A superfluously meticulous exploration of the Minneapolis of the “Mary Tyler Moore  Show”

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Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards. This is the most iconic shot of the entire series. Mary Richards had moved to the Twin Cities after a breakup. ( the producers didn’t want to say it was a divorce) and the shot expresses her new sense of independence. The scene was filmed live at the Nicolette Plaza in downtown Minneapolis a favorite pedestrian mall.

Mary Tyler Moore was first approached by writer/producers James L Brooks and Alan Burns about doing her television show; she was far from enthusiastic to the idea.  She had been on The Dick Van Dyke Show for five years and had won two Emmy for lead actress. The show had been highly popular and critically acclaimed, and Moore was concerned that they could never top the show’s success. Another concern was that her character was divorced which was still risque back in the late 1960’s and there was a concern that people might think she was divorcing Rob Petrie her TV husband on her previous show,  The writers changed the storyline to her character breaking up with her fiance. After reading some preliminary scripts, MTM was impressed with the quality of the writing and agreed to do the series. The writers chose to set the comedy in a newsroom because they liked the idea of being able to use current events in their writing. The primary reason Minneapolis was selected as the venue for the show was that one of the writers was a fan of the Vikings football team.

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The cast from the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Clockwise, Ed Asner as ‘Lou Grant”, Cloris Leachman as “Phyllis Lindstrom,” Ted Knight as “Ted Baxter”  Mary Tyler Moore as “Mary Richards”  Gavin Macleod as M”Murray Slaughter” and Valerie Harper as “Rhoda Morgenstern”

The show was set primarily at Mary’s apartment and her job at the newsroom for the fiction station WJM channel 12 and interaction between her co-workers and at home between her landlady Phyllis and neighbor Rhoda.

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This is the house which served as the external shots of Mary Richards apartment. She didn’t live in the entire house, but an apartment on the third floor.

 

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Mary Tyler Moore was doing an external shot in front of the house during the winter of 1971.  I think her coat should have been longer. I imagine she was probably freezing.

 

 

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The internal set of Mary’s apartment.  I know it is a Los Angeles soundstage, but it is Minneapolis in my mind.

 

The house is now known as “The Mary Tyler Moore House.” In an episode of the show, Mary says her address is 119 N. Waverly Apt D (an address that doesn’t exist in Minneapolis)  In truth, the house can be found at 2104 N Kenwood. Even with the phony address, the original owner grew tired of fans coming by the house and asked the producers to ‘have Mary Richards move”. The writers were reluctant to change the storyline, so the owner made a huge “Impeach Nixon” sign and placed it in front of the house. The ploy worked, and in the next season, Mary Richards did move to an apartment.

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Above is the Riverside Plaza apartments near downtown which served as the external shots for Mary Richards’ second apartment. Sadly the building is pretty run down today.

The television station Mary worked for WJM channel 12 is fictional. The external shots for the building that housed the WJM newsroom are the RSM Plaza.  In 1970, when the series began, the Plaza at 20 stories was one of the tallest buildings in the city. It has been surpassed many times over since then.

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The fictional home of the WJM newsroom.

 

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The newsroom set

 

I was only six when the show first aired. I had never even heard of the city of Minneapolis until the show. The place became the mythical place “where Mary lived.” I especially loved the opening sequence and the  Sonny Curtis song “Love is all around’ that played over the sequence. I wanted to break down the opening shots the best I could.

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The very first shot was mary walking along the Lake of the Isles. This is one of the numerous lakes that dot the area.

 

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The IDS Plaza downtown. Basil’s restaurant was a familiar setting on the show, and if you reserve it, you can have the “Mary Tyler Moore Table’ where several scenes were filmed.

One of the most memorable scenes in the opening sequence is where Mary is grocery shopping and looks at the price of some meat, sighs and throws it into her shopping cart. This was filmed at Kowalski’s Market.

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The opening sequences varied by season, but every one of them featured Mary Richards flinging her hat up into the sky. As she does the song crescendos with the line “You might just make it after all.” After the second season (and the show being a hit) the line was changed to the more optimistic “You’re gonna make it after all”  This shot was filmed at Nicollet and 7th Street and today,  a statue stands in her honor.

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Mary Richards moved to Minneapolis alone and unsure, but boldly declares her freedom. She finds friendship, satisfying employment and courage.  I think many people can relate to her character, especially women who were becoming more empowered during the 1970’s. She made it. We want to also.

This is totally unrelated to this story, but downtown Minneapolis also has this really cool mural of Minnesotan Bob Dylan.  And I wanted to share this with you, but couldn’t find a home for it.

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The spirit of Mary Richards lives on in Minneapolis. All of these sights are free to visit. If you are a classic TV junkie like me, they are definitely worth the effort. 

 

 

 

 

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