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Interview With the Cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

Aired October 3, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, as Mary turned the world on with her smile, they turned out to be one of the funniest and finest supporting casts in TV history.
Behind the scenes memories from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," plus a load of classic laughs.

With us: Ed Asner, Mary's newsroom boss Lou Grant, Valerie Harper, Mary's best pal Rhoda Morganstern, Betty White, sugar and spice but not-so-nice, as the happy homemaker Sue Ann Nivens, Gavin Macleod, Mary's newsroom buddy, writer Murray Slaughter and Cloris Leachman, Mary's neurotic land lady Phyllis Lyndstrom.

A free-wheeling hour no TV fan going to want to miss.


KING: It's going to be a wonderful show tonight. It's all in conjunction with the release on DVD, from Fox Home Entertainment, of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show's" first year.

This four-disk set, co-produced by Ed Asner and his son Matthew and Danny Gold, is now available to.

The show won 29 Emmy awards, a record until this year when "Frasier" topped it. Mary Tyler Moore is doing a movie so couldn't be with us, but the rest of the case is.

With of course, the unfortunate exception of Ted Knight, dear Ted Knight, who passed away.

So, we'll run round robin, we'll show you a lot of clips, we're going to have a lot of fun as we salute an incredible program, Mary -- "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the release of this brand new DVD.

How did you get the part, Ed, of Mr. Grant.?

ED ASNER, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I read for it. Read badly.

They were -- They were very brilliant people who could see that there was something in that pilot sewage that they could invoke to suit their purposes.

KING: Did you think you would not get it?

ASNER: In the beginning, yes. I read first and it was a very bad reading, and they still had confidence. So they said, When we have you back, do it this way, this way. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about.

So, I said, well, let me try it that way and see if I can do it. If not, don't have me back.

So, they said, all right, read. So, I read, I read it crazily and they had me back.

KING: Valerie, how did a young Catholic girl get the part of Rhoda Morganstern, the Jewish neighbor.


A marvelous casting woman, Ethel Wynans from CBS, saw me in a little play. I was in the theater all those years before I ever was on television. And she called me in and I auditioned and it was-- I think an awful lot of woman auditioned for Rhoda and I came in and auditioned for Jim Broooks, Alan Burns and I think they cast all of us what you call today "outside the box."

So, they just felt the chemistry and I came back a second time to read with Mary and she was delightful and supportive and I got the part before I even drove home.

I lived about 20 minutes from the audition.

KING: Was the thinking, Valerie, this was going to be a hit or were you just looking to get good work?

HARPER: Oh, I was just thrilled to be part of a television show, even just a pilot. I really did not imagine. I knew it was good. I knew the script was wonderful when I read it, but I didn't have any real preconceived ideas about it, Larry. I really didn't. Certainly not that we'd be together now, this many years later on your show talking about it.

KING: Betty White, how did you get it?

BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Well, first of all, I don't know why I am here, because I didn't come in til the fourth year. I'm not on...

KING: There was no character like yours.

WHITE: No, they wrote...

ASNER: And hasn't been since.

WHITE: They wrote this part of this sickening, sweet, happy homemaker and Ethel Wynan, please her dear heart said, Well, sickening, sweet, Betty White-type. She said, Why don't you get Betty?

They said, No, we can't because Mary and Betty are friends and if Betty didn't get the part, it might make it awkward for Mary. So, they auditioned a lot of other girls and they couldn't find anybody sickening enough. So Ethel said, Why don't you give it to Betty? It's a one shot, it's only one script.

So, that's how I got it.

KING: Was the show already a hit when you joined it?

WHITE: Oh, a major hit.

KING: You stepped into a cast that had already grew together and everything.

WHITE: Totally, and because Mary and Grant and I were friends and my husband, Allen Ludden, we had sweated out the pilot and all the shows and never dreaming that I would be on it.

KING: And Mr. Macleod, how did you get into this?

GAVIN MACLEOD, ACTOR: Well, 1970 -- I had just finished doing "Kelly's Heroes" in Yugoslavia

KING: With Don Rickles.

MACLEOD: You bet, and that great group of people, Sutherland and Carroll O'Connor, etc. Telly. Anyway -- and I was rehearsing "Carousel," I was doing "Jigger" and "Carousel."

So, my agent sent me two scripts and he said, they want to see you for "The Mary Tyler Moore" pilot. And I read the scripts, and said, Wow, these are great. I said, What part? They said, For the boss.

Well, so, I read them again. I wouldn't be right for the boss. I had worked with Mary twice on the "Dick Van Dyke Show"," the old show and before. And I was on a diet and whenever I'm on a diet I feel thinner and I felt that people would believe me as being a peer but not her boss. I just wouldn't believe it

But I went in and I read for them and Ethel was there again.

KING: Read as the boss?

