Herbie J Pilato Gives Us the Lowdown on Laura Petrie and Mary Richards


by Herbie J Pilato

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, there were two kinds of people:  Those who loved watching Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-1966), and those who loved watching Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 1970-1977, and which was officially titled just Mary Tyler Moore).

Moore’s married Mrs. Petrie and single Ms. Richards were and remain monumental and groundbreaking television characters of their respective eras.

In real life, Moore has seen her share of personal struggles.  She has battled Type 1 diabetes, admitted to excessive plastic surgery, and has married three times.  Her first husband was Richard Carlton Meeker (1955-1961), with whom she had a son named Richie who committed suicide.  She partnered with second spouse, Grant Tinker (1962-1981), and together they incorporated MTM Enterprises, a powerhouse TV production company responsible for a slate of hits in the 1970s and 1980s (including The Bob Newhart ShowHill Street Blues, and other successes including RhodaPhyllis and Lou Grant—all three spun-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show).  But after their two-time failure to resurrect the variety show format in her favor (with a CBS skit comedy show in 1978 simply titled Mary, which was revised in 1979 as The Mary Tyler Moore Hour), their marriage crumbled.

Fortunately, she’s been more happily married to her present partner, Dr. Robert Levine, since 1983.

In the fictional world, more specifically on The Dick Van Dyke Show, the multi-award-winning Moore was spouse to Van Dyke’s amiable Rob Petrie, and became one of television’s first single-minded wedded women.  She loved and respected her husband, who was a TV writer for the fictional Alan Brady Show (starring Van Dyke Show creator Carl Reiner), and she adored their TV son Richie (coincidentally named after Moore’s real life son, and played with earnest innocence by Larry Matthews).  But she was different from the traditional small-screen wife and mother of the day.  As Laura, Moore donned stylish Capri pants, and retained an independent spirit.  She and Van Dyke’s equally-impeccably-dressed Rob Petrie were the intelligent, stylish couple of the then-modern age, presented in the mold of John F. and Jackie Kennedy.

On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore was the lead female character (the second was Rose Marie’s Sally Rogers who, along with Morey Amsterdam’s Buddy Sorrell, worked as co-writers with Rob for The Alan Brady Show).  On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore was top banana.On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore performed opposite a cavalcade of charismatic stars which later starred in the aforementioned spin-off shows of their own: Valerie Harper played Richard’s best friend and upstairs neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern, and Cloris Leachman was Phyllis Lindstrom, Mary and Rhoda’s landlord.  At work, Richards was the associate producer at the fictional WJM-TV channel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her co-workers included writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin Macleod, later of The Love Boat), Ted Baxter (Ted Knight, future lead of Too Close for Comfort), Betty White (The Golden Girls), and Ed Asner, who played Mary’s boss, Lou Grant (another spin-off character, this time leading an historic one-hour drama series of the same name, the first of its kind to spawn from a half-hour sitcom).

In either case, Moore’s pleasant, All-American sweetheart persona shined through.  Every red-blooded American heterosexual male wanted to marry Laura Petrie and/or wanted to date Mary Richards.  Laura was the ideal wife and mother model for every female home engineer.  Mary Richards picked up where Marlo Thomas’s Ann Marie left off on That Girl (ABC, 1966-1971), when it came to being the fictional visual voice in the Women’s Liberation Movement.  Wives and moms of the 1960s aspired to be like Laura Petrie, and single women were empowered in the work force because of Mary Richards.  In fact, Oprah Winfrey has touted for years the media-based premise of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the main inspiration for her initially pursuing journalism as a career.

For the mainstream viewer, both Laura Petrie and Mary Richards were—and again. Remain—appealing to the eye, heart and mind.  The Laura/Mary persona was kind as all-get-out, and witty and bright in all the right places and at all the right times, but she was never intimidating, rude or off-putting.  Both were consoling, yet daring; charismatic, yet approachable. Moore played Laura and Mary as welcoming without being a doormat.  The actress somehow single-handedly created a dual tour de force of relatively opposite yet very similar characters.

