A Look at Sitcom Production Companies-MTM Enterprises
Continuing my celebration of my 100th blog by looking at famous production companies.
MTM Enterprises was founded by the amazing Mary Tyler Moore and her then-husband in 1969 to produce The Mary Tyler Moore Show. MTM would go on to produce several successful television programs. Its recognizable logo, shown at the very end of their shows, was a meowing Mimsie the Cat in a pose similar to the MGM lion. The cat is one of my favorite logos, not only is it cute but it just brings me back to a different time. Hard explain, so letâ€™s instead talk about the shows MTM produced.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
This was a really good show, which I never watched. Unfortunately that is the case with most of these shows, since they were on in the 70â€™s and early 80â€™s so they were a little before my time. That doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m not familiar with the show of course. What Iâ€™ve seen of it, it really was a funny show. Basically it was about a group of employees at a news station, with Ted Baxter as the bumbling newsman and Ed Asner as the boss Lou Grant. This show has a special distinction, about half-way through it introduced character Sue Ann Nivens played bu Betty White. She became a regular, and one of the most popular characters. For that to happen so late in a series run is rare, but Betty White is a special performer.
The Bob Newhart Show
Bob Newhart is a comedy legend, and this was his first hit television series. He actually had a very long career before this show came on, but itâ€™s safe to say this show made even more popular. He played Dr.Bob Hartley who was a Psychiatrist. He was surrounded by crazy people, at work and at home. The amazing Suzanne Pleshette played his wife, and the cast also included many famous faces. Great series, which I never saw too much of.
This was a spin-off of Mary Tyler Moore, as her best friend Rhoda took off for a new life in New York. She met a guy, got married in a very memorable wedding episode, and then divorced him. This was Valerie Harperâ€™s stare vehicle.
Mary lost another friend when Phyllis left for her own show. Chloris Leachman took her character to San Fransciso rather than New York. After Phyllis lost her much talked about husband, she moved there with her daughter. This show was not as good, and had lots of bad luck within the cast. As a result it didnâ€™t even last as long as Rhoda did.
After Mary Tyler Moore left the air, Lou Grant was spun-off into his own show. The really unique thing was that Mary Tyler Moore was a light hearted sitcom; Lou Grant was a serious drama which dealt head on with social commentary. Rather than a TV news station, Lou Grant was set in a Los Angeles newspaper where he was city editor.
WKRP in Cincinatti
This show was really interesting. It was set a broken down radio station in Cincinnati, where the new program director decided to switch to rock music to boost ratings and get the station back on its feet. The cast included Howard Hesseman as the DJ, Loni Anderson as the receptionist, and of course Gordon Jump as the slightly dimwitted Mr.Carlson. This show was pretty silly, but it did occasionally take on more serious issues.
Hill Street Blues
Yes, Hill Street Blues was produced by MTM productions. Hill Street Blues premiered in the early 80â€™s, and changed the way dramas were made. This was no light and fluffy cop drama, this was a gritty and real as it got (for the 80â€™s anyway).
When Hill Street Blues did for cop shows Remington Steel did for dramas. The series, starring Pierce Brosnan, was a blending of the genres of romantic comedy, drama, and detective procedural. Never seen this show, so I really donâ€™t have anything to say about it. It did do a good job of putting romance and comedy into drama, acting as the forerunner for shows like Moonlighting.
What Hill Street Blues did for cop shows, St.Elsewhere did for medical shows. This was another gritty, realistic show. The most famous thing about this show may be the final episode, where it is revealed that the entire show was in the mind of an autistic child. Before this became a clichÃ©, this was a remarkable way to end a series. This show had a very diverse cast which included Ed Begley Jr, Howie Mandel, and Alfre Woodward.
Speaking of remarkable way to end series, but weâ€™ll get to that. Newhart was Bob Newhartâ€™s second vehicle, and this time he was an innkeeper in Vermont. The people who lived in the town were a tad eccentric and basically thatâ€™s where the stories came from. Tom Poston was the handyman, and of course this is the series which gave birth to the classic â€œMy name is Larry. This is my brother Daryl, and this I my other brother Daryl.â€ The series finale was a classic, as we see Bob waking up in bed with Suzanne Pleshett. The whole series was just a dream his character from The Bob Newhart Show had had! Again, this was before it became a clichÃ© (thank you Roseanne), and is one of the funniest endings to any show ever.
New WKRP in Cincinnati
In the early 90â€™s WKRP was revived in first run syndication. There was an almost entirely new cast, and it sucked. The cast kept changing and the stories were so silly. They tried to bring Howard Hessman back later on to get some viewers, but this show was just not written as well as the original was and quietly faded away.
There were others to, including The Tony Randall Show, The Betty White Show, Beverly Hills Buntz, and Good News which would be the final MTM Production.
I would be remiss if I didnâ€™t mention the alterations to the MTM logo on these shows. For example, Remington Steele ended with the cat wearing a detectiveâ€™s hat. After Bob Newhartâ€™s show the cat would meow in Bob Newhartâ€™s voice. After WKRP the cat would be Les Nesman saying his catchphrase â€œoohhâ€. And finally, St.Elsewhere had him in medical scrubs, and in the final episode of showed the cat lying on its back, dying.
MTM was also a distribution company, distributing shows such as Americaâ€™s Funniest Home Videos, Evening Shade, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Mary Tyler Moore is quite simply one of the best talents on the planet, and itâ€™s no wonder her production company came out with quality shows like these. The company is gone now, but not forgotten.