MACLEOD: Yes, I read one scene for the boss. And coming out -- and I got laughs and all that stuff. Coming out, I had my hand on the door, I said, Should I or shouldn't I? It was an extensive time in there.

What can I lose? I said, You know guys, I really like this character Murray. I know he's not the lead, I know it's not a big part, but I feel a little something, I would like to do him.

They read -- So I read some of the lines about Ted, the wonderful lines they gave this guy to do and so we laughed.

And I saw Ed pacing out there, I didn't know him, but he and I were up for another part for "In the Heat of the Night" at the same tight Ed was described as a big, square, heavy kind of guy, and Warren Oates got it, this little skinny guy, I'll never forget that.

But anyway, so I went to rehearsal. It's about four hours later, my agent calls me out of rehearsal and he said, They want you to do "The Mary Tyler Moore" pilot and I said, Well, what part?

I don't know, this guy named Murray. I said, Right on.

KING: And finally, Cloris Leachman, how did Phyllis come to you?

CLORIS LEACHMAN, ACTRESS: I go where they tell me to go and when I went out there, wherever it was, and apparently, according to Mary's autobiography, I read and remembered, then, that I had come in and said something like, Who makes the decisions here? Who's the big guy?

And they pointed to a man, and I apparently went over and sat on his lap. I do remember doing this, not realizing it was Jim Brooks.

KING: The writer and head honcho.


And I don't remember anything after, but I didn't need to, did I?

Until now.

KING: Congratulations on an Emmy.

LEACHMAN: Isn't it wonderful? I'm very thrilled.

KING: Not bad. Did you like Phyllis right away? Did you like that character?

LEACHMAN: Oh wonderful, of course. Well, you wonder at first who to be.

KING: Why did it work?

ASNER: I think we were Mr. and Mrs., in all respects, Average American. They say the show was a forward looking because Mary was the single girl alone in the big city.

I don't know how much that had to do with it, but I think we projected a family, a family of people. Tom Shales referred to us, when the show went off the air as "a wonderful bunch of losers."

And I think that's a very good application.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back.

We're celebrating the release of the DVD of "Mary Tyler Moore's" first season, available through Fox Home Entertainment.

And we have Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Betty White, Gavin Macleod and Cloris Leachman with us. We'll be asking them all as well, what they're doing now.

We'll be right back, don't go away.


ASNER: Look Miss, will you try answering the questions as I ask them?

MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: Yes, Mr. Grant, I will, but it does seem that you've been asking a lot of very personal questions that don't have a thing to do with my qualifications for this job.

ASNER: You know what? You've got spunk.

MOORE: Well, yes.

ASNER: I hate spunk!




MOORE: You think that I'm some kind of a pushover, don't you?


MOORE: Well then you're in for a little surprise, because if you push me, then I just might have to push back. Hard.

HARPER: Come on, you can't carry that off.

MOORE: I know.


KING: Scenes from a classic.

Valerie, why did the show work?

HARPER: Well, that relationship right there was, Rhoda was -- as the actor, I used to say, I've got to straighten this shiksa out. I wish I was her, but I'm from the Big Apple.

And I think what Ed said a minute ago about losers, I think most people feel that we are losers. Everyone is worried about how they're coming off.

And the truth of the characters, the recognizability and the really marvelous humor that Jim Brooks, Allan Burns, Treva Silverman, Ed Weinberger, all those wonderful writers put into this, I used to call it the fountain school of writing.

Every Monday we'd have this wonderful script on the table for us to work on. And then sometimes they'd even say, it's not good enough. They never settled. They always made the show as brilliant and as funny and as true. And they never underestimated the audience.

And I think that's what made it great, because people recognized themselves. They knew these people, they liked them. And the writing was brilliant.

KING: Was it difficult, Betty, to come into a hit?

WHITE: Oh, it was wonderful because you walked in -- I remember the first day on the rehearsal. The first day I was so thrilled about being there, I had learned my lines. I always memorize rather quickly, and I'm more comfortable with a book out of my hands. And I...


WHITE: But I remember Valerie was dusting the table in the scene. And she looked over at Mary, and she said, she knows her lines.

LEACHMAN: It's the meanest thing an actor can do, one to another.

HARPER: That was great.

WHITE: I was just amazed that I was ever allowed back.

KING: Why do you think it worked, Gavin? How did the show click?

MACLEOD: I think, number one, is the word. I think, like anything, you know, you could have the same actors, and if the scripts were subnormal, it wouldn't have worked.

And then I think the fact that "Love Is All Around," that theme from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," we all loved each other. And it started from Mary all the way down. And special Ted. You know, he may not admit it...

KING: The genius of making it a television station. I mean, you could have made an insurance company, you could have made a lot of things. That was genius.

MACLEOD: WJM. I always looked at that, and then I look at "Murphy Brown" years later and how a little station in Minneapolis way back then in the '70s, and "Murphy Brown" in Washington, D.C.

You know, we had like three extras and we had a door that would like like (ph) this...


