Sunday, June 2, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Mary Tyler Moore Show - Season 7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, plenty of laughs
Cons: More average episodes than in previous seasons
The Bottom Line
Laughs still plentiful
But fewer classic moments
Worth it for the fans




Love Surrounds Us for the Final Time with Season Seven of this Classic Sitcom

It's taken 10 years, but we finally have the entire run of the classic 70's sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD.  I love these characters, so I am thrilled.  I will admit, however, that season seven isn't quite as good to me as earlier seasons.

For those not familiar with the series, it follows the story of Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), perpetual single, career woman in Minneapolis.  She works as the producer for the six o'clock news at WJM where she is friends with her boss Lou Grant (Edward Asner) and writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod).  All three of them put up with pompous, dumb anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight).  The two big recurring characters at this point in the season are Ted's wife Georgette (Georgia Engel) and the station's domestic diva, man crazy Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White).

This season kicks off with the birth of Ted and Georgette's daughter, making this one of the shortest pregnancies in TV history (Georgette just found out she was pregnant in the sixth season finale).  As we wind through the 24 episodes in this set, Murray and Mary have problems deciding who is in charge when Murray is promoted to producer.  Mary hires a female swimmer to do the sports news, only to have her focus completely on swimming.  Sue Ann's sister gets offered a job at a rival station.  And Gordy (John Amos), the weather man at the station in the early seasons, returns to celebrate his success in New York.

There are a number of good episodes in season seven, but the number of mediocre episodes seems to have increased.  Even so, I do find that even the weaker episodes have some great moments.  For example, "Murray Can't Lose" which ends with a very embarrassing moment, is redeemed by Georgette's amazing performance of "Steam Heat."  And what does it say that I can remember sub-plots of episodes, but can't tell you which episode they are in?  Mary and Murray reading a book on the importance of being selfish or Georgette's great job negotiating a raise for Ted are two prime examples.

While the series was always set in the 70's, there are two episodes that seem very dated at this point.  Early in the season, Ted's adopted son acts out, and Ted has to spank him.  The scene is played for laughs as Ted is the only one crying at the end, but I doubt it would even make it on TV today.  Meanwhile, when Ted and Georgette wind up with a nightly TV show, Georgette wants to quit to be home with their kids.  Actually, we've come so far around that might happen again on TV today.

This season does feature the single worst episode of the entire series.  "Mary's Three Husbands" finds the men of the newsroom fantasizing about what it would be like to be married to Mary one night when they stay late.  The episode just isn't that funny.  At least they do manage to make things funny when Lou and Mary go out on a date to satisfy fans who felt that's how the show should end.  Fortunately, that's not how the show ends because I never saw their relationship that way.

I do love how they mock themselves a little in this season.  There's one episode in particular where Murray keeps talking about Ted must listen at the door to make his perfectly timed entrances to be the butt of jokes.  And they manage to have Mary give one final bad party to top all her others, which include some clips from some of her best bad parties from season four.

Of course, I can't leave out the show's iconic final episode which finds a new owner trying to turn around the show's ratings by firing the entire news staff - except for Ted.  They even manage to bring back regulars Rhoda (Valerie Harper) and Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) from their spin off series for this episode, making it the only episode to include all eight of the main characters from the series' run.

The cast continues to dazzle in their final season.  I can never fault any performance from any of the regulars.  They know these characters and do such a great job bringing them to life each week.  The guest stars are also great this season, and include a young Helen Hunt as one of Murray's daughters and David Ogden Stiers as the stuttering station manager Mel Price.

The DVD set itself consists of 24 episodes spread out on 3 discs.  Like the original broadcast, the picture is full frame and the sound in mono.  They aren't sparkling, but they don't contain any distracting flaws.  The only "feature" is the closing credits of the final episode.  Instead of the familiar pictures and credits, it features Marry actually introducing her co-stars to the cheering studio audience.  (Note: some sets were released with the syndication closing credits.  Mine was like that, but 20th Century Fox sent me a replacement disc within a week with no hassle at all.)

While season seven isn't my favorite from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it still provides some great laughs and classic moments.  If you like the show and the characters, you don't be disappointed you picked up this set.

Season Seven Episodes:
1. Mary Midwife
2. Mary the Writer
3. Sue Ann's Sister
4. What's Wrong with Swimming?
5. Ted's Change of Heart
6. One Producer too Many
7. My Son, the Genius
8. Mary Gets a Lawyer
9. Lou Proposes
10. Murray Can't Lose
11. May's Insomnia
12. Ted's Temptation
13. Look at Us, We're Walking
14. The Critic
15. Lou's Army Reunion
16. The Ted and Georgette Show
17. Sue Ann Gets the Ax
18. Hail the Conquering Gordy
19. Mary and the Sexagenarian
20. Murray Ghosts for Ted
21. Mary's Three Husbands
22. Mary's Big Party
23. Lou Dates Mary
24. The Last Show

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