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posted: 5/8/2013 6:00 AM

A backstage look at 'Mary Tyler Moore Show'

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  • "Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic" by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

      "Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic" by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/SIMON & SCHUSTER

 
Associated Press

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong examines the creation of television's "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which defined a generation, in "Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted."

Using a "fly on the wall" approach into the minds of the people behind the scenes and the cast of the show, Armstrong has written the quintessential book on one of the best sitcoms to grace the airwaves.

"Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted" is really more of a history book than a companion book with an episode guide to the '70s show that starred Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper and Ted Knight. In fact, there isn't a list of the episodes to be found.

What made this show so special? What made it succeed when the network executives determined it would fail before it even aired?

Creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns pitched a show about a divorced woman and ran into a brick wall. They were told American audiences wouldn't tolerate divorce or people who lived in New York City. In response, they made Mary single and moved her to Minneapolis.

The initial run-through of the pilot in front of a live audience was a disaster, and it took advice from a young girl to make one tiny switch that changed everything.

Women were encouraged to write for the series, and soon, other women were joining the writing staffs of other shows.

"Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted" is essential reading for fans of the show or readers curious about the production side of television.

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