Saturday, September 05, 2015

Katey Sagal's first job

In 1985, my partner, David and I created a comeback show for Mary Tyler Moore called (oddly enough) MARY.  We were extremely fortunate to have a great casting director in Molly Lopata.   All summer we spent auditioning actors for the series.  Most you've heard of.  Some even big names.

One day Molly brought in a newcomer to read for the role of Jo Tucker, Mary's acerbic workmate.  We loved her.  She was funny, real, and so fresh.  A definite call-back.

Eventually we had to go to CBS to get cast approval.  They asked to see two candidates for each role.  For the part of Jo we brought in Kathy Bates and this newcomer.  Both were wonderful.  CBS was thrilled with either pick.   We decided to go with the newbie.  There was just something very special about Katey Sagal.

Here is a sample of her work on MARY.  I don't know who put this together but many thanks.   It not not only shows her comedic side but her singing ability too.

19 comments:

Peter said...

How can you do a post related to MTM and not give us a juicy anecdote about how difficult she was to work with? Like the time you said you got so angry you Hulked out and tore a binder in two?

I love Katey Sagal, mainly for her wonderful voice acting as Leela on Futurama.

Bill Avena said...

Katey was always beautiful, if you can forgive her Peg Bundy look. Didn't her twin sisters have a shitty sitcom in the 80s?

Klee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KING OF JAZZ said...

I was pulled off the street in Manhattan way back when and drafted into being a focus group for this show's pilot! I distinctly recall being told to press a button every time we felt anything dragged. I was impressed with the show, and I very much remember Sagal (and John Astin). So, how come the show didn't last? I think I got a free CBS pen from the experience.

Stoney said...

Sagal was a good choice. Kathy Bates, I gotta believe, would have come off too much as a female Lou Grant. Interesting that she sings "Positively 4th Street" because she used to be a backup singer for What's-his-name.

Tim Gray said...

I remember wanting this show to succeed SO much, mostly because of the line readings of Katey Sagal. John Astin was also tremendous in this. By this time, the edginess in Mary's facial expressions made her success as Beth in Ordinary People seem like not as much of an acting stretch. She was pretty joyless as Mary Brenner. It is too bad the show could not have been retooled as a Chicago newsroom sitcom called "Jo." I'd have even withstood Susan and Lester if that could happen (although it is not clear how they could have fit without Mary).

Thanks to Katey Sagal in this role, I have trotted out a favorite phrase on occasion over the last 30 years. In an episode in which Jo's parents seem to prefer Mary to their own daughter, Mary approaches Jo after their visit in a combination of sympathy and a sort of apology for being more likable. Jo isn't having any of it. Her response to Mary is something like "You know, Mary? I've come to a conclusion." Pause and shrug. "Eh."

It is amazing how often Jo's words apply to life.

Stephen Robinson said...

It's interesting to watch these scenes and Sagal's performance as Peg Bundy in the first two seasons of MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN. Her vocal inflections, her body movement... it's all very similar to that early version of Peg. By arguably the third season (and definitely by the fourth), Peg is almost unrecognizable from the Katey Sagal in these scenes.

(Tangentially, the first season of MWC is also not that different from shows such as THE MIDDLE -- the Bundys are a perfect family but they aren't yet the modern-day Addams Family they become.)

Craig Edwards said...

She'd done some screen work previously as she did a receptionist role on an early Columbo.

Greg Thompson said...

Interesting. Kind of a combo of Lou Grant and Rhoda. She doesn't totally work for me here, but that's why God made three networks (as of 1984).

I did watch the pilot of this at the time and (unless I'm confusing this with another MTM comeback show) I remember being bothered by a voiceover line Mary had in the end that expressed disapproval that her potential love interest was a Republican. There's nothing wrong with a character having political opinions, of course, but I guess just didn't like MARY being judgey like that -- not only of that guy, but of half her potential audience.

Greg Thompson said...

Sorry, I think I did have this confused with something MTM did called ANNIE MCGUIRE in 1989.

Mike Doran said...

As a Chicagoan, I remember how this show lost me about two minutes into the first episode.

It was an exchange between Mary and a neighbor or something, in re Mary's "social life".
As memory goes (probably badly), the dialog ran thus:

Neighbor:Why don't you just go to a ball game or something?

Mary: Well, the Cubs never seem to be playing on the nights I'm free ...

As a long-term White Sox fan, with more than a few night games at Comiskey Park in my experience, I took this as a West Coast slight of Chicago, the unofficial capital of Flyover Country.
Of course, once the Cubs put in arc lights, this joke angle disappeared.
Still, the tendency of the Dreaded Coasts to act like there's only one MLB team in Chicago still rankles a bit ...

Question Mark said...

Bates had done a lot of small roles in films and TV shows (as well as meatier parts in theatre and on soap operas) but a supporting role on a Mary Tyler Moore sitcom probably would've counted as her big break as well. Talk about a no-lose situation --- either you discover Katey Sagal or discover (in the "it takes a long time to be an overnight sensation" kind of way) Kathy Bates.

James at 55 said...

I loved that show. Smart, funny with a great cast. If I recall correctly, you were up against Moonlighting and that was a tough time period. Was sad to see it didn't run longer.

thirteen said...

I remember that someone who put out a real-life Chicago Post tried to churn the waters by suing, or threatening to sue, for infringement. That in turn reminded me of Gary Ackerman, the publisher of a community paper called the Flushing Tribune. Archie Bunker began bringing a paper called the Flushing Tribune home with him in the evenings. The name was a coincidence; no one out west had ever heard of the actual paper. Ackerman was thrilled. He got in touch with Norman Lear and offered stacks and stacks of Flushing Tribunes, posters, T-shirts, whatever Lear wanted. Ackerman's paper got a big bump out of its association with Archie Bunker. He began writing a column for it, and he called it Ackerman at Large. He then ran for the New York City Council's at-large seat for Queens, and won. He parlayed that into successful runs for the New York State Senate and Congress. Ackerman retired in 2013, after having served fifteen terms in the House. Now that's how you handle an infringement case.

courtney said...

Out of curiosity, how hard was it to clear Katey singing that snippet of "Positively Fourth Street"? Nowadays, manager Jeff Rosen seems quite flexible on the idea of using Bod Dylan's intellectual property for filmed work, but I have a feeling his people were less permissive back in the old days...

Scott Cason said...

From this to Married to Sons of Anarchy. Wow!!

Mark said...

"Mary" was a good show with the potential to be great, and it should have lasted longer. Katey Sagal is a talented, beautiful woman.

Stephen Marks said...

Ken can you comment on MTM's unflattering remarks about you and David in her bio.

Beverly said...

Katey's twin sisters' show was "Double Trouble." Liz later wrote for Sons Of Anarchy