Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

Mary Tyler Moore, WJM, and the NFL

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Her smile turned the world on, her accessibility proved that love is all around, and her personality made nothing days worthwhile more suddenly than Marcia Brady saying something came up in order to break a date with nice guy Charlie for Doug Simpson, the big man on campus.

Mary Tyler Moore made it after all.

When the news broke that she died, we were reminded of a woman who championed diabetes research; reflected the modern woman of the 1970s in her eponymous situation comedy; led a television production company that brought landmark sitcoms and breakthrough dramas to prime time; changed Hollywood’s conception of her acting range with an Oscar-winning performance of a heartless, upper middle class mother in suburban Chicago; showed only her legs accompanied by a breathless voice as the secretary to a private detective; and brought television’s depiction of a housewife from the pearls-wearing stereotype in non-descriptive suburban to a three-dimensional template with a splash of sexuality in New Rochelle.

Moore was a 20th century heroine whose likability never fell victim to her success—or her struggles:  alcoholism, Type 1 diabetes, two divorces, and the death of her 24-year-old son from a hair trigger on a sawed-off shotgun.

On September 19, 1970, America met her alter ego, Minneapolis television news producer Mary Richards at WJM on Mary Tyler Moorenot the often used but incorrect label The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  When her name in Peignot font scrolled vertically in multiplicity across the America’s television screens, audiences settled in for a half hour of a sensible, smart, and sophisticated woman trying to balance a career and a social life.  And she did it with style—Moore’s outfits reflected the fashions that a cosmopolitan woman would wear and could afford.

Football played a role on Mary Tyler Moore, most notably during the show’s theme Love Is All Around, which showcases Mary doing everyday activities, including washing her car while wearing a Fran Tarkenton jersey.  Lou Proposes, an episode in the show’s seventh and final season, mentions Tarkenton, a Minnesota Vikings icon.  When Mary’s Aunt Flo—an acclaimed journalist and, in actuality, a distant cousin, on Mary’s mother side, who spent only 26 nights in her apartment during the past year—visits the Twin Cities, she takes a liking to Lou Grant, the Executive Producer of WJM’s 6 o’clock television newscast.  And vice versa.

Lou is about to propose marriage, but he gets sidetracked when Flo mentions that she heard a rumor about the Vikings trading their quarterback while she did research on a story about the team’s offense.  Ultimately, Flo turns down Lou’s proposal.  Gently.

Ed Asner played Lou Grant, the gruff newsman with a guarded sentimental side.  A picture of Asner from his high school football days is visible in every scene that takes place in Lou’s office—it hangs prominently nearby a National Geographic poster titled The Earth’s Moon, which shows the near and the far sides of the Moon.

In the fifth season episode The System, Lou buckles to the success of a betting system created, somewhat arbitrarily, by Ted Baxter, WJM’s clueless but harmless news anchor.  Ted’s system consists of betting the underdog in every NFL game with a point spread of 11 points or more.  He chooses 11 for a simple reason—it’s his lucky number.

Lou and Ted become partners, a bond that Lou breaks on Super Bowl Sunday.  Without telling Ted, he bets all their winnings—$2,000—on the Pittsburgh Steelers covering the point spread in Super Bowl IX.  He discloses this in a scene taking place in Mary’s apartment after the two-minute warning sounds; WJM news writer Murray Slaughter, Ted, Ted’s girlfriend Georgette, and WJM sportscaster Andy Rivers watch the game, after a brunch that Mary prepared.  When Ted walks away from the group, Lou confesses his sin to the others and, with a combination of frustration and somberness, that he made the bet out of ego—he wanted to prove that he was better than Ted’s goofy though successful system.  Lou then explains that Steelers need to score 12 points in the last 26 seconds of the game.

It is deductible, therefore, that the point spread was greater than 11 points and the Steelers were the underdogs.  When Lou owns up to his actions and tells Ted, the news anchor sobs.  In the hands of skilled two-time Emmy winner Ted Knight, his alter ego inspires pathos, friendliness, and laughter.

According to sitcomsonline.com, the episode was produced on December 13, 1974, a month before the Super Bowl.  So, the producers took an educated guess that the Steelers would be the AFC champions.  It was on the mark—the Steelers won Super Bowl IX 16-6.  Their NFC opponent?  The Minnesota Vikings.

This episode aired the night before Super Bowl IX, prompting Moore to record an announcement that played during the closing credits noting that the story is fictional but, in case the Vikings win, “You heard it first at WJM.”

Rest in peace, Mary.

A version of this article appeared on ww.thesportspost.com on January 26, 2017.

A New Era in Chavez Ravine

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Los Angeles suffered a divorce worthy of soap opera status when the controversy of Dodgers ownership became public—Frank and Jamie McCourt engaged in a matrimonial battle that brought disgrace upon the vaunted Dodgers brand and disgust among the team’s loyal fan base.  Plus, their spending habits approximated using the team’s coffers as a personal ATM machine.  Bankruptcy forced a sale.  In the country’s second biggest market, Major League Baseball could not afford a continuous display of greed in an era already tarnished by steroid use.

In her 2015 book The Best Team Money Could Buy, Molly Knight wrote, “But after they moved to Los Angeles their aspirations morphed into an insatiable obsession with status and material possessions.  By 2009 the couple turned on each other, with Frank testing the limits of the amount of money he could borrow, and and Jamie instructing a Dodger executive to draw up a battle plan for her eventual ascendance to the office of president of the United States [sic].”

