Friday, March 27, 2009

Who can turn the world on with a smile?

Back in college, when I was depressed and took a semester off, I started watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This was the era of Ally McBeal, and I remember thinking "everyone praises this show for showing a single girl in a career... wasn't this basically Mary Tyler Moore?" To see if I was right, I needed to watch it.

We didn't have cable, so I got some of my sister's friends to record it for me off of Nick at Night (which now shows stuff like George Lopez and Roseanne!!! How old does that make me feel?), plus I bought the available box sets on VHS. I didn't see every episode, but I saw a lot of them. This was a show that I swear, helped me get through my depression. It was just one thing that helped, but it did help.

I recently got rid of my VHS box sets, because I hadn't watched them in a long time, and they were taking up space. I bought the first season on DVD, and then didn't really watch it. I had buyers' remorse.

Recently, I decided to watch it again, after probably not seeing it in about 8 or 9 years.

Damn, that show is funny!!! I was surprised at how funny it is, even though I watched it a lot 10 years ago. I had forgotten how snappy and hilarious the writing is, and how lovable the characters are. This show premiered in, what, 1970? And honestly, it doesn't seem dated at all. The basic premise of the show is one that still gets used today- single career girl tries to balance work with life- sounds like Ally McBeal and also 30 Rock, doesn't it? But the jokes are still hilarious- as much as I adore 30 Rock, I am not convinced that in 35 years, someone who wasn't even born when the show went off the air will watch it and think "Wow, this show is hysterical!" Very few of the jokes are topical- some are, like a reference to Eric Sevareid, or being able to give the plot of a John Wayne movie without having seen it ("Oh, you know... he won."), but not so many that you don't get it. Incidentally, 30 Rock did a great episode featuring Laugh-In as EXACTLY that kind of comedy- so topical that people can't get the jokes at all 30 years later.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was this gently feminist show, touching on everything from men getting promoted because they were men, anti-semitism, the drudgery of being a housewife when you have ambitions to go on and do other things, being single in your 30s when everyone else expected you to be married, having a job that you like, and the fact that even good girls like Mary Richard had premarital sex, and she could do that and still be considered a "good girl." It wasn't ahead of its time, exactly, but it was definitely au courant.

I watch it and I STILL think "Wow, who wouldn't want to be Mary Richards?"