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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Love Is All Around: My Top 10 Favorite 'Mary' Episodes

In honor of the 39th anniversary of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired its first episode on September 19, 1970, I thought it would be fun to select my 10 favorite episodes. The series earned 29 Emmy Awards over seven seasons (and 168 episodes), a record that was not broken until 2002 when Frasier earned its 30th. And although it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series three years in a row (1975, 1976, 1977), some critics weren't that impressed when the show debuted--including John J. O'Connor, who in his New York Times review on April 21, 1971, called it "breezy, somewhat inane and, after three minutes, utterly predictable" and compared it to "your average Broadway comedy". Hopefully the guy felt differently by the time Mary's last show aired on March 19, 1977. And I'm sure every MTM fan out there is just as excited as I am about the fifth season of the series finally being released on DVD on October 6!

So here are my 10 favorite episodes (in chronological order):

1) "A Girl's Best Mother Is Not Her Friend" (Episode 29, Season 2 - October 16, 1971): Nancy Walker was the show's best guest star as Rhoda's mother, Ida Morgenstern. This is her second appearance (out of four), in which she tries to become Rhoda's best friend. I love the following exchange between mother and daughter:

Ida: "I'm not wearing a bra."
Rhoda: "Ma! Go upstairs and put some clothes on!"
Ida: "Rhoda, I can't believe you'd tell a friend to go change just because she's 'with it'."
Rhoda: "You're not with it. You're without it. Now go upstairs and get it."

2) "Rhoda the Beautiful" (Episode 54, Season 3 - October 21, 1972): This is a great Rhoda episode, in which she enters a beauty contest and wins. However, my favorite scene is when Phyllis (the fabulous Cloris Leachman) sings "Ten Cents a Dance" in Rhoda's apartment (start watching the episode below at 18:15).

3) "Put on a Happy Face" (Episode 71, Season 3 - February 24, 1973): Everything goes wrong for poor Mary when she has to go to the Teddy Awards dinner while suffering from the flu and bumpy hair. The comedic brilliance of Mary Tyler Moore has never been better--and I love the following conversation (start watching the episode below at 6:07):

Mary: "What am I going to do?"
Rhoda: "Eat some candy."
Mary: "Rhoda, chocolate solves nothing."
Rhoda: "No, no. Cottage cheese solves nothing. Chocolate can do it all."

4) "The Lars Affair" (Episode 73, Season 4 - September 15, 1973): This episode introduces the wonderful Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, the star of The Happy Homemaker show who is having an affair with Phyllis' husband, Lars. It's a shame that White and Leachman didn't have more scenes together on the show because they made a terrific comedy team.

5) "The Dinner Party" (Episode 82, Season 4 - November 17, 1973): Mary gives a dinner party for a congresswoman, Rhoda brings Henry Winkler as her date, and Lou takes too many servings of the Veal Prince Orloff and has to put some back.

6) "Happy Birthday, Lou" (Episode 87, Season 4 - December 22, 1973): Mary tries her luck at throwing a surprise birthday party for Lou, who is now separated from his wife. However, there's one tiny problem: he hates surprises and refuses to let any of the guests come inside her apartment.

7) "Edie Gets Married" (Episode 121, Season 6 - September 13, 1975): I adore this episode, in which Mary accompanies Lou to his ex-wife Edie's wedding. It has one of my favorite final scenes as Ted tells an Anna Maria Alberghetti knock-knock joke that turns into a rousing song.

8) "Chuckles Bites the Dust" (Episode 127, Season 6 - October 25, 1975): This classic episode has "a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants" as Mary and the gang attend the funeral of Chuckles the Clown, who--while dressed as a peanut for a parade--was "shelled" to death by a rogue elephant.

9) "Ted's Wedding" (Episode 129, Season 6 - November 8, 1975): The sweet Georgette finally makes an honest man out of Ted Baxter as they suddenly decide to get married in Mary's apartment. John Ritter makes an amusing appearance as the minister who arrives straight from a tennis match.

10) "Sue Ann's Sister" (Episode 147, Season 7 - October 9, 1976): One of the best Sue Ann episodes, in which her sister, Lila (played by The Munsters' Pat Priest), comes to visit. Comedy doesn't get much better than the scene in Sue Ann's bedroom, and I love when Mary tries out the vibrating bed.


n69n said...

thank you for the MTM love!

Kristen said...

Great list of episodes. I could never narrow down a list like this, there are just too many classics in this series. I could go on for days, LOL. If you want to see the full extent of my Mary love, see my site. (Shameless plug, I know, but at least it's related!) Anyway, it's nice to see others appreciate the show as much as I do. :)

Deep Dish said...

Thanks for the comment, Kristen! Always nice to meet another Mary fan!

Anonymous said...

What about the "infamous" green dress episode, You Try To Be a Nice Guy. That one was on the money.

Marc said...

Hey, Anonymous, I didn't remember that episode, so I just watched it on YouTube - and I agree it's a great Mary episode. And she actually looks pretty good in the "infamous" green dress.