Producers almost didn't hire Valerie Harper because while her performance was spot on, they felt she was too pretty to play Mary's frumpy best friend. They later decided to cast her anyway but would dress her in ungainly and frumpy clothing.
The show was originally going to be about a divorced woman. Divorce was still a hot subject in 1970, so it changed to a broken engagement. The network was afraid people would think that Mary Tyler Moore had divorced Rob Petrie, her character's husband on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961).
Ed Asner won the "Best Supporting Actor for a Comedy Series" Emmy Award for his portrayal of Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." He also won the "Best Lead Actor for a Drama Series" for playing the title role in "Lou Grant." Asner is the only actor who has won both of those awards for playing the same character.
The meowing kitten in the MTM logo was actually yawning in real life during filming. As the cameraman couldn't get a usable shot of the cat meowing, footage of it yawning was used and a meow dubbed in.
According to a 2013 interview with Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman on the TV show "The Doctors," this show was the first (scripted) show in TV history ever to use the word "gay" to refer to homosexuality (in the season three episode "My Brother's Keeper") when Rhoda tells Phyllis that Phyllis's brother is gay.
Mary Tyler Moore said the following about "That Girl" (1966), the groundbreaking feminist girl power sitcom that preceded "The Mary Tyler Moore Show,": "Anne Marie opened the door and Mary Richards walked right through it."
In the opening credits, the two joggers who pass Mary in the park are producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. The gray-haired man Mary has lunch with, and later takes an evening walk with, is Mary Tyler Moore's then-husband Grant Tinker, president and co-founder of MTM. The woman who scowls at Mary as she tosses her hat is local resident Hazel Frederick.
John Amos, the only black member of the cast who played the recurring character Gordy the Weatherman, was harassed by a crew member who made racist remarks during filming. The crew member was promptly fired.
All the men in the cast would star in their own shows after M.T.M. wrapped, and they were all hits. Gavin MacLeod headlined in "The Love Boat" the same year M.T.M. wrapped, and it was a top 30 show for several years, probably the most popular follow-up show of the bunch. Ed Asner starred in the M.T.M. spinoff "Lou Grant," which was in the top 30 for several years. Ted Knight starred in "Too Close for Comfort" which was also popular for a couple years.
The lyrics to the theme song were rewritten after the first season. The first season's theme song emphasized Mary's challenge of being independent, such as with the line, "You might just make it after all." However, with the series showing that Mary has become obviously successful in her own life, the lyrics reflected that change of tone such as with the line, "You're going to make it after all."
In the episode where Mary had her tonsils removed, originally she was going to have a tattoo removed. Ms Moore in real life refused saying she was a "good catholic girl" and she "couldn't play that," so they changed it to a tonsillectomy.
Ted Knight and Ed Asner were actually very close during the show and not enemies like their characters. Although they did get into a nasty argument after the show wrapped, with Ed saying Ted wronged him in some egregious manner, he also stated he was unable to remember what it was. They didn't speak for years until Ted was stricken with cancer in 1985 and they reconciled at his deathbed.
The photo of Edward Asner playing football on Lou Grant's office wall is the same photo that was used in an episode of The Fugitive (1963) ('Three Cheers for Little Boy Blue') in which Asner guest starred.
Moore wore a wig for the first season of the show, to make her look less like Laura Petrie, her character on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961). When the wig was discarded, the change in her hairstyle, including her much lighter hair color, was never commented on in the show itself.
In the opening credits, the shot of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat into the air was shot at the corner of 7th Street and Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. The buildings in the background were destroyed November 25, 1982 by a fire that took out a city block. Many scenes in the opening credits, including riding an escalator and window shopping, were shot within a one-block radius of the spot. In May 2002 TV Land erected a statue of her at that spot, facing the opposite direction.
When the famous opening credit sequence was reworked for Season 3-4, the Mary crew was being followed by a news team for the talk show program "Moore on Sunday." Both the news crew and the police officer escorting the Mary team were pressed into service for one of the clips (when the Mary Richards character has to duck to avoid being caught on film as the "news" cameraman swings his camera around in the direction the officer points).