Before and after she portrayed Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, Moore delivered a delightfully versatile dance of characters, roles and parts for the big screen as well as small.  Just prior to playing Laura, Moore portrayed David Jansen’s alluring, yet facially unseen secretary with the attractive legs on Richard Diamond, Private Eye (CBS/NBC, 1957-1961), and she was the “Happy Hotpoint” girl in a series of TV commercials.  Following her five-year run on the Van Dyke series, Moore dabbled on Broadway with stage productions like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1966,  and made several motion pictures, including Thoroughly Modern Millie (with Julie Andrews in 1967) and Change of Habit (with Elvis Presley in 1969).  She reunited with Van Dyke in 1969 for a CBS TV variety special titled Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, which convinced the network’s executives that she deserved to lead a sitcom of her own.  Following her seven-year-stint on now legendary self-titled sitcom, Moore returned to the live stage in 1980 with the drama revival of “Whose Life Is It, Anyway.”   That same year, she delivered an Oscar-nominated, heart-wrenching dramatic performance as Beth Jarrett, the grief-stricken mother in Ordinary People (directed by her idol Robert Redford), and in other motion pictures such as Six Weeks (1982, co-starring Dudley Moore).

Throughout the 1980s and mid-1990s Moore once more returned to television and CBS with two different one-hour variety programs (the aforementioned Mary, 1978; The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, 1979), two additional half-hour comedies (one also called Mary, 1985-1986, the other Annie McGuire, 1988-1989), and New York News (1995), a one-hour drama in which she seemed to be portray a character that echoed and combined Mary Richards and Lou Grant with-a-rigid-twist (and flaming red hair!).

Into the mix, Moore has appeared in a long list of highly-rated and critically-acclaimed TV-movies and mini-series such as Run A Crooked Mile (1969), First, You Cry (1978), Heartsounds (1984), Just Between Friends (1986), Lincoln (1988), Blessings (2003), and Pay-Back (1997), the latter in which she re-performed with two of her former sitcom co-stars Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Dennis Arndt (Annie McGuire).

In 2000, the actress reunited with her former Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star, Valerie Harper, for a TV-movie and backdoor pilot (which did not go to series) called Mary & Rhoda, in which both actresses resurrected their most famous television roles.

In 2002, she reunited with the entire cast of iconic sitcom for a CBS special documentary called The Mary Tyler Moore Show Reunion, and the cast did the same with a surprise visit to The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008.

In 2003, Moore reunited once more with Van Dyke for the PBS special based on the play, “The Gin Game,” and in yet again in 2004, this time reprising her Laura Petrie part for the CBS/TV Land special, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, and once more with Van Dyke on The Rachel Ray Show in 2011.

In 2012, Van Dyke presented her with the Lifetime Achievement Award on the televised Screen Actors Awards Show.

In 2013, Moore further reconnected with Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, and Georgia Engel, the entire female cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for a group guest spot on White’s hot TV Land hit, Hot in Cleveland.

According to a recent cover story on Moore published in Closer Weekly Magazine, her close friends Valerie Harper and Betty White said she has almost completely lost her sight due to what Harper called “the ravages of diabetes.”  In general, Moore has not made public appearances for the past three years, not even in advocacy against diabetes, and her presence has been sorely missed.  As Closer Weekly reported, one mother of a child with diabetes said n Facebook, “We need a cure for Type 1 diabetes.  When someone who has advocated for those battling and living with this disease, someone who is well known and successful, isn’t immune to devastating effects, then you know a cure needs to be found.  Best wishes to Mary for her health.”

Overall, whether she is best known as Laura Petrie or Mary Richards, or any of her other countless stage, film or television characters of interest, Moore is never less.  Despite of her numerous personal and health struggles, the adored and adorable actress continues to face her life and career celebrations and challenges with candor, courage, and class, all of which will forever define Mary Tyler Moore as an original.

Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE. This article originally appeared at TWJ Magazine.