MACLEOD: ... and a little typewriter. And then on "Murphy Brown" you had about 86 people. Things are really happening, you know. It was the whole difference of the changing of the television station.

KING: Ted Knight in a minute.

Cloris, why do you think it worked?

LEACHMAN: I came on the set the first day and it was balloons and welcome and food, and everything. It was wonderful.

But I thought -- I looked around, and I was thrilled. And I saw Gavin and I thought, Gavin? What is he doing here? That's not right. Because we had worked together in the most serious things; he was a bad guy.

MACLEOD: "The Road West."


MACLEOD: And I had to slap your face, singing "Beautiful Dreamer."

LEACHMAN: I had residual reaction.

WHITE: Oh, so the time on the set wasn't the first time you had slapped her. I see.


KING: Valerie, tell me about Ted Knight, what kind of guy he was, how he fit into this whole picture?

HARPER: Oh, he was fabulous. This was a guy who had a long career, really good actor. He used to play a lot of Nazis because of his Aryan looks.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Stand by everybody.

TED KNIGHT, ACTOR: Mel (ph), what's wrong is I'm standing on this mark and that man is going to throw his finger at me and I'm going to have to say "Welcome back to election headquarters."


HARPER: And he really nailed that character. He told me he based it -- physically he looked like Jerry Dunsey (ph), but he really based it on George Putnam (ph) who was a local guy in -- that used to kind of rise up on his, "That is one reporter's opinion."


HARPER: And Ted was very serious about creating this guy. And as we went along, I must tell you, Larry, that the writers started writing to our strengths and to things that came up as we went along. And I think they made him penurious, which was funny. That wasn't from the beginning, but the writers allowed that to occur. Not that Ted was; but Ted Baxter being a little tight was a funny -- and so those elements were allowed to come in that people had. KING: The story about -- was Ed Asner and Ted were not friends and then got to be friends.

HARPER: Oh, that's not true.

KING: No, I think Ed is saying it is true.

ASNER: No, we weren't friends. We didn't know each other.

KING: You weren't, like, enemies?

ASNER: No, no, no.

LEACHMAN: He was the mayor of Brentwood for a long time, and then he would sit at the mart -- the country mart down there. And my children would go down. He was so wonderful to them, and would sit with them and talk. And I was very glad about that.

ASNER: He was also the mayor of Tarzana. Did people know that he...

MACLEOD: And then he was the mayor of Pacific Palisades...


MACLEOD: Wherever his picture was, he'd sit under it (ph).

KING: Where was it -- you've all worked in so many shows -- is it better, Betty, truthfully, if the cast likes each other, or if the script is good and the characters are fine, you don't even have to know each other?

WHITE: Oh, come on, you're doing comedy. You have to let it rub off on each other. You have to love each other.

You hear these horror stories about other shows where people aren't speaking and all that. And you can't work that way and do comedy. In my lexicon, I just don't know how that would work.

KING: Do all of you agree, or could you -- you have to like each other?

ASNER: There have been comedies where people, you know...

KING: Didn't get along.

WHITE: And successful ones.


MACLEOD: Some of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pieces I think, perhaps, you don't have to love each other...

LEACHMAN: You're just a bloody prop.

WHITE: But TV comedy, where you're there all day every day, you've got...

ASNER: I don't think you can live very long in a TV comedy working day-in, day-out and hate each other. Ted and I used to have falling outs...

WHITE: As you do in family.

ASNER: ... but we kissed and made up.

WHITE: Oh, really?


KING: What did you say, Valerie? I'm sorry.

HARPER: I said it was so wonderful to come to work every morning. It was great. It was truly a family. And we were all mature people with our own families.

LEACHMAN: Valerie, may I say something?


LEACHMAN: We had a little meeting in the makeup room before to say: We're not going to say how much we love each other until it's just sickening.

HARPER: I wasn't in the meeting.

LEACHMAN: OK, you say it then.

HARPER: I wasn't in the meeting.

And I remember Ted -- I mean Ed bringing in his little shells. He has a fabulous collection of tiny little delicate shells.

And Mary said to me, Look at this big, burly, fabulous, strong guy with these beautiful, tender little shells.

So those kinds of moments happened all the time on the set.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be right back with more of the cast of "Mary Tyler Moore."

Don't go away.


LEACHMAN: Oh, are you -- are you leaving?

HARPER: Yes Phyllis, yes. I am leaving.

LEACHMAN: Oh, any particular reason?

HARPER: Yes, Phyllis, yes. We have driven each other crazy. Yes Phyllis, that's it. I am going to a motel until my apartment is ready. I've already called and made the reservation.

Bye kid (ph).


LEACHMAN: Of course, you're always welcome to stay with us.

HARPER: Thank you, I'd love to.


HARPER: I accept. I would love to stay with you. Yes, it would be wonderful. I will stay with you until my apartment is ready.

