The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired from 1970 to 1977, was a majorly influential work of art that revolutionized not only the television industry but also made a decent contribution to the social movements for women and equality during this period of time. Without knowing this, these two scripts- the first and last aired episodes of the acclaimed sitcom- might not have nearly as much significance, but the vast difference time made is still clear, allowing the viewer to capture a small glimpse of the history of the items. While these scripts are two directly related and similar objects, they both have qualities and “characters”, if you will, that are polar opposite.
The script of the first episode is extremely worn and weathered compared to the script of the last episode, the pages of which are in almost pristine condition. The contents of the scripts, however, do not reflect their outward appearance. The first script has barely any notes, changes of lines, etc. It is as if one could see, through the current state of the script, how antsy and maybe even nervous Gavin McLeod, the actor who possessed these two scripts, was about the show and about his character. This is even more apparent when you know that he has not had a breakout television role yet. The feeling of the brewing potential in that first script and the potential McLeod saw in his character is so apparent, as he was just getting to know his character and he was figuring out what to do with his character to make his role great. Taking this feel of the first script and contrasting it to the last script, there were line changes all over the place, little doodles, coffee stains, etc. Here, you can feel McLeod’s comfortability with the script, show, and his character all at once. He knows his character best at this point and knows what he would say, at times better than the writers did, hence the copious amounts of line changes. Somewhere during the seven years of filming The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the uncertainty and nervousness the first script held turned into the fun, easy-going nature that the bittersweet last script possessed.
Adding the social impact of The Mary Tyler Moore Show into the mix, the small glimpse of the history of these two scripts suddenly becomes crystal clear. This series premiered during a time of female oppression and, given that the series has a female lead, it was controversial. However, it also took a big step out from the structure of a typical sitcom, spurring on the movement for women’s rights in an active but subtle way. The show highlighted a female character that was completely different from women in the world of TV but all too familiar to a woman in the real world. By doing so, it made women in that show more complex and interesting to the general public, creating both a kind of show and a kind of female character that is different from what was typically seen (1). Not too long after the show’s success, many other TV series started to follow suit, exemplifying the impact of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In addition to this, Mary Tyler Moore herself recognizes her impact on the film industry with this show, acknowledging how it incited change in the way comedy was written, introducing previously taboo topics into the world of comedy and normalizing them (2). Because of this, it revolutionized the TV sitcom and became the “gold standard” for such a style of a television series, being the model for some of the most popular television shows of all time, like Friends (3).
These two scripts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show represent a multitude of things but, most of all, they represent time. The script, the actors, the film industry, and society were all impacted and forever changed in just seven years time. How these scripts impact the viewer, though, is up to the viewer and what the viewer takes away from these scripts depends on what they decide to make of the brewing potential that time holds.
(1) Dahlia Schweitzer (2015) The Mindy Project: Or Why “I’m The Mary, You’re The Rhoda” Is the RomComSitCom’s Most Revealing Accusation, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 43:2, 63-69, DOI: 10.1080/01956051.2015.1027648
(2) Sun, David Zurawik | Baltimore. “It’s Just Hard to Say Goodbye.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 14 May 2004, articles.latimes.com/2004/may/14/entertainment/et-zurawik14.
(3) “Rome News-Tribune.” Google News –, Google, news.google.com/newspapers?nid=348&dat=19730706&id=pRUHAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rzUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5680,968358.