The seventh and final season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is now available as a triple-DVD set. Fans of the acclaimed series are excused for scratching their heads at how long it has taken for all the shows to come out. Nevertheless, the release of the concluding 24 episodes is a welcome occasion, for this was one of the finest television programs ever.
The announcement that the 1976-77 season would be the last of the series was surprising to say the least. As one of the top-rated shows of the era, the program was a virtual mint. Not only was it extremely profitable, but the writing had never been better. To many, the seventh season was the best one of the entire run.
Watching these programs over 30 years after they originally aired reaffirms its reputation as one of the all-time greats. Apart from the styles, and some of the topical references, the shows have aged remarkably well. There are laugh-out-loud moments in every episode, and the jokes never pander. As is apparent to even the most casual viewer, the main characters were some of meticulously well-crafted ever.
The WJM newsroom is a complex web of personalities. The leads are smart, vulnerable, and complicated – quite unlike those of most of the competition. Proving that some things never change, characters like these are as uncommon on today’s sitcoms as they were back then.
Some interesting people stopped by to say hello that season. The biggest was late-night king Johnny Carson. Presumably he was attired in his trademark seventies leisure suit, but we will never know for sure. As a guest at one of Mary’s legendarily bad parties, Carson walks in just as the lights in her building go out. He says hello to everyone, then beats a hasty retreat.
I was surprised to see a very young Helen Hunt as Murray’s daughter in one of the episodes. And John Amos came back as Gordy, who covered sports during the first season. He is now a high-profile network personality, and has to put up with Ted’s merciless begging for a job as his co-host. Ted even offers his wife Georgette to Gordy in exchange for the gig.
This was the season that Mary and Lou finally went out on a date. Talk about an impeccably written script, this one is near perfect. To be able to show the mutual attraction, their roles as colleagues, explore the idea of a romantic relationship, and resolving it all by staying “just friends” in one 22-minute program is an extraordinary display of talent.
Much has been made of “The Last Show” in the 33 years since it was first broadcast. It had such an impact that it became the de facto template for the occasion of a series’ end. When that time came for Seinfeld, they decided to flip the MTM format, and have regretted it ever since.
With the release of the seventh season, every episode is now finally available on DVD. For this writer, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is as good as television has ever gotten, it is a series I unequivocably recommend.