Thursday, January 26, 2017

The CBS tribute to Mary Tyler Moore

Thursday night CBS paid tribute to Oprah Winfrey. Also mentioned occasionally was Mary Tyler Moore.

On the one hand, nice of CBS to shelve reruns of LIFE IN PIECES and THE GREAT INDOORS so they could salute Ms. Winfrey... I mean, Ms. Moore. On the other hand, what a slapdash hour. You really get the feeling they scrambled to get guests. They mentioned that THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW employed women writers yet never mentioned a single one by name or showed one. I would have much preferred to see and hear Treva Silverman than the CBS movie critic. Or Oprah.

Obviously this show had to be put together quickly, but they couldn’t find one MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW cast member or producer to come on? Instead we saw five minutes of her bad movie with Elvis. And Oprah.

A better tribute might have been to show full scenes from THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Give the audience, especially the younger audience who might have been unfamiliar with her, a chance to really see her artistry. Instead we got five-second clips. And Oprah.

I'm sorry but WJM could have done better.

50 comments :

David G. said...

I started watching "Riverdale" on CW. Then during the statutory rape scene early on, decided to switch over to CBS to watch the Mary Tyler Moore tribute. And all I saw was Oprah Winfrey. So then I switched back to "Riverdale."

Pat Reeder said...

I think the regard for MTM's artistry became apparent right at the beginning when, during a montage, they edited the famous line, "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants" to remove "a little dance," making it two seconds shorter and completely destroying the rhyme and rhythm of it.

Bryan said...

I binge watched mary tyler moore on suncdance tv instead.

Bob B. said...

What a total piece of crap! Who cares about Winfrey?

We recorded it and I was sure when her part was over, so was the hour. It just went on and on. Even when her girlfriend said goodbye to her she talked for another two minutes. Totally disgusting.

Wonder if Winfrey will hog the Van Dyke memorial if Dick passes? It's not even like Winfrey has a program to promote on CBS. I was looking for her at any time to put in a promo for her newest failed diet.

Mike Doran said...

Just after watching however much I could stand of this "tribute", I came to this place and learned of the passing of Mike Connors/Mannix, aged 91.
I'll guess that CBS might not have any plans for memorializing another of its long-running stars in a similar fashion ...
... which makes Mike Connors the fortunate one ...

Come to think of it, did CBS do anything like this for Buddy Ebsen (who certainly deserved such a tribute, even if only for tenure)?
(NBC did one for Raymond Burr ...)

Jake Mabe said...

It was embarrassing, bordered on incompetent, and one of the worst "tributes" I have ever seen. I didn't tune in to see Oprah, as usual, make it all about her.

CBS and whoever was responsible for putting together that farce should be ashamed.

Johnny Walker said...

Christ. How quickly was this thing put together...?? It sounds like the Star Wars Holiday Special of tribute shows: A cheap, lazy cash in.

Johnny Walker said...

Did they approach you, Ken? Assuming they didn't, would you have said yes?

Thomas said...

Totally agree. It was ridiculous and a tribute not worthy of the bright light that was MTM.

Breadbaker said...

I watched the first two episodes of MTM on YouTube instead. Treva Silverman wrote the second episode, and it's amazing how quickly the show got itself into its groove, particularly the relationship between Mary and Rhoda (hmm, might that have been aided by having a woman writer?).

Maverick maverick said...

Whew! I wasn't the only one wondering why the Oprah Fest.
As for younger generations watching old episodes of the MTM Show, the whole groundbreaking independent feminism is lost. I watched the old episodes not seeing any of that because it's not a big deal today. Women are everywhere with major roles in the work place. But what does stand the rest of time is the great writing and acting.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Great line Johnny

Donald Benson said...

Tributes have unique ways of going bad. There was a tribute to Peter Sellers that consisted of Blake Edwards's "Pink Panther" clips mixed with performances by Dudley Moore (of Blake Edwards's "Ten") and Julie Andrews and Robert Preston (doing a number from Blake Edwards's "Victor Victoria"). The generous assumption is that Blake Edwards was doing a special and it was retroactively dubbed a tribute.

After his death, Stan Laurel was celebrated with a star-studded mess full of songs and silly comedy skits that just barely connected with Laurel or his work. One long sketch was about a violinist playing mood music for a silent melodrama; the connection was that Stanley appeared in silent films which were nothing like that.