How many times have you asked yourself, “Self, what’s the most important thing to have on page one of my script?” And, asking that question, did you start to feel…tense? Like you’re feeling now, wondering about where this article will go? Hehehehehehe…gotcha, didn’t we? And in Sentence One, no less. Here’s the deal:


by Todd Klick

Whether it’s action, drama, comedy, horror, western, or suspense thriller, all successful movies start with tension: Anxiety, apprehension, danger, discomfort, crisis, distress, hostility, or sexual tension. Tension grabs attention, as the classic theater adage goes. When you hear the couple arguing in the apartment below you, it grabs your attention. When you see an overturned school bus on the highway, it grabs your attention. Even though you try not to look, a man and woman kissing passionately in a parked car draws your eye (sexual tension). Other people’s tension peaks our curiosity, it yanks us from our everyday existence and injects us with a sudden rush of adrenaline.

One of the most popular tension-grabbers in film is DANGER.

In Halloween, someone creeps toward an average-looking house and secretly watches the teenagers make out in the kitchen. In Jaws, something ominous moves through the water. In Knocked Up, Ben and his friends fight with boxing gloves that are on fire. In Star Wars, the opening text warns of Civil War. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and his crew head deep into a dangerous jungle. In Scream, a mysterious stranger calls Casey when she’s home by herself.

When we see something dangerous happening to others, our attention peaks because we feel, deep down, that we have to keep an eye on it for self-preservation. If Ben and his buddies are fighting with on-fire boxing gloves, they could accidentally stumble over to where I’m sitting and catch meon fire! So I’d better pay attention. If someone warns of war, I’d better pay attention, because that war could end up in my own backyard, or I may get drafted. If a guy creeps toward someone else’s house and peers through their windows, someone could be looking through my windows, too.

Another attention grabber is ANXIETY.

Most of us do not enjoy feeling anxious, but boy are we intrigued to see others experiencing it. In Die Hard’s first minute, John McClane, who’s afraid of flying, death-grips the plane’s armrest. In Little Miss Sunshine, anxious beauty contestants wait to see who will be voted Miss America. In Spider-Man, Peter Parker sprints after the bus, anxious because he might be late for school. In Rashomon, an angst-ridden commoner says to the priest, “I don’t understand.”

HOSTILITY also grabs our attention. When we’re at the store and we see a customer yelling at the cashier, our eyes snap toward the yeller. Why? Because we’re curious how the cashier is going to handle the situation. Will she get the manager? Will she yell back? Hostility comes in two forms: Verbal and physical. Say the customer throws a punch at the manager. Now they have our undivided attention — that fight might spill over to my lane and I could get a broken nose. I better keep my eye on the situation.

Another attention grabber is SEXUAL TENSION.

Say we’re hiking in the woods and we see, in the distance, a naked couple having sex. It immediately grabs our attention, doesn’t it? It’s something forbidden. It’s something we’re not supposed to watch, but we’re drawn to it. Basic Instinct’s first minute begins with a rock star having sex with a beautiful blonde woman in his mansion. We know we shouldn’t be looking, but we can’t help it.

Read it all at SSN Insider

Learn more about Todd’s book, from which this article is taken, HERE

How ‘Fake Steve Jobs’ Got a Gig Writing for SILICON VALLEY

You’ve all heard about interweb phenom “Fake Steve Jobs,” right?  The blog by that name was a sensation, attracting so much attention that even interweb-shy TV execs noticed. Which brings us to this tale of how the site’s creator, Dan Lyons, has made a new life for himself – under his own name, this time:

Dan Lyons - who isn't a character on HBO's SILICON VALLEY - yet

Dan Lyons – who isn’t a character on HBO’s SILICON VALLEY – yet

Interview by Kwame Opam

Dan Lyons’ career has taken him strange places, from covering IBM to working with Mike Judge on HBO. Remember Fake Steve Jobs? During his time as Forbes tech editor, Lyons created The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs in 2006, pretty much just as a way of understanding how to blog. It was funny and insightful, and it got people to pay attention. Pretty soon the site was earning 1.5 million visitors a month.

To this day, the site remains one of Lyons’ best-known achievements. He’s since written for places like Valleywag and ReadWrite, and is a minor celebrity in the bubble that is tech media. It even landed him a writing gig on Silicon Valley, whose second season finale airs on Sunday. Lyons insists the whole thing was just a crazy accident, though — yet another happy circumstance in a life spent just trying things out.

