Three years since the DVD release of the fourth season, Twentieth Century Fox has finally released the fifth season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD this month. I couldn’t find any reason for the lengthy interval, so I presume previous sales numbers didn’t meet their expected goals because it’s hard to believe one of television’s funniest and most honored sitcoms (held the record of winning 29 Emmy Awards until Frasier passed it in 2002) has been treated in such a shabby fashion. Not only does The Complete Fifth Season come with no extras to accompany the 24 episodes, an unfortunate but common occurrence with many TV-on-DVD releases, but Fox didn’t even bother to provide synopses of the episodes.
The fifth season continues the funny exploits of Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) and her WJM coworkers, the main trio being the gruff but lovable news producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner); the wisecracking writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod); and the dopey, self-absorbed news anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Other recurring characters are Ted’s girlfriend Georgette (Georgia Engel), a Gracie Allen-type character, and man-hungry TV host Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White). Mary’s friend and neighbor Rhoda (Valerie Harper) is no longer around because she was spun-off into her own series and landlord Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) would leave after this season for her own series as well.
There are quite a few changes for the characters over the course of the season. Mary takes more responsibility for producing the news broadcast. Murray nearly has an affair in “I Love a Piano” then a few episodes later in “A Son for Murray” he and his wife adopt a Vietnamese boy. Ted proposes to Georgette in “Marriage, Minneapolis Style.” Even though Rhoda is gone she is not forgotten because in “Neighbors” Lou moves into her old apartment above Mary. Also, the gang is shown getting wedding presents for Rhoda in “A New Sue Ann,” a funny episode with shades of All About Eve.
Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, the series excels because it has a simple formula of great writing brought to life by great acting. The fifth season was the first time the series won the Emmy for Best Comedy, a designation it would earn the next and final two seasons of its run. Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for "Will Mary Richards Go to Jail?" where Mary has to decide about naming her sources. This year also saw Acting Emmys go to Asner, White, and Leachman, and editor Douglas Hines was also honored for his work.
Although fans looking to complete their collection are likely already sold, anyone who enjoys smart comedy owes it to themselves to revisit Mary and the gang in the fifth or any season. For those who have yet to get acquainted, the material is rarely dated and the humor is timeless.