Monday, August 30, 2021

TV Quote of the Day (‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ As Lou Advises Ted on a Tempting Job Offer)

[WJM anchorman Ted Baxter has just told his colleagues that he’s received a more lucrative job offer as a game-show host. He’s been waiting unsuccessfully for someone to persuade him to turn it down, until…]

Lou Grant [played by Ed Asner]: “Stay.”

Ted Baxter [played by Ted Knight]: “What? What did you say, Lou? Lou? Did... Did you say something?”

Lou: “Yeah. I said stay.”

Ted: “Gee. That's one of the nicest things anyone ever said to me. I'd like to stay, Lou. I-I love it here, but... but this is my big chance.”

Lou: “For what, Ted? So you can go to New York and become a quizmaster? Is that what you want people to say when you walk down the street? ‘There goes Ted Baxter. He's a quizmaster.’”

Ted [chuckles]: “It's not that bad, Lou. Just the way you say it makes it sound terrible.”

Lou: “Oh, yeah? Then you say it, Ted. Say, ‘Ted Baxter is... a quizmaster.’” [With greater emphasis now, practically hissing the words out in contempt]: “Ted Baxter is... a quizmaster. You see?”—The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 6, Episode 5, “Ted’s Moment of Glory,” original air date Oct. 11, 1975, teleplay by Charles Lee and Gig Henry, directed by Jay Sandrich

When I saw the headline on Facebook yesterday about the death of Ed Asner, my heart sank. With his demise—the third this year of an original cast member—one of the last links to one of the favorite shows of my youth was gone.

The above exchange illustrates how Asner could take the words in a script and turn it into something sidesplitting. Not even the deadly repetition of the word “quizmaster” quite does the trick. Rather, it’s in the way Asner spits the word out, as if he can’t wait to dislodge something so commercial, so gross before Lou can get to a word he honors: “newsman.”

Asner’s death came 35 years to the day of Ted Knight’s funeral—the first time that all the stars of the sitcom had gathered together since the landmark sitcom went off the air, in perhaps TV’s most fondly remembered finale, in 1977. Let’s hope that Mary, Valerie, Phyllis, Gavin, Ted, Georgia, and Ed are sharing laughs in a Valhalla of comedy legends even now.

Fans who watched the seven-time Emmy-winning actor over the years knew that there was far more to Asner than the Lou Grant role he played for 12 seasons, first on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then on the dramedy Lou Grant.

Obituaries I’ve read have cited his voice-over work in animated series and movies. But much of his one-off work in the Seventies and Eighties, though perhaps harder to find on video these days, are also worthy of mention, displaying his dramatic range in Roots (a drunken sea captain haunted by his role in the slave trade), A Case of Libel (as a lawyer in the McCarthy Era), Anatomy of an Illness (as editor Norman Cousins), The Gathering (as a difficult father trying to make amends with his family before dying), and Tender is the Night (as a tycoon who has sexually violated his daughter).

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