Lyons is currently in the middle of writing a book titled Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble, which sounds like the next natural leap from working on TV. I spoke with Lyons this week ahead of Sunday’s finale to ask how he wound up at HBO, his new book, and what it’s like being the real Fake Steve Jobs.

How did you end up in the job?

Then, when Silicon Valley was picked up by HBO, the original showrunners left the show right after the pilot was made. HBO brought in this other guy named Alec Berg. Alec had worked on Curb and on Seinfeld, so he went way back with Larry Charles, and Larry said to him, “Oh, you should talk to Dan.” He showed Alec some of my old scripts and said, “This guy really knows Silicon Valley really well.” [So] I get this call from my agent, saying, “Completely weird thing, but HBO just called and asked if you would come work on a show for the summer?”

The thing that’s always struck me about it was that I was really heartbroken in 2010 when the Icon show got dropped. I just was kind of crushed, but then weirdly enough something good came out of it. It was one of those stories when people say you never know where things are taking you.

Speaking of you knowing a lot about how Silicon Valley works, how did you wind up becoming Fake Steve Jobs?

Well, here’s the thing. I wouldn’t say that I know a lot about Silicon Valley. I live in Boston, for one thing. And I don’t live and breathe this stuff the way most of the guys out there do. I was working at Forbes, and I covered big enterprise companies — IBM, Sun, and EMC — and it was kind of boring. Forbes only came out every other week, so it was not the most fast-paced job in the world. It was very nice, comfortable.

Read it all The Verge

Dreaming of glamour while living on the breadline

The subtitle of this article tells the tale: “…the life of a modern screenwriter.” Truth to tell, though, we think it would apply to just about any writer, anywhere and any time:

Spotted at Pinterest

Spotted at Pinterest

by Sally O’Reilly

Writing for the screen has always been insecure, competitive and emotionally demanding – and that’s on a good day. It’s not a calling for the maverick genius; collaboration is mandatory. While novelists, playwrights and poets are in sole command of their work, the screenwriter must be prepared for constant rewrites, and even if their script is deemed filmable, it’s often no more than the blueprint for a director to bring to life. Even so, the allure and the glamour remain: the flash of cameras at Cannes or Beverly Hills, the chance to create stories that are beamed around the planet.

Hard work and determination are prerequisites. Whether the aim is to write for the small or large screen, it’s often difficult to get a commission, and new writers usually work extremely hard for little financial reward. According to the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) the BBC pays budding writers on one of its so-called “shadow schemes” less than a third of the minimum wage.

Those enrolled in these schemes are paid a one-off fee of £1,000 to write a trial script for one of the broadcaster’s long-running soaps. They must write three drafts in three months, with no certainty of a commission. The WGGB fee estimate is based on the length of time that it takes to write three drafts, and they calculate that this works out at just £2.38 per hour. (According to a Guardian article, the BBC queries these figures and stresses that such schemes can give writers their first break.)

Reality check

The problem is that too many people are chasing too few opportunities. According to a recent survey carried out by The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) “The Business of Being a Writer”, average earnings for professional writers (those who spend more than 50% of their time writing) were just £11,000 in 2013. Only 11.5% of writers manage to live solely from their craft.

Read it all at The Conversation

TVWriter™’s Top Posts of the Week Ending June 26th


The posts TVWriter™ visitors clicked on most during the past week were:

Richard Kimble Was Guilty

Supernatural Season 1 Finale – Recap and Review

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

LB: Here’s What’s Happening with the 2015 People’s Pilot

Peggy Bechko Gives Us a Peek into the Writing Life

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

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Recommended Writers

Peggy Bechko Big thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

Hank Isaac’s LILAC Pilot Captures Another Award


We’re so happy for you and the team, Hank.

Hardly jealous at all.

Depending on your definition of “at all.”

And “jealous.”

We here at TVWriter™ are looking forward to Hank’s next report on his adventures bringing this outstanding indie pilot onto the air.

Yeah, Isaac, that’s damn hint.