As Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Mary portrayed a television producer who was not only a career woman but single — an identity incredibly rare at the time, as most female actors played sidekick wives, daughters or mothers to their characters’ husbands, fathers and children. Mary lived alone, her character’s life and onscreen hilarity complimented by single best friend, next-door neighbor and side-splitting sidekick Rhoda (played by the equally lovable Valerie Harper), and dated several different men throughout the show.
Before landing her own series, Mary starred on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as Laura Petrie, a role that garnered her her first individual Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. (She’d go on to win three more Emmys and a Golden Globe for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” as well as additional Emmys and Globes for her work in “Stolen Babies” and “Ordinary People,” respectively.) As Laura, a former dancer turned stay-at-home mom, Mary often acted the neurotic foil to her on-screen husband, but her scene-stealing charm (and fondness of pants vs. dresses in the still quite demure 1960s) made her a star, and fans followed her through the rest of her career.
Part of what made “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” so successful was its ability to balance the drama and comedy of real life. The show tackled issues often ignored by broadcast television — pill addiction, infidelity, office politics, and, famously, homosexuality — while creating a space where the storytelling focused on women (namely the dynamic duo of Mary and Rhoda). Together, Mary and Rhoda talked frankly (and hilariously) about sex, relationships and men, although the chemistry they shared outshone the kind they had with their boyfriends. (Mary and Valerie would later share a kiss on a 2013 episode of “Hot in Cleveland,” a nod to their former on-screen friendship that some liked to think bordered on romantic.)
Mary Tyler Moore appeared on both “Ellen” and “The Ellen Show” in the 1990s and 2001, respectively, as well as episodes of “That ’70s Show” and the short-lived “Lipstick Jungle.” She also created her own production company, MTM Enterprises, which produced several successful shows, including the iconic “The Bob Newhart Show” and “St. Elsewhere.” In 1993, she went on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” where she made a joke about Dick Van Dyke’s real name being “Penis Van Lesbian,” a play on his name. We’ll miss her sense of humor — and the rest of her many incredible talents.