Mary Tyler Moore is a famous American actress and dancer best known for her roles in two classic sitcoms, as the mildly neurotic wife on The Dick Van Dyke Show and as the single working woman on her own Mary Tyler Moore show. She started dancing professionally within weeks of graduating from high school, and danced in live TV commercials. As an actress, her first TV series was Richard Diamond, Private Detective, where she played David Janssen’s secretary, but the camera never showed her face, just her legs. She also played Laura Petrie on Van Dyke’s popular sitcom, and several years after that show ended CBS offered her a series of her own. Although very much relics of their rime, both shows were popular, and the MTM Show is often referred to as ground breaking.
It was not the first sitcom of the genre, where the main character was a single woman on her own in the big city, but it was the first where she was truly on her own, without a recurring father, boyfriend, or fiancée looking out for her. It also may have been the first show to discretely mention birth control, with an one line allusion that Mary was sexually active on the pill.
As the show was originally conceived, Moore would have played a divorced woman, the first divorced lead on TV, but CBS executives worried that viewers would think she had divorced Van Dyke, and thus be unable to warm to her character. Instead, the backstory of her Mary Richards character was the she had broken up with her fiancé. Moore and her then-husband Grant Tinker, a Hollywood producer who later became President of NBC, started their own production company to produce the MTM Show. They called it MTM Enterprises, and in a play on MGM’s roaring lion, the MTM logo was a meowing kitten.
The MTM Show may hold the record for most spin-off series. Valerie Harper played the perpetually single Rhoda, Cloris Leachman was the mildly overbearing Phyllis, and Ed Asner played Mary’s growling boss, Lou Grant. MTM Enterprises produced all the spin-oofs, as well as Bob Newhart’s The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart. Her sitcoms made Moore an icon of comedy, and she capitalised on that by playing exponentially against type as the frigid grieving mother in 1980′s Ordinary People. She also had five TV series after MTM Show, none of which was renewed for a second season.