Some years after Walt Disney's death, his studio did a similar show framed as Walt's life story. They didn't have an actor as Disney -- just Carl Reiner and others talking straight to the camera. Marie Osmond sung a non-ironic love song about audio-animatronics.

A W.C. Fields DVD set included a one-hour special by a then-popular comedy team (they were on Ed Sullivan a lot), saluting the great man. It was mainly long clips of Fields being hilarious, undermined by voiceover commentary explaining why each joke was funny and was to be admired.

A tribute to a still-living Richard Rodgers rounded up a nice assortment of performers, but the framing device -- Gene Kelly and Henry Winkler praising Rodgers while playing the long-dead Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart -- didn't sit right.

Barry Traylor said...

Sundance Channel is supposed to be having an all day marathon of The Mary Tyler Show tomorrow January 28.

Terrence Moss said...

How much can Oprah really be blamed? Plus, as an avowed high-profile fan, it makes sense to include her -- just not for 23 minutes unless the special was "Oprah Winfrey Salutes Mary Tyler Moore", which would have made more sense than what they did.

Joel Keller said...

Dick Van Dyke felt the same way you did: https://twitter.com/iammrvandy/status/824856204627226629

Andrew said...

At work the past couple of days, we clearly broke into two groups of people: those who were sadly reminiscing, and those who never heard of her. Not much middle ground - it was one or the other.

I'm not sure whether that's a commentary on society, or getting old.

ODJennings said...

I made it right up to the point where we saw Oprah put the pads under her armpits to deal with her sweat.

It seemed like whoever put it together had never actually seen MTM in anything and was completely winging it. Honestly, a random 60 minute assortment of clips swiped off YouTube would have been a better tribute than that nightmare.

SBell in San Mateo said...

Totally agree. Even when they did show a clip, we had to watch Oprah watching it on a screen over her shoulder, and then she stepped on Lou Grant's punchline.

MIKE BOTULA said...

Nice of you to point out that this was a tribute to Oprah, with Mary Tyler Moore in a supporting role! I had just viewed an excellent tribute to Mary on PBS when I started channel surfing and stumbled across the CBS "Tribute." It paled in comparison with the PBS treatment. Between fawning over Oprah and being a promo vehicle for Gayle King, there was little time left for the iconic Mary.

Mike Barer said...

I didn't see it, so I'm glad I didn't miss much.

Gary Theroux said...

This brings back memories of the "Salute to Stan Laurel" special which CBS inflicted on the world November 25, 1965, a few months after Stan had passed awqy. Dick Van Dyke, who idolized Stan, appeared, along with an all-star line-up including Lucille Ball, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, Bob Newhart, Danny Kaye, Audrey Meadows, Tina Louise and Fred Gwynne (as Hermna Munster!). Note that NONE of them (except Dick) had any connection at all with Stan but they were showcased instead of actors, writers or directors who had (and quite a few were very much alive, available and active in 1965). Laurel & Hardy themselves were shown only in a few brief silent clips (and none with sound) in order to allow more time for unfunny, irrelevant sketches and musical numbers featuring the CBS stars the network was eager to promote. Laurel & Hardy themselves barely turned up in their own "tribute"! One would think that 52 years later CBS might have figured out how to celebrate a comedy legend -- but this "salute" to Mary Tyler Moore shows they still haven't a clue. (One key behind Mary's sucess: she was an excellent re-actor, in that, like Jack Benny, Mary did not insist that all the funny punch lines were hers. She preferred to surround herself with comical characters she could react to and thus double the laughs. Regardless of our own personal age or gender, we as indiviuals always identified with Mary in each scene. She was us -- reacting to each situation in every scene/) Instead of Dick Van Dyke or the many other actors, writers and producers who knew and worked with Mary over the years, the best they could come up with to host was -- Oprah Winfrey (?!?) -- who had no connection to MTM at all?!? BTW, if you'd like to sit through CBS's equally embarrassing salute to Stan Laurel, here it is from You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euUslWqNH5Q

Michael said...

I'm glad I missed it, but I'm reminded of another CBS story.