On May 1, 2012, a new era began in Chavez Ravine—Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers for $2.15 billion.  Led by CEO Mark Walter, Guggenheim boasted Magic Johnson as a minority owner with the credibility required to allow Los Angelenos a sigh of relief when one of its favorite sons appeared ready to restore the Dodgers brand from garnishment to luster.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig offered respect to the devotees who saw more drama in the media’s recounting of the McCourt saga than in the games at Dodger Stadium.  “In addition, I want to personally thank all Dodger fans for their patience and loyalty during this trying period,” said Selig.  “I have said many times that we owed it to them to ensure that the club was being operated properly and would be guided appropriately in the future.  It is my great hope and firm expectation that today’s change in ownership marks the start of a new era for the Los Angeles Dodgers and that this historic franchise will once again make the city of Los Angeles proud.”

Indeed, new ownership cleansed the toxicity plaguing the team.  On 710 ESPN’s Mason & Ireland Show, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noted, “It’s been a positive since the announcement of Magic and his group.  You could feel a difference with the fans instantly.  There’s been so much negative for the last few years that it just gets kind of old for guys that are playing because people aren’t showing up and it doesn’t have anything to do with if you win or not.”

In a 2015 profile titled “Who Is Dodgers Owner Mark Walter and Where Did He Get All That Money” for laweekly.com, Gene Maddause highlighted the financial health of the Dodgers resulting from an $8.35 billion television contract.  In turn, Walter’s Guggenheim team fought the ghosts of the McCourt era by strategically reinforcing the $2.15 billion investment. Maddaus wrote, “A hundred million for stadium improvements?  Sure.  An $85 million contract for Andre Ethier?  Uh, OK.  How about $18 million a year to Matt Kemp to play for another team?  Why not?”

Guggenheim prioritized the importance of repairing the tattered confidence of the Dodgers, beginning with signing Ethier.  Knight noted, “Even though he was on the decline, and arguably the club’s tenth-best player at that point, the Dodgers re-signed him to a five-year, $85 million extension that raised eyebrows around the league for its generosity.  But the new owners weren’t overpaying an aging outfielder as much as they were purchasing a citywide public service announcement letting fans know the bad times were over.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on December 15, 2015.

Rob Reiner and Baseball

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Baseball is a never-ending source for popular culture storytellers whose tales tap a range of emotional veins in fans of the National Pastime.

We cry when Gary Cooper reenacts Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech in The Pride of the Yankees.

We cheer when Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn strikes out Clu Haywood to win the American League East pennant for the Indians in Major League.

We laugh when the Chico’s Bail Bonds team from southern California’s North Valley League travels to Houston for a game at the Astrodome in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.

One of baseball’s biggest fans in the popular culture arena is Rob Reiner, who became a household name for his portrayal of Mike “Meathead” Stivic on the 1970s television show All in the Family.  He became one of Hollywood’s A-list directors.

In 1982, Reiner starred in Million Dollar Infield, a CBS television movie featuring challenges of middle age against the backdrop of a men’s softball team.  Reiner, Bruno Kirby, Christopher Guest, and Robert Costanzo play the core four characters, each with his own dilemma.  Guest’s character obsesses over baseball, ignores his son’s emotional issues, and prizes winning above all else.  Reiner’s character deals with divorce.  The team gives the men an outlet where they bond over a common goal of winning games.  Reiner co-wrote the script for Million Dollar Infield.

Reiner co-wrote the premiere episode for Happy Days.  Airing on January 15, 1974, the story revolves around Richie Cunningham—the main character—pursuing a bubbly blonde named Mary Lou.  When Richie’s friends want to know “how far” he got on a date with Mary Lou, the conversation takes place during batting practice.

A similar male bonding scene takes place in When Harry Met Sally, directed by Reiner.  During an outing at the batting cages, Harry confides to his best friend, Jess, that his platonic relationship with Sally is wonderful because there are no miscues, expectations, or hurt feelings that may happen if the relationship escalates to a romantic level; ultimately, Harry and Sally become a couple.

Reiner voiced a baseball named Screwie in the 2006 animated movie Everyone’s Hero.  In an interview with Alan Schwarz of the New York Times published on September 17, 2006, Reiner compared being a baseball manager handling players to being a movie director handling a cast.  “You have to know, based on their personalities, which ones to push and which ones to back away from,” said Reiner.  “Managers, it’s the same thing.  It’s managing personalities so that you get the best out of your players.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on March 1, 2014.

Doctors in the Windy City

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Chicago has been the setting for two television shows set in emergency rooms.  ER and E/R.

Both had multi-racial casts, unique characters arriving for medical attention, and humor as a defense mechanism to guard against emotional pain of working in a trauma situation.

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My Favorite Hero

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

RemingtonEverybody has a favorite movie star.  For some of us, it’s an everyman, like Tom Hanks or Jimmy Stewart.  For some of us, it’s a sex symbol, like Marilyn Monroe or Jennifer Lopez.  For some of us, it’s an action hero.  The 1982 movie My Favorite Year pays homage to the last genre.  Set in 1954, My Favorite Year focuses on one week in the life of junior television comedy writer Benjy Stone and his idol, Alan Swann.

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“L.A. Law” Retrospective (Part 7 of 8)

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Of  all guest stars or recurring characters on L.A. Law, perhaps none stand out more than direct mail king David Meyer (played by Dann Florek).  Once married to Roxanne Melman (played by Susan Ruttan), secretary to Arnie Becker, Meyer is the firm’s court-appointed receiver in the fifth season episode Speak, Lawyers, For Me.

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“L.A. Law” Retrospective (Part 5 of 8)

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

In the second season L.A. Law episode The Wizard of Odds, black overachiever Jonathan Rollins (played by Blair Underwood) interviews with McKenzie Brackman.  Actually, Jonathan controls the interview from the outset, referencing powerful family friends, Ivy League accomplishments, and palpable confidence.  He reasons that a smaller, prestigious firm like McKenzie Brackman can be more responsive to his personal needs.

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