Picks and Pans Review: Mary
CBS (Wed., Dec. 11, 8 p.m. ET)
Hallelujah, she's back. She's not exactly the same Mary Tyler Moore we all adored when she was Mary Richards. She's still nice, even sweet, and a little naive, though never less than smart. She's still every woman's idea of a best friend and every man's ideal of womanhood. But the Mary in Mary has changed: She's older, wiser, wryer and even prettier. And she's divorced, so the world no longer has to wonder whether she could possibly be a virgin. She's more modern, this Mary. And she's as wonderful as ever. Now her name is Mary Brenner, and in the first show, her magazine, where she writes about fashion, goes out of business. Poor Mary. In desperation, she job hunts at an inky wretch of a newspaper called the Chicago Post—not the kind of rag you'd ever see Mary reading on the bus. ARSONIST SETS HIMSELF ON FIRE, its swelled head yells. WEDDING NIGHT SPOILED. The managing editor, James Farentino, doesn't exactly need Mary's skills. "What am I gonna do with fashion talk?" he says. "Most of our readers use this paper for clothing." But he hires Mary to write a "Helpline" column that aids people in need. Good ol' Mary. She meets her grumpy, smoking, sloppy, snide deskmate Katey Sagal, who snarls: "You're not going to keep little stuffed Care Bears on your desk, are you?" She meets the paper's legally blind copy editor, then the desperate-for-a-date drama critic, John (The Addams Family) Astin. Then you get to meet Mary's neurotic neighbor, Carlene Watkins, who's cursed with horrendous taste in men. And you get the idea: Mary, Miss Normal, is surrounded by a mixed bag of benign nuts who puzzle her and love her. Yes, it sounds like the old show. But it's not the same. The editor is not Lou. The deskmate is not Murray. The neighbor is not Rhoda (or Millie). Mary and her producers were wiser than to copy her classics. The characters they created, including Mary's own, are all new. But the feel of the show—that wonderful warmth that comes from being among friends—is just the same. And though the action drags briefly when the scene moves to Mary's apartment (cute and immaculate of course), the script is still filled to the gills with fresh, funny and well-timed lines. The series has plenty of promise. So Mary's back. And I'm so happy I could kiss her. Just a friendly peck, mind you. On the cheek.
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