When Edward R. Murrow died, the news division put together a tribute with most of his "Boys," the legendary correspondents he hired--Eric Sevareid and Charles Collingwood, for example. William Paley owned the network and owed its sterling reputation to Murrow, then drove him out over the controversies caused by his reporting. Paley's PR man called the head of the news division and asked if Paley had been scheduled. NOW he was, and he went on for two minutes and talked about how wonderful Murrow had been. As he had been. But let's just say, notwithstanding that she did idolize MTM, that Paley was out-Oprahed last night.

Anthony Rufrano said...

I looked forward to the show but switched it off when. at 9.25, Oprah was still on. Someone should tell het that she'll get a great special when she dies but this wasn't it. tt was also great to see the iconic Gayle King as the host.

Couldn't they get some people who had a connection to her? If they had to wait a few more days it would have been worth it.

I think Mary would have enjoyed a clip from the MTM show called "Better Late...that's a pun...than never, where she and Rhoda write sleep-deprived obits for the WJM News.

Michael Spadoni said...

I watched the CBS special last night, and I agree totally with your observation, Ken. Too much Oprah; too little Mary. Just because the anchor is a Oprah BFF doesn't mean you have to dominate the first 15-20 minutes with her. And why no mention of MTM Productions and its contributions--after all, while Grant Tinker was the brains, Mary was the name. All in all, a disappointment. To quote a certain commander in chief: "Sad."

Charles H. Bryan said...

Agreed. I like Oprah, and she was probably doing her buddy Gayle a favor, and someone at CBS probably thought she was a better draw than the people who worked with Mary Tyler Moore. Still, not a great hour, and they also basically reran a piece that was used on the CBS Evening News. They should have waited until Saturday and showed some full episodes, just like when the original show aired.

I also agree that pre-empting those two shows was a big favor, both to us and to the shows.

I've been watching MTM on Hulu and here's one thing that maybe old people like me notice -- you pretty much couldn't do that show today because local tv stations don't produce as much of their own content as they once did. Sue Ann is on HGTV. Chuckles the Clown probably now works for Nickelodeon or Antenna TV so who cares if he dies?

Charles H. Bryan said...

Another item, perhaps deservedly overlooked: The MARY AND RHODA reunion movie from 2000. I can't remember much of it. It's on youtube, although separated into several parts. (The links there that claim to have the whole movie actually request that viewers go to a pay site.)

Randy said...

The Stan Laurel tribute special that CBS aired back in 1965 is a perfect example of how networks can take a good thing and screw it up. After Laurel's death, one of the New York stations aired a Laurel and Hardy tribute that consisted of a few comments from people who knew and/or worked with the team, but was mostly lots and lots of footage from their films. Got great reviews and was widely hailed (by those able to see it) as a top-notch tribute to the boys. CBS hired the guy who had put together that show to do something similar for them. What happened, though, is that CBS ruined it, insisting that stars from current CBS series be showcased on the special, and fearing that the audience would be turned off by a lot of old film footage, pushed the clips from Laurel and Hardy's films out in favor of glitzy musical numbers and mostly unfunny comedy sketches that had precious little to do with Laurel and Hardy. The show is pretty worthless, though the sketch Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball do (with Harvey Korman as a cop) is at least amusing.

Carl Reiner is one of the credited writers on that special. I've always been curious to know what his contributions to it were.

Brian O. said...

Chuckles the Clown received greater respect.

Grace Fisher said...

Thank you, Ken, for pointing out how sadly lop-sided this CBS tribute to MTM was. It would have been much better to see and hear from people that actually knew and worked with the iconic MTM.

Peter K. O'Connell said...

I got the impression Gayle King said: let me host the show - I can get Oprah! Many of the points made here are valid - this could have been sooo much better even with a tight turnaround. This was a news division show - they live for tight deadlines. I so wanted the show to be great.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Amen. As soon as I saw Gayle King I said, "Oprah can't be far away," and sure enough...There is no excuse for this kind of last-minute mashup. Major newspapers write obituaries in advance for prominent people and often let them suggest changes and corrections. CBS surely knew that Ms. Moore was 80 and in poor health, so they had plenty of time to prepare something more appropriate, where her singing commercial from the 1950s wouldn't get the same amount of emphasis as her Oscar-nominated role in ORDINARY PEOPLE. And when Dick Van Dyke passes, please, not Larry King or Steve Harvey or someone else who met him once at a party.

Savannah Michaels said...

Couldn't agree more. This was an hour of television devoted to Oprah. I changed the channel and watched a rerun of Chicago Med.

