14 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

It's been over 40 years since we said farewell to the iconic show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The groundbreaking 1970s sitcom was a show of firsts. It brought feminism to the small screen and was one of the first shows to have the cast break character.

For more shocking facts, come peek behind the curtain with these behind-the-scenes secrets.

H/T:, Mental Floss

1. The show was launched thanks to Dick Van Dyke.

After her debut to film bombed, Moore reunited with her old co-star in the 1969 CBS variety special Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman.

Since the show was such a success, CBS offered Moore 24 episodes of her own show on their network.

2. Hazel Frederick was in every single episode of the series.

In case you're saying, "Hazel, who?" she was an unintentional extra who was filmed while Moore did her famous hat toss for the opening credits of the show.

3. Mary Richards was originally divorced.


The original concept of the show was about Mary Richards, a 30-year-old woman starting her life over after her husband left her. But this was changed after CBS warned that divorced women could mean an early death to the show.

4. Jennifer Aniston’s father read for the part of Ted Baxter.


In case you didn't know, Jen's dad is actor John Aniston. He's most known for playing Victor Kiriakis on Days of Our Lives. Before this, he received two callbacks for the role of the handsome anchorman.

5. Jack Cassidy was who the producers originally envisioned to play Ted Baxter.

Since the actor had just played an egotistical character on He & She, he turned down the role for fear of being typecast. But when the show became super popular, he changed his mind and appeared as Ted's brother, Hal, in the episode “Cover Boy.”

6. There's a cute story behind the MTM kitten.

MTM was the production company founded by Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker. Since the name was similar to MGM, which featured a lion roaring, a clever idea was struck.

Someone suggested that they have an orange kitten meowing in the clip.

To make this a reality, a staffer adopted a kitten with the loudest "mew" from an animal shelter in Minneapolis.

The kitty was named Mimsie. She made many appearances in production tags of various MTM shows. She was eventually adopted by a crew member.

7. Valerie Harper almost wasn’t Rhoda.


Since producers envisioned Moore's neighbor being frumpy and unattractive, Valerie's good looks went against this.

But instead of finding another actress, the producers took the character of Rhoda in a whole different direction as a character who didn't know how attractive she was.

8. Gavin MacLeod originally auditioned for the role of Lou Grant.

After losing his hair at 18, the actor felt restricted in the roles he could play.

While Tinker asked MacLeod to audition for Lou Grant, he asked afterward if he could read for the role of Mary’s co-worker, Murray Slaughter. He thought he could play a friendly character better than the gruff Lou.

9. Ted Knight was working as a poor actor when he was cast as Ted Baxter.


The producers originally wanted someone very handsome for the role of the anchorman.

But that all changed when producer Dave Davis was blown away by Knight's charm in a local production of the Broadway comedy, You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.

Knight ended up using some of his rent money to purchase an anchorman-style blue blazer from a thrift store for his audition.

Unsplash | Josh Appel

Despite Knight being a far cry from a hunk like the producers envisioned, he impressed everyone with his humor.

10. The male cast members were happy to see Valerie Harper leave the series.

Valerie left the show to start her own series as Rhoda.

The men weren't happy because they disliked the actress or her character; they were happy because they got more screen time with fewer female characters.

11. Ted Knight almost quit the show midway through.

The actor eventually got fed up playing the "dumb" character. During Season Three, he walked into co-creator Allan Burns’ office and started crying.

“I can’t play Ted Baxter anymore," he cried. "Everybody thinks I’m stupid and I’m not. I’m intelligent and well-read, but everyone treats me like I’m a schmuck.”

After Burns consoled him, Knight stuck it out.

It's a good thing he did since his character underwent a lot of character development. His character eventually got married and there were occasional episodes that showed Baxter in a smarter light.

12. Barbara Colby, the “designer” behind Mary’s infamous green dress, was murdered.


She played Sherry two times on the show: first, as a hooker, and then as a criminal under parole who decided to try her hand at fashion design. She ended up making a green dress that shows a lot of skin.

After the success of her character, Colby was given a co-starring role in the Cloris Leachman spin-off series,'Phyllis', in 1975.

Unsplash | Ümit Yıldırım

Tragically she had filmed only three episodes when she and a male friend were shot by two men in Venice, California.

13. Mary struggled not to laugh during the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode.

It was the wrong episode to laugh at: the story centered around the death of WJM children’s show host Chuckles the Clown.

She was supposed to remain mournful while the newsroom made jokes about his demise from an elephant.

But she found that impossible.

In her autobiography, she wrote that the insides of her cheeks were almost raw from biting them so hard to keep from laughing.

She got the last laugh in the end, though, as she won an Emmy for the beloved episode!

14. It was one of the first shows to have the cast break character.


Although the show never dipped in popularity, Moore decided when it was time for the show to end.

The final episode had the characters fired from the newsroom and saying tearful goodbyes to each other. Then, they all broke character and Moore introduced each cast member for a curtain call.