Mary Tyler Moore made her name as Dick Van Dyke's wife on the eponymous show; she was a cute, unassuming housewife that audiences loved. But when screenwriters James Brooks and Allan Burnes dreamed up an edgy show about a divorced woman with a career, network executives replied: "Americans won't watch television about New York City, divorcées, men with mustaches, or Jews." But Moore and her team were committed, and when the show finally aired, in spite of tepid reviews, fans loved it.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong introduces listeners to the show's creators; its principled producer, Grant Tinker; and the writers and actors who attracted millions of viewers. As the first situation comedy to employ numerous women as writers and producers, The Mary Tyler Moore Show became a guiding light for women in the 1970s. The show also became the centerpiece of one of greatest evenings of comedy in television history, and Jennifer Keishin Armstrong describes how the television industry evolved during these golden years.
©2013 Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (P)2013 Tantor
To hear this book tell it, the Mary Tyler Moore show just seemed to happen, and this is the story of people who were kinda sorta around when it did.
The author spends an enormous amount of time on stories that never pay off, and she seems to have no interest in how episodes were actually made. She follows one writer from her early days as a club entertainer to her eventual staff job on the show, and then to her travels in Europe, but we never get any insight on what that same writer's life was like on the MTMS staff. What did she do every day? How did she and the staff break stories, what kind of leeway did she have to alter characters? Did she have a unique take on the characters that made her noteworthy a writer?
Early in the book we're told that the show's creators were hired to write a show for Mary Tyler Moore, and then, suddenly, they have a script. We never get any insight into how that script was created, or where the ideas came from. And when those writers decide to change the script to conform to network notes, well, then all of a sudden they have a changed script. We're never privy to the actual making of those changes.
This lack of detail is especially troubling when it comes to James Brooks. Brooks appears on virtually every page of the narrative, but we don't get any insight into his creative process. We get a sentence or two telling us that Brooks dominated the writers room, but no insight into how that room worked. (Was there even a writers room on this show? I don't know, because it's not in the book.) Brooks goes from an ambitious writer to a TV genius, but we're told it happens, and are never shown how it happened. How did writers pitch show ideas? How did Brooks respond to those pitches, how did he change them, what was his spin? Brooks is one of a handful of people who changed TV forever, and this book gives us no sense of what his day--to-day work was on the show. Why, by the book's end, do I know more about the writing habits of a (sort of creepy) Mary Tyler Moore super fan than I do about the guy who this book is largely about? (And how in the world does Brooks' later co-creation of The Simpsons rate one half of one sentence about Julie Kavner?)
As for the book's narration, it is, frankly, hilarious, though not intentionally. The narrator mispronounces so many famous names, it's like she's setting us up for a drinking game. Howard CAsell? Really? Gavin McCloud went on to play Captain Stubbing, as in something you do to your toe? Desi Arnaz's last name looks like it rhymes with "has", but it really rhymes with "fez" — someone should have told the narrator. And these are just off the top of my head. There are at least 5 or 6 more. Every time you hear one, do a shot. It'll make the book more enjoyable.
The book is interesting, especially for those of us who were ther. It is unfortunate that the reader detracts so much from the story. Her simpleton lilting voice (which unfortunately lilts in the wrong places) is bad enough, but her awkward attempt to voice characters is painful. If you are interested in this book, spare yourself and buy the written or e-book.
Really interesting background information - for fans of the show as well as TV production in general. However, this narrator needs to do her homework - I would be interested to know how she got this job, as she clearly had no knowledge of the subject matter. First, she mispronounces common words such as "demurred" (at least 3 times) - but the problems really arose when she mispronounced the last name of Suzanne Pleshette as well as Captain Stubing (Gavin McLeod on The Love Boat). I find it incredibly disrespectful of the entire process - if the narrator can't be bothered to learn about the subject matter, where are the editors? Just sad.
One of the worst readings ever. The narrator's intonation is meant for an audience of 6 year olds. She sounds like someone who never actually listens to audiobooks.
I slugged through it anyway. The story behind the show is interesting, but be warned this book is as much about the writers and producers as it is the actors. I happen to like that, but I could understand if some folks felt gyped that it meandered so much.
Yes, I would definitely listen to some parts again. To hear the background of one of television's most successful series is a real treat to anyone who grew up watching this landmark show. The behind the scenes stories are priceless.
I think I would prefer someone who bothered to read the book ahead of time. Judging from her line readings she frequently didn't seem to know the intent of the sentence. The only time I've ever heard results like that is when someone is doing a cold reading. Also distracting was her mispronunciation of certain names (such as Gavin MacLeod's Love Boat character - Captain Stubing which she pronounced as "STUBBING" as opposed to the familiar "STEWBING") The performance doesn't ruin the experience but it certainly doesn't enhance it.
Books have always been an escape for me: initially from my studies, now from too much work. A good story is my favorite remedy.
Yes (especially if they are 40 yrs or older)
I actually thoroughly enjoyed this "biography" of a beloved show from my youth. I not only appreciated all that transpired to bring the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" to the small screen, but enjoyed the narration equally. Clearly many other listeners were disappointed by the reader's performance -- an opinion that I certainly respect (especially since I, too, have been put off by poor narration in the past) -- but I just wanted to register that the opinion was not unanimous.
I knew I'd liked the show, and I'm currently digging through rewatch all the shows after all these many years. I was under 10 when the show came out. So that I remember them I must have watched it as a kid with my parents. But to find out that Mary Tyler Moore show had leveled the playing field for women so significantly where I guess never occurred to me as a man to think women as anything but equals. Guess I was progressive long before it was popular. LOL. And find out the history on all the the actors along with all the TV shows that MTM inspired and spun off, the rich tapestry in my history and my current viewing habits and others. Be aware if you get the audiobook, which is how I mostly listen/read this book, the lady is very precise in her wording. And slow. So I would suggest to speeded up to 1 1/2 to 2 times speed.
I was so excited to hear this, but I ended up checking it out of the library instead. This experience convinced me to listen to the sample narration before using a credit. She was that bad.
I'm a bear that likes honey, climbing trees, stealing picnic baskets and listening to audiobooks.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of television writing or the Mary Tyler Moore show. It's also a great cultural account of feminism and the early 1970s.
James L. Brooks and Alan Burns. They seemed to be years ahead of their time in terms of their creative ambitions and work habits. Also Grant Tinker seemed to be a genuinely decent guy.
For those of us who grew up seeing the Mary Tyler Moore Show in reruns, this books does an excellent job of placing it in a cultural context. We understand how unique it was to have a show about a single woman in her 30s on television, and we get to see how the show opened up the world to women television writers. A really good book.
NO, because the narrator was so bad I almost did not listen to the audiobook.
I grew up in high school and college with the MTM Show--I loved the backstory and learning about how many women were given opportunities to write shows because they were given a chance on this show.
This narrator was like a breathy actress and at times sings-songy. She got a bit better as the book progressed, but her performance definitely detracted from the content.
It made me laugh a lot and I also became wistful thinking about what the show meant to me as a young woman.
I think it might have been a bit better edited--there were some parts that seemed poorly written or put together.
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