'Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted': 8 stories from the making of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

From the actors in the now-classic ensemble to the innovative creative types behind the scenes, a large team shares the credit for creating one of the most beloved TV shows of all time. Writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong explores how the show got started and its impact on pop culture in her new book 'Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.' Here are a few of the backstage stories.

1. Ill-timed joke

Mary Tyler Moore and her co-stars (from l. to r.) Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, and Georgia Engel.

Pat Nardo was initially hired as secretary to "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns and would later become a writer on the show. After the initial interview that won her the job, Nardo's new bosses invited her to a meeting they were attending. As they drove across town, Brooks and Burns were talking about how terrible they found most of television. "Talk about a bad show," Nardo remarked. "How about that 'My Mother the Car'?" The show had been co-created by Burns, and there was an awkward silence. Nardo had had no idea the show was Burns', but she instantly guessed. "And you wrote it," she sighed.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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