talk of doing an ALEXIS spin-off, but she was deemed too important to the original series -- where she was the de facto star anyway.
     
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  15. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    My mind is blown. I mean what would Dynasty have been if she wasn't there? And what would Alexis be without the Carringtons?
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
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  16. Grant Jennings

    Grant Jennings Soap Chat Fan

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    I remember reading an interview with Joan Collins in the mid 80s where she mentioned a new series titled "Vixen". This obviously must have been while she was renegotiating her contract.
     
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  17. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    It's almost inconceivable for me to imagine Dynasty without Alexis in the mix, that's why I have never been the biggest fan of Season 1, despite the writing being significantly better overall. The idea of a Collins headlining a serialized spin-off seems unlikely, however, considering her Alexis worked best when part of an ensemble. Her talents and presence were certainly strong enough to carry a weekly series, but I doubt Alexis' vindictive ways could be relied on solely to make a TV series sustain.
     
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  18. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Alexis' entry into DYNASTY, however, was far more effective having been delayed by several months. It gave Season 1 a REBECCA quality, and Joseph, of course, as Mrs Danvers bitter over having been rejected by the lady of the manor.
     
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  19. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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  20. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I dunno
    If anything, Dynasty's problem was that it could be too Alexis-heavy at times, which is why season 9 was a breath of fresh air when she was on the show in a more recurring capacity (which, ironically, made her seem even more sinister). An Alexis spin-off with her in every scene just quipping insults and generally being the Queen of the Universe would've been tiring to watch.
     
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