Oh, what fun. Come on, roomie, let's get to know each other.



MOORE: This friend wondered if you're not doing anything, you know, Saturday night, if you would like to have dinner. At her place.

ASNER: Her place, huh? Well, Mary, as it happens, I'm not doing a thing Saturday night so you can tell your friend I'd be delighted. It is a date.


ASNER: Only, why didn't your friend speak for herself?

WHITE: Oh I don't know, Lou. I guess I was too shy.


KING: We're back with the cast of "Mary Tyler Moore." I have to repeat it because Ed Asner said he needs a new Depends. Life goes on. We're going to tell stories and have a lot of fun. But I want to get caught up on some current things.

Now Valerie Harper is in St. Louis. Why?

HARPER: I'm doing -- staring in "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife." I'm on a tour.

KING: That is a funny play.


HARPER: My pals came to see it. Yes, it is a wonderful play.

KING: Are you the estranged woman who comes to visit?

HARPER: No, no, no. I'm Marjorie Taub who in the depths of depression. I am the wife married to the allergist. KING: Who is the other woman?

HARPER: Oh, it is Jana Robbins. It was Michele Lee but she just left the show in San Francisco and now it's Jana who was our understudy from the beginning.

KING: The male lead is who?

HARPER: Mike Burstyn, a big star in Israel and a terrific guy, he did the Broadway show. And we're having a great time.

KING: It's a funny, funny play. Tell me about this -- before we get to what everybody else is doing now -- about business you've got with the Space -- with NASA.

HARPER: It's a great company called Tivy. It's a board game that my company's developed that increases kids' math skills. We were at a math teacher's convention and some wonderful people from NASA came by, saw what we were doing and we're exploring ways to work together. And the details will be -- and it is about assisting kids to learn to, as NASA says, inspire the next generation of explorers, doctors, scholars, researchers...

KING: It's called what?

HARPER: It's called -- my company is called Tivy and NASA -- which has as it's core mission education along with all its other work with space. We're going to unveil these facts at the World -- it's called the World Space Conference. Once every ten years they have this meeting, Larry. It'll be in Houston, mid-October, and I will be there and we're looking forward to helping our kids. The country is 17th in math and we used to be in the top five.

KING: We will follow closely.

HARPER: I have a CBS movie coming up that they had in the can for a year and a half...

LEACHMAN: In the toilet? What does that mean?

HARPER: I don't know, Cloris. It's "Dancing At the Harvest Moon." Maybe they didn't like my dancing. October 20.

KING: What are you doing, Betty? What are you doing?

WHITE: Well I just finished a movie with Steve Martin -- a feature that will be out the first of the year, called "Bringing Down the House." And Monday I'm doing a guest shot on "Providence" -- which will be out a little later -- I'm shooting it Monday. And then I'm doing four "That '70s Shows" which are fun with...

KING: Boy you guys are working.

LEACHMAN: That's great.

WHITE: ... with Tom Poston. Tom Poston and I are playing Grandma and Grandpa.

KING: Gavin, what are you doing?

MACLEOD: Well for 16 years I have been representing Princess Cruises. It's where you, you, you, you -- where I belong. That's our new theme.

KING: You "Love Boat" killer.

MACLEOD: Yes, I'm telling you, it's still going strong. And my wife and I have a program on Trinity Broadcasting Network for 15 years called "Back on Course" -- all about marriage. How people get their lives back together utilizing Judeo-Christian principles. I've got a movie coming out on October 25 called "Time Changer." A little boutique film with Hall Linden and a lot of interesting people.

KING: All you consistently work.

MACLEOD: Oh, yes.

KING: Mr. Asner.

ASNER: Do I tell them now?

LEACHMAN: Tell them.

ASNER: First of the year, I did "Pope John XXIII." (UNINTELLIGIBLE) It was a mini series that got the greatest ratings ever in Italy. And it is being...

KING: When are we going to see it?

ASNER: Well, whenever it's announced who's buying it here. I hope they have it sold.

KING: You're perfect for the part. Enjoy doing it?

ASNER: I'm about as handsome as he was.

KING: Did you enjoy doing it?

ASNER: Oh, I loved it.

MACLEOD: Was it all in Italian?

ASNER: Yes, except me. No, some was in French, some was in German, some was in Bulgarian.


KING: ... if you're all speaking different languages?

ASNER: Well it's dubbed into whatever language that it's appearing in. But the majority were Italian. My son, Matthew, who produced this DVD, did the young John XXIII.


HARPER: That's great. Oh, Ed. By the way, that's why I'm here tonight on opening night because Matt was a little boy and now it's the second generation. And he produced a wonderful opening to the DVD where we were all interviewed. I am just happy to be here and kiss him for me, Ed.

ASNER: Well, if I have to.

KING: Now we know what Cloris -- obviously working. You just got an Emmy. Are you always working?

