While visiting Minneapolis, we had to forcibly wipe that daffy smile off Judge Dennis Prince's face and stop him from throwing his knit beret in the middle of traffic. He's such a tourist.
Our reviews of The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Third Season (published March 22nd, 2006), The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Fourth Season (published August 23rd, 2006), The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Fifth Season (published October 28th, 2009), The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Sixth Season (published February 15th, 2010), and The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Seventh Season (published October 14th, 2010) are also available.
"…you're gonna make it after all…"
After her first year in Minneapolis, living in a top-floor townhouse apartment, having developed a close friendship with a couple of neighbors, and securing a job as producer at the WJM-News studio, Mary Richards showed she had the pluck, the courage, and the wherewithal to truly make it on her own. Now, at long last, comes the much-awaited, long-overdue release of The Mary Tyler Moore Show—The Complete Second Season.
Facts of the Case
She's well established, well liked, and well intentioned—Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) has navigated the pitfalls and personalities that sometimes surround her in her new Minneapolis home. It's life as normal for Mary—well, almost normal. She's proud of her role as producer for WJM-TV's Six-O'Clock News, working amid a cheerful-yet-sometimes-challenging group of cohorts, yet she's just a bit bashful about admitting the show constantly wallows in last place among its journalistic peers. She's glad to have reliable friends nearby like Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), yet she often has to bite her tongue when either or both foist their troubles and trivialities onto Mary's shoulders. She's also proud to be an upstanding and confident woman in the sometimes-uncertain '70s yet realizes that, as a single girl who isn't quite swinging, her chance for a meaningful relationship is slipping away with each passing day. Depending how you look at it, it's a great life or a grating lifestyle. For Mary, it's all good news because she's on her own and doing just fine.
"…who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?"
After a stellar first season, one that prompted seven Emmy nominations and garnered four wins, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was clearly an overachiever of the most welcome sort. The challenge going into the fall 1971 season was how to compete against its own high standards. The show never skipped a beat and, backed by sharp writing and impeccable delivery, the second season exhibited the same confidence and courage as Mary Richards herself. Interesting to note, Sonny Curtis's theme song was even sharpened this second year, no longer asking, "how will you make it on your own" but, rather, proclaiming, "you're gonna make it after all"—and then some.
After a much-appreciated first season DVD release from Fox Home Entertainment—one that sported 24 episodes, excellent bonus features, but a rather hefty price tag—this second season set comes slightly redesigned, weighing in a bit lighter in appearance yet still bountiful with extra features and at the same $29.98 ticket price. Is it worth it? Sure is, starting with these 24 second-season episodes:
• "The Birds…and…Um…Bees"
• "And Now, Sitting In for Ted Baxter"
• "The Slaughter Affair"
Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format as originally televised and each looks sparkling like you've never seen before. Granted, this isn't any sort of full-on restoration effort yet the clarity and colorfulness of each episode is to be applauded. There are occasional moments of source print damage or film dirt (usually seen in the oft-reused pan in to the WJM-News office doors) but, truly, the renderings here are clean, crisp, and free of unwanted compression artifacts. The audio even manages to push its confines to the limit, the Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track emerging as clean, clear, and always intelligible (with a decent dose of light bass mixed in to help the opening bars of the theme song nicely bounce into your living room).
The extras on this set are pretty much on par with those presented in the first boxed release—and that's good news! It starts with an audio commentary to be found on each of three selected episodes: "The Birds…and…Um…Bees" and "The Six-and-a-Half-Year Itch" both feature discussion and fun anecdotes by actor Ed Asner, writer Treva Silverman, and director Jay Sandrich; "The Slaughter Affair" features insight by Gavin MacLeod and director Peter Baldwin. On the flipside of Disc Three is where you'll find the bulk of the bonus features beginning with a fun and informative new documentary, "8 Characters In Search of a Sitcom." Running at an impressive 57 minutes, it delves into the key characters of the show including the as yet unseen Georgette (Georgia Engels) and Sue-Ann Niven (Betty White). Strangely, yet consistent with the first boxed-set's documentary, star Mary Tyler Moore is nowhere to be found in the recent interview clips. The next documentary is probably the true gem of this set, that being the "Moore on Sunday" original 1973 account of the crew of a local Minneapolis station, WCCO-TV Channel 4, that tagged along for the shoot of fourth season's title sequence. Here we see James L. Brooks, David Davis, Lin Ephraim, and MTM studio head (and Tyler Moore's then-husband) Grant Tinker all working to capture the various sequences of the title montage in and around the Minneapolis area. This one's terrific fun and the sort of vintage extra that can make these boxes sets so invaluable to collectors. The remaining documentary—a poor man's mockumentary—is a silly "Newsbeat" piece in which a female reporter retraces Mary's footsteps through Minneapolis with attempted-but-contemptible comedic results. The original Emmy Award clips are short but sweet, offering more vintage material to enjoy. The same can be said for the nice inclusion of the original MAD Magazine parody, "The Mary Tailor Made Show." The original comic panels are presented in still format just as they appeared in the magazine itself (that's issue #155 from December '72 for you collectors keeping score). The panel captures are a bit fuzzy and the first wide panel is difficult to read. Still, it's a nice nod to a well-known piece of Mary memorabilia. A trivia challenge, photo gallery, and theme song karaoke round out the bonus features here.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only point of rebuttal here is the need to question why it took nearly three long years for this release to come about. Fans of the show feared Fox made a grave misstep in its first season release, a glowing collection of goodies at a potentially prohibitive price-point. Seemingly, the studio has determined to try the same act—at the same price—again. The difference this time is this set is contained on three discs (the third dual sided), each housed in a ThinPak keep case and all tucked in a cardboard outer sleeve. The first season came to us by way of a spiffy gatefold DigiPak holder with four single-sided discs inside. The format differences are of minor relevance since it's the content that matters most. Hopefully it won't be another three years before season three is released.
In all, The Mary Tyler Moore Show—The Complete Second Season is a sight for sore eyes. It's good to see Fox has kept up the quality of the content and extras yet it would be nice to see them achieve more competitive prices for future releases. But, for now, no further quibbling is necessary because here are 24 more episodes of Mary at her sincere and sweet best in a new collection that is highly recommended.
Not guilty! Case dismissed.
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