Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80. It’s a loss that the entertainment world is still reeling from. Celebrities took to Twitter to express their grief but many young fans may not know why Moore was such an important part of pop culture. That’s a shame because she is one of the most important women in the history of comedy.

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Moore had been working in television for a while before she hit it big on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Her role as Laura Petrie became such a hit that even the character’s fashion choices were being mimicked by young women around the country. Moore brought energy and confidence to the role and turned it into something that was much more than the stereotypical housewife character. The show ran from 1961 – 1966 and Moore won an Emmy for her performance. It was a testament to what a brilliant comedic actress she was and it was only the beginning.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

After the runaway success of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore was given her own series. The premise involved her playing a single woman who happens to nab a job as an associate producer on a local news program. The series was a smash success and not simply for its comedy. The show tackled a number of hot-button topics for the era such as divorce, journalistic ethics, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, adoption, equal pay for women, and many others. The show was never afraid to push the envelope in order to explore real-life issues in a comedic way. Critics continue to praise the show to this day for its forward-thinking attitude and excellent comedic writing. And all of that came from the mind of Mary Tyler Moore.

Producer Extraordinaire

Moore also excelled behind the camera and formed MTM Productions, a company that would eventually spawn a number of shows that became hits in their own right. Among these were The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, and spin-offs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show like Rhoda and Lou Grant. Moore was a living example of feminine empowerment in the workplace, both in her fictional incarnation and in the real world.

Inspiration


You don’t have to go far in the entertainment industry to find performers who were inspired by Moore’s talent and drive. Ellen DeGeneres cited her as an enormous influence and Moore even guest-starred on multiple shows that Ellen created. The outpouring of love from celebrities after news of her death hit has been heartwarming. It’s clear that many actresses saw Moore on television when they were young and knew that they too could be funny and smart without sacrificing the unique elements that made them women.

The world is a little dimmer today but Mary Tyler Moore could turn on the world with her smile. Take today to watch some of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu or watching some of her great clips on YouTube. No matter what, keep on laughing. It’s what she would have wanted.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.