Gavin MacLeod and Cloris Leachman were actually enemies in real life, much like their characters. In a case of life imitating art, they had worked together before and had a very bad experience, and Cloris was actually uncomfortable with Gavin for the first couple seasons, and didn't want to be near him on the set. Eventually they grew to be friends, though.
Ted was originally supposed to be Mary's love interest. Originally they were thinking of Lyle Waggoner for the role. Then Ted Knight, an older man in his 40s, nailed the audition, and at that point, because he was older, and an inappropriate match for Mary, they jettisoned that subplot. They were also thinking of making Lou Mary's ongoing love interest, but Mary Tyler Moore herself vetoed that idea, so they had the characters date and then the romance quickly ended. Murray on the other hand was based on a gay person, someone who was supposed to be Mary's nemesis, and Gavin MacLeod played him gay in the pilot; but he and Mary had such chemistry they made the characters friends, and that Mary would be the object of his crush.
The producers of the Mary Tyler Moore have expressed in interviews that one of the worst Mary Tyler Moore episodes was "Some of my Best Friends are Rhoda" in which Mary confronts her new friend, Joanna Forbes, played by Mary Frann, about her anti-Semitism. Everyone involved in the episode agreed it fell flat and was tonally way off-key for the series. "We are not Maude," Mary Tyler Moore said of the episode, which was attempting to tiptoe into topical and political All in the Family territory. The show stayed away from confrontational Norman Lear-ish envelope pushing after the disastrous episode. Coincidentally, Mary Frann would star as another character named Joanna, Joanna Louden, years later on another hit CBS sitcom also produced by MTM studios, "Newhart," which ran from 1982 to 1990.
John Amos appeared as Gordy the Weatherman on M.T.M. until about 1974, when he left to go star on Good Times. In the 1976-1977 season he got fired, at which point he made another appearance as Gordy, the national network's new hero coming back.
In the 70s while the show was in production the M.T.M. writers were invited to a panel on feminism which was moderated by Gloria Steinem. James L. Brooks attended the panel and was surprised when Gloria Steinem publicly chided Brooks for how Mary always called her boss 'Mr. Grant' while her male colleagues called him Lou.
Robert Moore (no relation to Mary Tyler Moore) who appeared as Ben, Phyllis' brother in the "Her Brother's Keeper" episode, and who also dated Rhoda/Valerie Harper in that episode, would go on to direct Valerie in "Rhoda," the spinoff of M.T.M. Moore was the subject of Rhoda's famous "He's gay!" punchline, the first time it had ever been said on television. Moore didn't mind because he is gay in real life.
'Mary and Rhoda' was a TV Movie that was produced and aired in 2000 featuring the Mary Richards and Rhoda Morganstern characters, but nobody else from the original cast. Cloris Leachman (AKA Phyllis) was offended that she was not invited to participate in any way and picketed the production during shooting days.
Mary Kay Place was a writer for the Mary Tyler Moore Show and penned Mary's Delinquent along with other episodes. She was also an actress and a star in her own right, starring in The Big Chill and Mary Hartman, in addition to making guest appearances on All in the Family.
Mary Tyler Moore used the "Love is All Around" theme song for her follow up to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, which was a musical variety show, much in the vein of "The Sonny and Cher Show" or the "Donny and Marie Show." It however was critically panned and was a ratings bomb.
Broadcast News was James L Brooks' second feature film; the follow up to his multiple Oscar winner "Terms of Endearment", and very much a remake and a rethink of his 1970s TV show "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; with the William Hurt character Tom Grunick very much a bubble-headed update of the equally vacuous Ted Baxter anchorman character from that show; the Albert Brooks character an update of the petulant smart-alek Murray Slaughter character from that show; and the Jane Craig character a hybrid of the Lou Grant and Mary Richards characters. In Broadcast News Jane has a relationship and a crush on the bubble-headed anchorman character; and in the original concept of the show Mary was supposed to have a relationship with the shallow anchorman Ted also. In Broadcast News Albert Brooks's sarcastic, under-acheiver Aaron Altman character has an unrequited crush on Jane Craig; with whom he has a friendship; and on the Mary Tylre Moore Show Murray similarly is friends with Mary and has an unrequited crush on her also.