Phil In Phoenix said...

CBS got it right at least once; when Jack Benny died. Of course, Charles Kuralt isn't around anymore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM71SNOcynI

Bob O'Brien said...

Yes, the wonderful Treva Silverman. And lest we forget Mary Kay Place.

Cheryl Marks said...

I agree
An Oprah fest. I kept watching hoping they would eventually do the right thing, especially since it was by the News department. Only confirms how far up their orifices #CBS execs'heads are
Unless it was an alternative fact show then l guess it's OK

T Dog said...

They even showed the wrong location on where "Mary Tyler Moore" was filmed. The show was filmed at Studio Center (where MTM would eventually end up owning half of the facility with CBS), not Television City. CBS should have done a better job with this. And don't get me started on Oprah...

suek2001 said...

Someone let me know it was on and I hurriedly switched channels.. I am so glad I am not the only one upset by the Oprah-fied MTM tribute. I do wonder if it angers you that Moore got a lot of credit for the breakthroughs of women in TV when it was the writers that gave her those lines to say.
The special on ABC tonight was a bit better...but it still had a moment or two with Oprah...and I still was hoping for a slice of how cosmopolitan the Mary Tyler Moore show made Minneapolis seem in the 70's.

Dave said...

I just watched the ABC tribute and was highly disappointed to see only about 15 seconds of Oprah. What the hell were they thinking? It should all be about Oprah.

Roy DeRousse said...

I did not see the special. (Perhaps I should be happy about that.) The "This was the best they could do in a short period of time" argument doesn't hold water. It was well known that Mary has been very ill for years. This show could have been 90% complete long before her tragic death. Newspapers prepare orbits in advance all the time for people with short life expectancies.

GayAdventure said...

I thought this was the most ridiculous "tribute." I mean, it's bad enough the show was all about Oprah but I really did NOT need to see special, behind-the-scene footage of Oprah discussing her armpits. I mean, REALLY!! And when Oprah said that the appearance of MTM changed the way the Oprah show was run, I thought Ms. Winfrey was finally going to say something of substance. Instead it was again all about Ms. Winfrey: Oprah informed her staff that MTM was the last surprise guest to ever be allowed on the show. Who the heck cares??? This was supposed to be an MTM tribute. I completely agree with Mr. Kevin Levine: during the airing of the bits-and-pieces clips I thought it would have been so much more satisfying to air SCENES from MTM's shows. WHAT A MESS.

Bob Johnson said...

Could not agree more. We were looking forward to viewing classic scenes and instead we got clips with no context. Anyone who had not seen the Chuckles-the-Clown-funeral episode would look at the clip they showed and have no idea what was going on. One of the funniest scenes ever in a sitcom was reduced to a "what's that?" clip. Sad. And the contribution made by Oprah could have been boiled down to one or two minutes. One of the great TV question askers of our generation was really struggling in her question-answering role. Perhaps CBS should have waited an extra day in order to have time to put something meaningful together. It was not one of the network's better moments.

D. McEwan said...

"Who could turn the world off with her gab?
Who could take someone else's death,
And use it for an attention grab?
Why it's you girl, and you should know it,
With each and every throb of your ego you show it,
Oprah's all around, you can't escape her,
She will always tell, to stop you can't make her,
She might just make me want to scream."

VP81955 said...

Are we sure Oprah Winfrey isn't a benign, darker-skinned, female Donald Trump? (Although I suppose had he ever run a magazine, his image would've been on the cover of every issue.)

Rock Golf said...

I think this would have been a better tribute if they played the theme song to her show more often because eight times in the hour just wasn't enough.

Nichsy said...

Very disappointed. If they were going to have a show full of Oprah, she should have hosted it. It ended up being about Oprah.

Anonymous said...

one of the ONLY sites I have noticed that is brave enough to describe this program.
All the other sites speak about what an amazing tribute it was...
it was horrible to watch Oprah become the focus of this tribute.

Jahn Ghalt said...

@ D. McEwan

That parody is worthy of Mad Magazine. Good One.

D. McEwan said...

@Jahn Ghalt

Thank you. Mad of course, was one of my earliest influences.

Captain Jack said...

I finally watched the special and Ken nailed it.

How could CBS do such a poor job on one of the people who made the network what it was? Oprah met MTM once and the special revolved around Oprah? My God, what a terrible, terrible "tribute".