LEACHMAN: Well I have to, you know how I have projects. Children and grandchildren and houses and things like that.

KING: No, I mean you're a working actress, working pretty much all the time, right?

LEACHMAN: Pretty much.

ASNER: She's always supported her lovers.

LEACHMAN: I never gave you a cent. Why do you say that?

KING: Gavin, did you have a favorite episode?

MACLEOD: "Chuckles" -- out front. "Chuckles." It was one of the greatest half hours I ever saw -- ever participated in -- in television.

KING: Some think maybe the funniest ever.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did.


MACLEOD: Just thinking about it, I start laughing and it showed everyone's talents involved in that and Mary was absolutely brilliant.

KING: Do you remember the discussion of the script? When you first read the "Chuckles" script.

MACLEOD: Well I know that Jay didn't want to direct it.

KING: Jay?

MACLEOD: Jay Sandrich, our resident director.


KING: Why didn't he want to direct it?

MACLEOD: He didn't think death was funny and so he chose not to do it. That's the way it goes.

KING: Did you laugh reading it?

WHITE: Oh, yes. How could you not? Someone heading up a parade dressed as Mr. Peanut and you get shelled by an elephant. I mean that's pretty funny.

ASNER: But the interesting thing was that during the week of rehearsal, we had a fairly elderly crew and they usually laughed, but this death stuff did not bother them at all.

KING: Did you like it, Cloris?

LEACHMAN: Well I wasn't in it so I never saw it until they start showing reruns and things.

KING: What did you think when you saw it?

LEACHMAN: Oh, God, Mary. Trying not to laugh at the funeral.

KING: Valerie, did you love it?

HARPER: Oh, I love it. Hilarious. It goes to show that if you do it with taste, with care, with talent -- you can take any subject and it can be funny because it was very human. Mary was brilliant in it. She was all the time, you know, all of us worked real hard because the scripts were so good we always tried to come up to the material given us.

KING: I'll talk about Mary in a minute.

WHITE: At my funeral, I would like somebody to come up with as good of poem, as a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Asner, Harper, White, MacLeod and Leachman. Sounds like a downtown lawfirm in Poughkeepsie. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Please, please. Won't you?

You feel like laughing, don't you?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Don't try to hold it back. Go ahead, laugh out loud. Don't you see nothing would have made Chuckles happier? He lived to make people laugh. Tears were offensive to him, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry.

So go ahead, my dear. Laugh for Chuckles.

MOORE: (laughing)



MOORE: Anyway, Rhoda says that things are slow right now.

LEACHMAN: Yes, mostly her pulse.

Mary, you're not doing her any favors encouraging her in this life of sloth.

MOORE: Oh come Phyllis, she's not slothy.

LEACHMAN: Mary, as her friend, we owe it to her to straighten her out. We have to force her to take a good, hard look at herself. We have to shake her. We have to slap some sense into her.

Rhoda? Rhoda? Rhoda!



KING: That's funny.

Our guests are in conjunction with the release of the DVD of the first season of "Mary Tyler Moore" voted, by the way, in some circles, the best sitcom ever.

"Entertainment Weekly" ranked it No. 1 on its list of 101 Most Important Primetime TV Shows.

"TV Guide" ranked it the 11th greatest -- in the list of Greatest Shows of all-time.

Our guests are Ed Asner, who played, of course, Lou Grant. Earned three Emmys as Lou Grant and is co-producer of the newly released DVD.

Valerie Harper played Rhoda, earned three Emmys playing that part, is currently on tour in "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," a very funny play.

HARPER: Very -- actually four.

KING: Four Emmys. Hard to keep count.

HARPER: Because Rhoda went on her own, but it still Rhoda, the same writers.

KING: Valerie, I don't care what they say, you are Jewish.

Betty White, who played Sue Ann Nivens, the manhungry Sue Ann -- she earned two Emmys playing Sue Ann, the mistress of sugary malice.

ASNER: Where did they get that?

KING: I don't know, someone wrote that. .

WHITE: The neighborhood nyphomaniac.

KING: Gavin Macleod, who played Mary's co-worker and budding news writer Murray Slaughter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Like Ed, Mary, and the late Ted Baxter, he was on MTM for the whole seven years.

And Cloris Leachman, who played Mary's landlady "Phyllis" on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She got two Emmys for playing Phyllis.

Before we talk about Mary, what are you doing right now, Cloris? You said you were going to tell me what you...

LEACHMAN: Oh well, I just did a movie with Billy Bob Thornton, called "Bad Santa," which will be on a year from this Christmas.

KING: "Bad Santa?"

LEACHMAN: "Bad Santa."

KING: A Christmas movie?

LEACHMAN: Yes, a year from this Christmas.

KING: A black, kind of, dark comedy?

LEACHMAN: It is. It is. It is wonderful.

KING: Who do you play?

LEACHMAN: A bad grandmother.

