Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

"Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's deft weave of social history and sharp entertainment reporting explains how [The Mary Tyler Moore Show] made the world safe for Lena Dunham" (Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls)—the making of a classic and groundbreaking TV show, as experienced by its producers, writers, and cast.

When writer-producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns dreamed up an edgy show about a divorced woman with a career, the CBS executives they pitched replied: “American audiences won’t tolerate divorce in a series’ lead any more than they will tolerate Jews, people with mustaches, and people who live in New York.”

Forty years later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of the most beloved and recognizable television shows of all time. It was an inspiration to a generation of women who wanted to have it all in an era when everything seemed possible.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted tells the stories behind the making of this popular classic, introducing the groundbreaking female writers who lent real-life stories to their TV scripts; the men who created the indelible characters; the lone woman network executive who cast the legendary ensemble—and advocated for this provocative show—and the colorful cast of actors who made it all work. James L. Brooks, Grant Tinker, Allan Burns, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel—they all came together to make a show that changed women’s lives and television itself. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted is the tale of how they did it.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451659221 | 
  • October 2013
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted includes discussion questions and a Q&A with author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. How does this book fit into the history of the 1970s overall?
2. How does it fit into the history of Hollywood?
3. What do you think it says about women on television?
4. Who was your favorite “character”?
5. What surprised you the most?
6. How has reading this book changed the way you think of The Mary Tyler Moore Show?
7. Mary Richards: Feminist or not?
8. Which episodes did it make you want to watch (again, or for the first time)?
9. Discuss women’s role in the workplace and in Hollywood during the 1970s. How has life changed for women since the beginning of The Mary Tyler Moore Show? How has it stayed the same?
10. How do you think Treva Silverman felt back when she was the only woman in the comedy writers’ rooms where she worked?
11. Do you think the female writers in the book would ever have made it i
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Articles About This Book

Mtmrhoda 300

Posted on Tips on Life & Love

Posted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

When you look back at TV's first truly independent single girls in the city, The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern, one thing is clear: These ‘70s ladies took far less crap than the Hannahs and Mindys and Jesses of our...

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About the Author

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of Sex and the City and Us, Seinfeldia, and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She writes about pop culture for several publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Fast Company, New York’s Vulture, BBC Culture, Entertainment Weekly, and others. She grew up in Homer Glen, Illinois, and now lives in New York City. Visit her online at