Mary Tyler Moore, one of most iconic and legendary entertainment figures in television history, who was a key part in two of the most successful TV sitcoms of all time (The Dick Van Dyke Show and her own self titled program), has died at the age of 80.
Without question, the death of Mary Tyler Moore is as large as the death of any key figures who has passed on in the entire television landscape. There were so many instantly recognizable and charming things about her: she was bright, witty, and sing songy in the best possible way.
She was a bridge between comedians like Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett and ones to follow like Jennifer Aniston and her ilk. In fact any woman who leads their own show and does so in a smart, snappy manner, one that does not rely on a man but isn’t so independent that they don’t require their company either, and there have been ions and ions of them since the ground breaking Mary Tyler Moore Show and continue to this day, owes a debt to her. She was as good as any of those aforementioned names, but more on a lighter side than most, eschewing slapstick but still able to time jokes and use her kind of effervescent and sometimes scattered demeanor to stand toe to toe with the best.
It’s telling how she won a few Emmys for Best Actress in a Comedy during the Dick Van Dyke Show (a program which dominated the early 1960s in ratings, critical acclaim, and awards) AND The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s heyday (which ran from 1970 – 1977 on CBS and won countless high-caliber awards and is remembered as one of the top five TV programs of all time), beating out stiff competition each year and when all was said and done, winning six in total, two for her work on the Van Dyke show and four for her performance on her own program.
She wasn’t just a comedic one trick pony however, she seemingly could do it all: she could sing, dance as well, was at ease on variety shows of the time, and even had a keen mind for spotting talent. Both Michael Keaton and David Letterman were among others who made early appearances on late ’70s projects that Moore headed.
In her later years post-Mary Tyler Moore Show, she did critically acclaimed turns in dramatic roles, the standout having to be the absolutely chilling and cold-as-ice but incredibly pained inside performance of a mother who has lost a child in a boating accident, and completely alienates the surviving child in that tragedy, in Robert Redford’s Academy Award winning 1980 film Ordinary People, a role which Moore received an Oscar nomination for.
She always kept in the public eye for decades after that, making the appearance here or there, a film here or there, popping up on a TV Land retrospective about her show, or at a statue ceremony at the famed corner in Minneapolis, the city where her classic character Mary Richards worked on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a statue which has her throwing up her hat, and which stands as one of television’s iconic and memorable images during the equally memorable theme song.
One of the first big losses of the still young 2017, the loss of Mary Tyler Moore leaves a huge void in television history, but also now elevates her to a level of timelessness. She already was held high in that regard, but death has a way of making these titles bestowed upon living people even more urgent and solidified, frozen in imagery that retains itself and never cracks, remains just what we want and how we want it.
And what the shining and glorious memory of what Mary Tyler Moore will do now as it has always done, is keep the world turned on with her smile, with a bulb that will never go out.