Mary's aunt Flo Meredith becomes a recurring character in a couple episodes. In one, "Mary's Aunt"; Mary asks who it is; and she says "Pinky Tuscadero." This was an in-joke and reference to another recurring character on Happy Days; a show that was on concurrently with Mary Tyler Moore.
In an EmmyTvLegends interview Nanette Fabray, who played Mary's mother, expressed great disappointment at only appearing on 2 shows, and then not being asked back after that. She was hoping and kind of assuming she would be promoted to a series regular, and she even confronted Mary about it at one point. She did go on to star as the Mom in another CBS comedy about a woman making it on her own: One Day At a Time.
Lars Lindstrom is an invisible sitcom character; referred to thoughout the series but never seen. He is kind of like Wilson on Home Improvement; or Arnold on the first season of Happy Days; or Alan Brady on the first season of the Dick Van Dyke Show; these were all characters that were referred to and sometimes heard but never seen.
The writers were planning a serious, multi-episode romantic relationship between Lou and Mary; but Mary nixed the idea; thinking that was inappropriate. They settled with doing just one episode along those lines; the "Mary Dates Lou" episode in the last season which aired right before the series finale in 1977.
There is an episode on ABC's The Odd Couple (1970) where Oscar calls his girlfriends Rhoda and Phyllis; trying to get a date for the theater. This is an in-joke reference to characters on the Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970); which aired concurrently with ABC's The Odd Couple; on CBS.
Nancy Walker was already appearing on television as Rosie, the pitch-lady for Bounty's Quicker Picker-Upper commercials, when she first appeared on the October 24th 1970 episode of Mary Tyler Moore, "Support Your Local Mother," as Ida Morganstern, Rhoda (AKA Valerie Harper's) mother.
When Woody Allen was putting the final touches on his Academy Award winning film "Annie Hall," he asked his co-star Diane Keaton for reassurance: "Are you sure this is good? I mean it seems like another episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Penny Marshall was on Mary Tyler Moore three different times; playing two different characters. She originally appeared on the "I Was a Single for WJM" episode playing a character named Toni who Mary meets at a singles bar. Then she was on the "Menage a Lou" episode playing one of characters neighbors; Paula Kovacs. She appeared as the recurring Paula character while she was still starring on Laverne and Shirley.
Every time Mary is nominated for a Teddy Award, it is for her work as a producer of The Sunday Show instead of The Six O'Clock News. However, she is never seen working on that show as she doesn't have to go to work on Sundays.
Of all the spin-offs to this show, the longest running is Lou Grant with five seasons and 114 episodes. Second is Rhoda with five seasons and 110 episodes, although four of them never aired. Third would be Phyllis with only two seasons and 48 episodes.
After starring on MTM, for whcih Ed Asner won the Emmy; Asner went on to star in Lou Grant. Of all the MTM cast; he played his character the longest; for 12 years. After that he would star as a principal in the Bronx Zoo, and after that he would star in a recurring role on The Practice as a judge.
In a recent EMMY TV LEGENDS interview Jimmy Walker said that Norman Lear did not like "Mary Tyler Moore" type shows; non-issue oriented romantic comedies; because they were "too soft". "He appreciated the Mary Tyler Moore Show," Walker said in the interview. "But producing a show like that was out of the question for him, because it was too soft."
In the pilot episode when Phyllis, seeing a fight breaking out between Mary and Rhoda over the new apartment, says she will "call the owner and his wife." Later in the episode she says "the owner and his wife are out of town, but I will be calling them." This is strange because it is later revealed in the series; in later episodes; that L and P Management; the company that owns and runs the brownstone complex; is actually Lars and Phyllis; Lars and Phyllis are the owners. So it doesn't make sense that she would be calling the owners; since she and Lars are the owners.
M.T.M. writer and producer Allan Burns would direct Mary Tyler Moore in the unsuccessful 1986 dramedy about infidelity "Just Between Friends," co-starring two other iconic tv stars, Ted Danson and Christine Lahti.