KING: Yes, I was.

Frankenstein, one of the funniest lines in the history of film.

LEACHMAN: And then, I'm going to do a movie with Rob Reiner's film called -- the name of the film is "Loosely Based on a True Love Story." I think it's a sweet title.

KING: What is Mary Tyler Moore's greatness?


ASNER: Abashment. Embarassment. Putting herself out and letting herself be trampled on.

I think that was the...

KING: Is she a terrific actress?

LEACHMAN: She's proven that.

ASNER: Did you see her in "Whose Life is it Anyway?" KING: Loved it.

ASNER: Fantastic. A Donald Sutherland film...

MACLEOD: "Ordinary People."

KING: "Ordinary People."

ASNER: She was wonderful.

MACLEOD: What about "Mrs. Lincoln," when she played Mrs. Lincoln?

WHITE: Oh, she was wonderful.

KING: And also that lady that we interviewed. The murderess.

KING: What, Valerie, do you think is Mary's, sort of, quality?

HARPER: Well, her qualities we've all seen from "Dick Van Dyke" to -- and as Ed said it, what see played.

What I wanted to say about her is her extraordinary work ethic where she was a team player. Yes, she was captain of the team, but like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to be captain, he was also on the floor making passes, setting up other people.

And Mary set such a great tone on the set for all of us and shared the spotlight so generously that I think that helped.

I learned so much from her about television acting because I had never done any until I got on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

So, we all have to thank her and, of course, Grant for doing this wonderful production.

KING: Gavin?

MACLEOD: Well, you know, she has an energy, an energy that makes everything she does seem like it is the first time.


MACLEOD: Read it. All right.

MOORE: Out loud.


MACLEOD: It's spontaneous. It's just happening. No matter how long she's rehearsed it, it's happening right now.

And it's just a lesson to watch her do all these different things.

And "Gin Game" is going to be something else. KING: She was the centerpiece of your show, but, yet, she was the least complicated of the characters, right? She was the most everyday kind of person of all of you.

ASNER: Yes. She was every reactor. Here she is and we're spinning around, doing that and she's reacting to that.

WHITE: But she could be in a scene and say, Won't you sit down and she'd own the scene.

I mean, we'd be doing all the jokes and knocking ourselves out and getting all the wonderful lines, but she'd come in and she had an essence and a pro-quality and she just in a couple of lines she would own the room.

ASNER: She mastered hesitation. She was like Hugh Hubert.

MACLEOD: And let's face it, she was great to look at.

HARPER: Also, easy on the eyes. Yes.

LEACHMAN: I so appreciated the tone that was set for us to work because, if you're feeling nervous or that you can't be yourself because I pulled back many times -- one time I worked with Katharine Hepburn...

MACLEOD: I saw you in that.

LEACHMAN: ...but I was terrible. I was a rabbit, I was -- and finally, we were on the road already and someone in the cast came to me and stayed with me and said, You just do what you know.

I said, Well, OK. And they finally brought me out and I was able to do it. You can get really the heeby jeebies or the...

WHITE: You pulled back? I can't picture that.

MACLEOD: She was younger then.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the troop of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

What a gang. Don't go away.


ASNER: The first day of our new production schedule and you show up an hour later. I am sure you have an absolutely great excuse.

MOORE: Well, Mr. Grant....

ASNER: I'm waiting.

LEACHMAN: Alex, come and hit her on your way over.

ASNER: Let's face it, she could lie. Or make up some fabulous excuse. Would it make her any more on time? I leave it to you.

MOORE: Mr. Grant, I would like you to meet my new co-worker. Phyllis Lyndstrom this is Mr. Grant.

ASNER: You mean, she works here?


ASNER: Good. You're fired.



MOORE: Hey Murray, happen to know Mr. Cooper?

MACLEOD: No, I never met him. What's he like?

MOORE: Well, I don't know. Well, I do. But I don't. Well, it's hard to explain.

MACLEOD: No, it isn't. You do but you don't but you do. I understand.

MOORE: Oh, Murray, come on, really. What I mean -- I just -- I never met him in person. I only met his voice.

MACLEOD: Well, what's his voice like?

MOOORE: He can sing.

MACLEOD: Be prepared to be disappointed. When I first came to the station there was a guy that sounded great on the phone, but when I met him he turned out to be a complete and utter dud.

MACLEOD: Who was that?

BAXTER: Hi, guys.


LEACHMAN: I love to hear you laughing at it. It's funny

KING: Very funny stuff. How did this DVD come together?

ASNER: My son, Matthews, and his partner Danny Gold came to me and said, I want to do this and can I help?

They took me under their wings and approached all my friends to say, Would you be interviewed with this? The producers, the writers.

KING: Now what is it? The first year?

ASNER: It's the first year, a boxed set of 24 shows with interviews with these people, the directors, the producers, the writers. It's got a trivia game with.

