Thursday, January 26, 2017

Who Can Turn The World On With Her Smile

About the scariest movie that TigerBlog has ever seen is "The Hitcher."

It stars Thomas C. Howell as a young guy who is driving out on some desert highway. Rutger Hauer is the hitchhiker he picks up - and comes to seriously regret doing so. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the women Thomas C. Howell likes, and she ends up regretting that he picks up Rutger Hauer even more than he does.

TigerBlog saw it alone one late night around, oh, 1987 or 1988. He figured it was just another movie. Then, about two hours later, it was after midnight and TB was far too freaked out to go to sleep.

So what did he do? He flipped the channels and found that there were back-to-back episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" about to start. He watched both - actually, it might have been more than two, but he watched as many as there were.

By the time Mary, Lou, Murray, Ted and the gang were done, TB had calmed down enough to go to sleep without having to wake up an hour or so later screaming in a cold sweat.

In case you missed it, Mary Tyler Moore died yesterday at the age of 80. The news made TigerBlog, and many others, sad. If TB had to pick a word to describe her, it would be "beloved." It seemed like everyone loved Mary Tyler Moore.

From TB's point of view, he has always been grateful to Mary for getting "The Hitcher" out of his mind that night long ago.

Ah, but there's more than that. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is one of the greatest shows TB has ever seen. Beyond that, it has, without question, the greatest theme show any television show has ever had.

You know how it goes, the pleasant tune with shots of Mary as she lives her life in, of all places, Minneapolis, complete with the tossing of her hate into the winter air at the end.

"Who can turn the world on with her smile?" You don't find too many smiles anywhere that can do that.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is more than just a show about a wholesome, perky young woman who is trying to make it on her own (as the associate producer for a television news show), as the song said. For starters, single women who left their hometowns to try to make it on their own were basically unheard of on television back on Sept. 19, 1970, when the show debuted.

It ran for seven seasons and 168 episodes, and it won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series three times. Actually, it would win 29 Emmy Awards, then a record - not broken until "Frasier" (not a great show, in TB's opinion) nearly 30 years later.

As for Mary herself, she won three Emmys for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Keep in mind, this was during a golden age of television sitcoms, and the Emmy competition was fierce.

Mention "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to most people who saw it, and they'll tell you they remember the show for being really cute, really down-to-earth, with its great characters, especially Lou Grant (crusty, cynical, tough boss), Ted Baxter (inept news anchor), Rhoda Morgenstern (transplanted New Yorker who would get her own spin-off show), Phyllis Lindstrom (snooty landlady), Murray Slaughter (sarcastic news writer) and Sue Ann Nivens (host of a homemaking show and master of the backhanded compliment/insult).

And then, of course, there was Mary herself. She couldn't hurt a fly, desperately wanted to avoid conflicts and had a heart of gold. She was impossible not to love, and because of her personality, she was also constantly attracting a weird assortment of dates. Oh, and she threw awful dinner parties.

The show was more than just cute, though. It's really hilarious. The writing is brilliant, and the characters mixed together perfectly. It's hard to watch a single episode without having something make you crack up.

Remember the funeral for Chuckles the Clown? Mary scolds everyone in the newsroom for making fun of the way Chuckles died, in a parade while dressed like a peanut, shelled to death, as it were, by an elephant. Then, at the funeral, during the eulogy, Mary is the one can't contain herself, as she bursts out laughing, only to start bawling a few seconds later. 
 The three Emmys she won were not her first. Nope. Her first two came in 1964 and 1966, for her role as Laura Petrie, the wife of the title character in "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Laura Petrie was almost as peppy and nice as the role she'd play in her own show a few years later.

Not to be typecast strictly as Mary Richards or Laura Petrie, Mary Tyler Moore then played the exact opposite character in the 1980 movie "Ordinary People." In that movie, she plays the mother of two boys, one who is killed in a boating accident and the other of whom attempts suicide.

Mary, as the mother, is cold, distant, unfeeling, concerned only with public appearances. She gives her husband a hard time for the color of his shirt at the funeral of their older son, and she cannot bring herself to hug her younger son for a photograph.

It was a shocking role for someone so beloved from her signature TV role, and if you've ever seen the movie, you completely hated her character, which is what you were supposed to do. The movie won four Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford), Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton, as the son). Judd Hirsch was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Hutton, and Mary Tyler Moore was nominated for Best Actress, losing to Sissy Spacek for "Coal Miner's Daughter."

She did win a Golden Globe for the role, and she also won a Tony Award that same year for her performance in "Whose Life Is It Anyway."

So that's more than 900 words on Mary Tyler Moore, and TB hasn't even gotten to anything about Princeton Athletics today.

That's okay. Every now and then, Princeton can take a backseat, and today, Princeton takes a backseat to Mary Tyler Moore.

Besides, it's still first semester exam break, and nobody around here has played anything competitive other than ping-pong for nearly two weeks.

For some reason, the break this year seems like it's taking longer than it does most years. Or maybe it always seems to take this long, and TB just doesn't remember. Still, the last week has seemed like it's taken 100 years.

Ah, but fear not. Athletic events resume in two days. As TB said yesterday, there will be men's hockey at the Wells Fargo Center against fourth-ranked Penn State, coached by former Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky, Saturday at 7. There's also home women's tennis Saturday at 10 and 3 in Jadwin Gym, against Delaware and Seton Hall.

The heart of the winter season, which is a total sprint to the finish of all of those teams, will be here in no time, as will the dreaded winter/spring overlap, which will see the busiest weekends of the year around here. Unlike now, there will be nothing but action, with 18 events on Feb. 4 alone and 25 on the Friday and Saturday a week later.

That'll keep everyone really busy, and the calm of winter break will be a long distant memory.

So for today, TigerBlog will leave you with his favorite exchange on the show might have been from the very first episode, when Mary is interviewing with Lou. It goes something like this:
Mr. Grant - "What religion are you?"
Mary: "Uh, Mr. Grant, I don't think you can ask me that on a job interview."
Mr. Grant - "Why not?"
Mary: "I think it's against the law."
Mr. Grant: "You gonna call a cop?"

After Mary is hired, Lou says to her "You've got spunk. I hate spunk."

Of course Lou Grant hated spunk. But he loved Mary.

Every one did.

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