- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
he first season of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was released on DVD in September of 2002, and now the seventh and final season has been released in October of 2010, which means it took Fox a longer period of time to get the entire series out on DVD than it was actually on the air back in the 70s. Of course, the important thing is that it’s now all out there, thank goodness, but it goes to show how tricky a business this whole TV on DVD thing can be when it takes eight years to get seven seasons of one of the greatest sitcoms ever made onto the silver platter. For comparison purposes, it took Fox a few months shy of five years to get all 11 seasons of “M*A*S*H” out on DVD, while Anchor Bay released all eight seasons of “Three’s Company” over a mere three years.
What’s most telling about these facts, perhaps, is that many people have simply forgotten what a great series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” really is, as clearly folks weren’t very motivated to go out and support it through dollars, which is something of a mild travesty for a show that took home a whopping 29 Emmys during its run. If there’d been more interest in these DVD releases, it wouldn’t have taken so long, and probably more care would’ve gone into the content of the season box sets (only the first two sets featured bonus material).
The good news is that Mary Richards and the rest of the WJM-TV gang went out on a series of major high notes. I nit-picked the previous two seasons, while still highly recommending them, but the final season of the series is practically faultless. This is the way you do it, TV people: Go out with class, while your show is still great. Don’t wait until all the life has been sucked out of it, and it’s reduced to parody – a pale shadow of the series it once was. This is something the major networks just don’t get. They flog the horse until it’s lifeless. If Steve Carell is leaving “The Office,” why not just end “The Office” while it’s still a good show? (You don’t have to answer that because we both know what the answer is…coughmoneycoughcashcowcough.)
For many fans of “Mary Tyler Moore,” the backbone of the show was the friendship between Mary and Rhoda, which is perfectly understandable, especially given how important this series was to women back in the day. For this fan, however, the show’s always been about the friendship and working relationship between Mary and Lou. It’s amazing to think about how respectively timid and gruff Mary and Lou were back in the beginning, and how over the years she developed a backbone and sense for business from being around him, and how he in turn learned to have heart and be a better person from being around her. It’s one of television’s great platonic romances, and as Betty White once said in an interview, “They’ve been playing one long love scene for seven years.”
Season Seven, more than any other before it, is defined by that relationship, and the bulk of these episodes largely revolve around issues between the two characters. The first episode of the season kicks off with a scene between the pair in which Mary is worried about Lou’s health. When she tries to talk to him about it, he refuses her delicate approach and insists that she just flat out admit that she’s calling him fat. It’s priceless, hilarious material, and a sign of greatness to come. Over the course of the season, Mary and Lou deliver a baby together, stand up to their boss together, lose their jobs together, and, in the penultimate episode, go on a date together. It would be wrong to say what happens in that episode, but suffice it to say, no matter what viewers, after seven seasons, would like to have seen happen, what actually does happen is the only result that makes dramatic sense for the pair. It’s real and it’s right.
There’s a great deal of well-played sentimentality sprinkled throughout the season, and even though you always get the feeling the show’s wrapping up, there’s just as much pitch-perfect comedy. I laughed loud, long and hard dozens of times watching these episodes, usually with a permanent grin plastered across my face. The season is also more experimental than those that came before it. There’s a dream episode towards the end called “Mary’s Three Husbands” in which Lou, Ted and Murray each have separate, drunken dreams of what it would be like to be married to Mary. “Mary’s Insomnia” is a classic; it has to be – all three of the guys end up in her bathroom while she’s taking a bath. “Mary’s Big Party” is a clip show of Mary’s infamously disastrous parties that would feel a waste if not for the amazing ending featuring a certain high-profile guest star. Well, it features his voice anyway. You’ve got to see it to believe it, or not as the case may be. “Ted’s Change of Heart” is one of the weirdest episodes the show ever did; so odd that I’m not even going to try to explain it. And then, of course, there’s the finale, “The Last Show,” which in addition to sending the series off into the sunset, also sees the return of both Rhoda and Phyllis. It’s a heartfelt half-hour that sets no goal for itself other than to simply say goodbye, which it does magnificently, with warmth and humor. Why don’t you take us out, Mary?
Mary Richards (in tears): “I just wanted you to know, that sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman. I get to thinking my job is too important to me…and I tell myself that the people I work with are just the people I work with, and not my family. And last night I thought, ‘What is a family, anyway?’ They’re just people who make you feel…less alone…and really loved. And that’s what you’ve done for me. Thank you for being my family.”
Special Features: Do I really need tell you about all the goodies you won’t be getting here? The one little cherry (thankfully) added to this set is the final curtain call at the end of the last episode, which has only been shown once on TV, and that was during the original broadcast. One by one, the cast steps out of character, while Moore introduces each of them so they can take a bow for the studio audience. The only problem is, Fox screwed up and left it off certain sets, and you can’t know until you get yours and play it. And what do you know? The review copy sent to me was one such set. Never fear, Fox is aware of the problem, and the fine folks at TVShowsonDVD.com have discovered that all you have to do is call 1-888-223-4369, and Fox will send you a replacement disc. You also need the date of purchase, and the retailer your set was purchased from.