That's what I'm so proud of these guys, they wrapped it around with so much interesting stuff with these people, that I don't think any other DVD has those elements. There's only one mistake in the brochure: they listed -- they didn't list David Davis as the producer and he was invaluable to us.

So, I deeply regret that mistake.

KING: What was the first show?

MACLEOD: The first show was the pilot with, let me see --

ASNER: "Love is All Around."

MACLEOD: "Love is All Around." She was coming and that's where she met Rhoda and Rhoda was coming through the window of the old set there, and she came to see Mr. Grant.

Did they show her having a scene with the love that she was leaving?

ASNER: Yes. Oh yes.

MACLEOD: Angus Dunton played the character that she was breaking up with, yes.

Originally she was going to be divorced but they changed it.

WHITE: They wouldn't let -- isn't that strange? She could have broken up with her boyfriend, but she could not be divorced. And oddly enough, the show...

KING: Now she would be.

WHITE: Yes, now she would be. If they ever got married in the first place.

HARPER: Larry, let me add to that. They were afraid that they think that Mary had divorced Dick Van Dyke.


VAN DYKE: What symptoms?

MOORE: Well...

VAN DYKE: Come on, I am the boy's father.

MOORE: He turned down his cupcake.


ASNER: You can't underestimate the stupidity of network executives.

WHITE: No, I will argue.

HARPER: I don't think that's stupid, it was smart and we got to do something new, which was a 30-year-old who was concerned about not being married yet.

WHITE: Oddly enough, the show was not a major hit from the word "go." It had a low, not low, but a tough climb.

KING: Under today's standards, it may have been canceled?

WHITE: It could...

ASNER: We were never in the top ten. Not until maybe some of the reruns.

KING: You're kidding?


HARPER: That's true.

KING: Were you always in the same time slot?

ALL: Yes.

KING: Which was when?

WHITE: Saturday nights.

LEACHMAN: That's why I missed it all the time.

KING: Never saw the show.

ASNER: We were originally supposed to be on Tuesdays opposite "Mod Squad," and when they showed it to Freddy Silverman and Bob Wood, Freddy called Bob and said, This is too good to waste. Let's put it on Saturday night.

And it became, like, the navel of the Saturday night comedy.

WHITE: Which at that point was a good night. Now, Saturday night is not a good night.

ASNER: Saturday night up until then was a dead night.

KING: Was there ever a threat in the first year of maybe it not continuing?

WHITE: We were very much, with Grant and Mary at that point, we were sweating ratings and we were doing everything else and not being canceled. They didn't chop them off as rapidly in those days like they do now.

But getting a pick up was a major, major worry.

KING: When Rhoda got married, was that still -- is that still one of the top-rated shows ever in history, Valerie?

HARPER: Yes, and I must tell you, I love that. That's my favorite Rhoda because all my --all the cast from "Mary" was on it and it was an hour and we got to spend more than a week together. It was just fabulous.

KING: And you beat "Monday Night Football" and Howard Cosell was depressed.

HARPER: Howard Cosell was saying, Well the chicken liver is getting rancid. We better get over to the wedding. He was actually promo-ing us. How generous and dear of him.

KING: That was some night. Do you think about the show?


KING: No matter what all you do in your lives, all you've attained previously, all you've obtained since, it'll always be like -- you were on "Love Boat" longer than Mary, right?

MACLEOD: But people still call me Murray.

KING: Murray. You'll always be Murray.

You'll always be Mr. Grant.

MACLEOD: Absolutely.

LEACHMAN: I get Phyllis all the time, because they try to say Cloris but Phyllis comes out.

KING: Are you Rhoda a lot, Valerie? Do people and still say Rhoda?

HARPER: Sure, still, and I love it. I think it's been the wind in the sails of all of our careers. And I haven't found it to be detrimental. Maybe I lost a job somewhere, somebody saying, No, no she's too identified, but there was always something else to do.

I didn't have a film career at all before this, so I am just thrilled that it is now become this, you know, wonderful thing.

And you love people coming up to you, I went into the news business -- young women -- because I watched "Mary" or a guy said I became a window dresser because I watched Rhoda and I'm sure people -- Ed, I'm serious. I'm serious. It's true. I get those a lot.

KING: There are other shows that they followed that I love. We'll a little bit about that right after this.

Back with our remaining moments, don't go away.


HARPER: I hope everything works out for you. I really do. MOORE: Well, thanks.

HARPER: Because if it does, it means you'll move out of here and this will be mine.

MOORE: Rhoda.

HARPER: You know, I left New York City because I couldn't find an apartment. I'm not going to leave Minneapolis for the same reason.

MOORE: You know what ?

HARPER: What ?

MOORE: In spite of everything, you're really a pretty hard person to dislike.

HARPER: I know what you mean. I'm having a hard time hating you too. We'll both have to work on it.




WHITE: I want you to close your eyes -- now no arguments.

