Friday, June 19, 2020

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennnifer Keishin Armstrong

The cover design is a cute callback to
the show's opening credits, but that is
one forgettable title!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(2.5 stars, actually, but Goodreads hates fractions)

This book was mildly interesting, the title utterly forgettable. It offers a fluffy take on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the sitcom's place in TV history and the show's stars, but doesn't scratch beneath the surface on people in its pages (especially Mary Tyler Moore herself).

The author glosses over a lot of topics; for instance, when mentioning Moore checked into the Betty Ford Center, she hesitates to straight up say Moore had a drinking problem; the word "alcoholic" isn't used, instead she quotes someone who called it a "social drinking habit."

Near the end of the book the Armstrong finally, and briefly, admits Moore "struggled[d] with alcoholism," but I have no idea why she tiptoed around it so carefully when the actor herself talked about it in her memoir.

Despite some shortfalls, this book helps you get a sense of the reasons people often refer to The Mary Tyler Moore Show as important or influential. That's especially interesting if you weren't old enough (or born yet enough!) to watch it when it first aired.

Watching those old episodes now, some storylines and what comes out of the characters mouths can seem old-fashioned and a bit blah. But then again, many jokes hold up and still seem funny and relatable decades later. I've watched season 1 on Hulu and now I'm skipping about watching episodes that make "best of" lists, as I'm just not interested in watching the entire series.

I think the show must've been much more striking if you watched it in the '70s when there wasn't anything else on the air quite like it, rather than looking back decades on. This book helps put into perspective the role of the show in forming the modern sitcom and of having women in the forefront of a show's cast and heavily involved in its writing room, and for that, I feel it was worth the read.

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