Katey Sagal/MARY episode I posted over the weekend. Also thanks to reader Dave Benson for actually keeping it these many years and uploading it on YouTube. I can’t believe in 24 years he didn’t tape over it. What follows, also thanks to Dave, is the pilot. Talk about a lost episode.
So today I thought I’d answer the NAQ’s (never asked questions) about the MARY show.
We originally had a different premise. In our initial idea Mary was the editor of the paper and Frank was her ex-husband now forced to work for her. Ironically, this is the exact premise CBS would employ for the Ted Danson series INK a few years later. We liked the idea of Mary being in charge.
But CBS had a big problem with it. They felt the audience wouldn’t accept Mary in that role. America wanted to see her as more of an extension of Mary Richards, they reasoned. Our BIG mistake was not saying no, we don’t want to do that. But we were young and stupid and Mary was also okay with the new (old) direction so we forged ahead.
But that decision proved ultimately to be the fatal flaw of the show because as we got into production it was clear that neither we, nor Mary was very comfortable. We all did the best we could. I think we created some fun characters. And tried to put a spin on the format by having some sexual tension between Mary and her editor. And it seemed fun seeing Mary in a real sleazy tabloid having to deal with lowlifes.
The pilot filming went so well that the president of CBS took us aside before pick-ups and said, “You’ve got five more.” So our order was upped to eighteen. Producers today will tell you that’s unheard of. Now they test everything ten times, wait for ratings for the first five weeks, and maybe give you a script order for two more.
But I can honestly say they liked the pilot TOO much. Originally we were supposed to be a 9:00 show but CBS decided this could be their COSBY and lead-off a night. So we were scheduled on Wednesdays at 8:00 against HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, a top five show. We got decent ratings considering, but not the COSBY type numbers Mary was hoping for.
The creative differences kept mounting. Eventually we asked CBS to cut back the order to the original thirteen. Still, we were a good candidate to be renewed. But we told CBS and MTM that we would not return should the series come back. Our entire writing staff followed suit. Mary’s disappointment with the numbers was also apparent. Ultimately, CBS thought this was a headache not worth the effort. I felt bad for the rest of the cast and crew. They did a sensational job under trying circumstances.
Tomorrow I’ll let you in on the casting process. It was, uh... lively. But for now, for the first time in 24 years, here is the MARY pilot. Hope you like it. I’m still very proud of it.