MACLEOD: It's all right, Sue Ann, she's seen you without makeup before.

WHITE: Oh, Murray, I just hope my mind's still active when I'm your age.

Close your eyes now.

MOORE: All right.

WHITE: Now you can open them. Well, what do you think?

MOORE: Can I close them again? What is that?

WHITE: It's a freeform mobile representing the four basic food groups. I used it on a special I did last week called "What's All This Fuss About Salmon?"


KING: That's funny stuff. All right, you followed with "Love Boat."


KING: Do did you ever think back-to-back hits like that?

MACLEOD: No, but I think of the other ones I could have picked if I didn't pick "Love Boat." I had four offered me after the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and for diverse reasons -- negativity or whatever, I decided not to and my agent called and he says, Aaron Spelling has this thing called the "Love Boat." I think it sucks. Do you want to read it?

I said, Sure. So I read it with my wife. I said, This could go if they get the right people. I think this is a show for -- I asked my gardener in Palm Springs, Would you let your kid watch a show like this?

So we finally came to and then it was every critic -- I'll never forget, I was doing "Annie, Get Your Gun" in San Francisco with Debbie Reynolds. And the critics from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" we all knew. They all said, How could you do a thing like this? It's going to sink like the Titanic.

Almost ten years, and it's still in 95 countries. These girls did it numerous times

KING: How did "Rhoda" do, Valerie?

HARPER: "Rhoda" the show? It did wonderfully well. It went for five years. I was nine years as the character of Rhoda. She just kept growing. We always had wonderful writers and the same level of -- it was a ball, it was great. And Nancy Walker is, you know, someone that I adored working with and Julie Kavner -- it was great. Just wonderful and Mary kept coming back on the show. No, that was great.

KING: How did "Phyllis" do, Cloris?

LEACHMAN: "Phyllis" did great and then everybody got killed off.

KING: What do you mean?

LEACHMAN: Well the third show out -- we had rehearsed a little later that day and my co-star went off to do an acting class and got shot and killed, the third show out. So we were just hamstrung then.


LEACHMAN: And then, the last -- at the end of the two years, Mother Dexter was getting her suitcase. She prepared to come back to the "Phyllis" show, and she said, I'm going to die on this show, I'm not going anywhere else. And by God, she died on the way home I think.

KING: That's kind of funny.

LEACHMAN: And Burt Mustin, who played her husband on the show, he died.

KING: Are you kiss of death?

LEACHMAN: That's -- something like that.

KING: How did "Lou Grant" go?

ASNER: It was beautifully received. We were a to get praised by journalism. And I must issue a public policy to all those young people who tell me and told me over the years that they became journalists because of "Lou Grant" and I didn't want to wish that on them.

KING: But you liked it, didn't you?

ASNER: Oh, yes.

KING: How long did the "Lou Grant" show run?

ASNER: Five years.

KING: And Betty -- you had that great show.

WHITE: "The Betty White Show" started right at...

KING: Then you had the other show with the older people.

WHITE: Oh, "Golden Girls." But they spun off a show from "Mary" and in their wisdom said that they didn't think she was -- she wouldn't wear every week. So the audience was expecting Sue Ann Nivens, and they got another whole, completely different character. So we died aborning...

KING: "The Golden Girls" was a smash.

WHITE: Yes. Can you imagine lucking into two shows like that in one career?

KING: All of you had that in your lives, didn't you. You all had...

LEACHMAN: Well I did "Lassie" for a couple years.

WHITE: Were you the dog?

LEACHMAN: Lassie's mother.

WHITE: The dog lover that I am, I had to ask.

KING: Did the dog steal the scene?

LEACHMAN: Oh, I have stories you would just die over.

KING: Was "Roots" the toughest thing you ever did emotionally?

ASNER: Only the God damn the hair I had to wear.

KING: And that character? Despicable.

ASNER: Well, I thought it was a great character to show. Somebody who thinks he's going to ameliorate evil by going along with it and you don't do that. KING: Valerie, you sound so happy, everything going well for you?

HARPER: Everything is going wonderfully, Larry. It is great to be on the show and have this reunion even though I'm not there and, you know, it's wonderful. It's wonderful touring the country at this time since 9/11 and thanks for your wonderful coverage.

Larry, it was so wonderful and comforting. I'm not at home, I'm in hotel rooms. And you there taking us through it has been wonderful. So thank you.

And it is good to see nature cities across the country and have different audiences. Gavin knows this because he is a big touring bug and Cloris as well. She went out with "Showboat" for a long time. And it's a great thing because we all started in the theater, Ed included.

KING: Betty did you do theater too?

WHITE: Musical theater in the summer...

KING: This has been a wonderful hour, let me remind you the DVD is now available. As Ed pointed out, it is a DVD Plus. And it's the first year of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," one of the most enduring programs ever.

Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Cloris Leachman...


Go get them. "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown is next. Good night.


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