During season four, Betty White made an appearance on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as Sue Ann Nivens, an outgoing woman with a sweet demeanor who hosted one of the network’s shows, called “The Happy Homemaker.” But Nivens had a wild, bedroom-oriented quality to her personality that she kept mostly hidden, and White being the comical genius that she was, portrayed that hilariously.
She was only meant to be a guest role for one episode, in which she tries to steal Phyllis’s husband, sparking a fight between her and Phyllis while cooking a souffle on a cooking show. White did such an amazing job that she was asked to come back as a regular. White and Moore were good friends in real life, and the chemistry showed onscreen.
Ed Asner Almost Didn’t Play Lou Grant
Nowadays, we can’t imagine anyone but the late, legendary actor Ed Asner playing Lou Grant. But before he played Mary Richard’s tough, grumpy, and kind-hearted boss, Asner had no experience in comedy roles. One of the producers suggested him for the part, but some CBS executives were doubtful he could handle a starring role.
Asner eventually came in for an audition and totally bombed it. But minutes after he left, and the producers obviously decided not to cast him, Asner came back and burst into the audition room door and said, “You all know that was terrible and you were too polite to say anything. Stop being so damn polite and tell me what you want for the character!”After half an hour of working with him, Asner reread for the part and conquered his audience.
Producers Decided Minneapolis Was the Perfect Setting
Many fans and even the CBS executives themselves often wondered why the show’s producers decided to film it in Minneapolis. There were several reasons, as they would reveal in later years – the bad weather could serve for comical plot twists and visuals, the costume department could get creative with winter fashion, and they were mainly tired of the typical New York or Los Angeles setting.
Minneapolis was a big, overwhelming city for Mary Richards and a small one for Rhoda’s New Yorker character. It was the perfect balance, and Mary’s coats did end up becoming one of the most iconic things about the show.
The First Show to Feature the Pill
Mary Richards’ character was of a smart, independent, ambitious woman that, not only had intimate relations without being married but also took birth control pills. Remember this was the 70s, and contraception for women was still very much frowned upon and considered taboo.
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was the first American show to feature birth control pills on TV. This was a big leap from Moore’s previous role in “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” in which she played a married woman who slept in a separate bed from her husband. The fact that in 1972, birth control pills became available to single women across the United States also made the show resonate with its audiences.
Ted Baxter Was Based on a Real-Life News Anchor
Back in the 1970s, there was an iconic news anchor in Los Angeles called Jerry Dunphy, who made a name for himself with his signature white hair and signoff phrase: “From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California.” Dunphy became such a popular TV figure that he was even cast in movies to play small roles.
The producers of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” wrote the character of Ted Baxter based on Jerry Dunphy, despite the fact that Dunphy wasn’t nearly as dimwitted. Dunphy became so popular throughout his years as an anchor that even the character of Kent Brockman in the hit series “The Simpsons” is inspired by him.