The Ten Best THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW Episodes of Season Seven

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today, we’re finishing our coverage on the best episodes from one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977, CBS). I’m thrilled to announce that every single episode of the series has been released on DVD.


Minneapolis news producer and perennial single girl Mary Richards makes her own way in a male-dominated newsroom, which includes her gruff boss, Mr. Grant, cynical copy writer Murray Slaughter, and Tex Baxter, the program’s egotistical anchorman. Complementing the fun (and filling the gap following the departure of Mary’s neighbor and best friend) are Ted’s ditzy girlfriend, Georgette, and Sue Ann Nivens, the station’s lascivious Happy Homemaker.


The Mary Tyler Moore Show stars MARY TYLER MOORE as Mary Richards, EDWARD ASNER as Lou Grant, TED KNIGHT as Ted Baxter, GAVIN MACLEOD as Murray Slaughter, GEORGIA ENGEL as Georgette Franklin, and BETTY WHITE as Sue Ann Nivens. 


By all accounts it was Mary who decided to end the show with the seventh season, opting to leave the air when the show was still at the top of its form. While The Mary Tyler Moore Show never fell from grace, it is impossible for me to say that the final year isn’t a comedown from the three (maybe even four) seasons that came before it. The stories aren’t quite as fresh (and if they are, they’re sort of gimmicky), the scripts aren’t quite as hilarious, and the impending finale seems to make the entire series self-conscious — in ways that are both beneficial and harmful. With the better members of the staff trying to salvage the slightly more popular Rhoda (this was the year that they gave Joe the oust) and bolster the only mediocre Phyllis (which would end a few weeks before MTM), the “mother show” is saddled with a handful of men who, though undeniably talented — and I can’t emphasize that enough — just don’t produce scripts of the caliber that the show once maintained. The season is nowhere near dire, but I’m going to go out and say: the show ended when it should have. (And I’ll spoil it right now, I’m not a fan of the finale, despite its reputation as one of TV’s greatest.) Anyway, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify this season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.


Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Seven. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Every episode of this series is directed by Jay Sandrich, unless otherwise noted.


01) Episode 147: “Sue Ann’s Sister” (Aired: 10/09/76 | Filmed: 07/23/76)

A seemingly permanent visit from Sue Ann’s beautiful sister sends the Happy Homemaker into a depression.

Written by David Lloyd

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Installments that center around Sue Ann are almost always guaranteed winners because her character is a one-liner machine (both giving and receiving). Pat Priest, the second Marilyn Munster, plays Sue Ann’s southern belle sister, who brings out the green-eyed-monster in the Happy Homemaker. The comedic crux of the episode occurs when the newsroom decides to visit a depressed and bedridden Sue Ann, giving TV audiences their first, last, and only view of the infamous nympho’s gaudy boudoir, complete with ceiling mirror and vibrating bed. One of the season’s (and the series’) funniest!

02) Episode 150: “One Producer Too Many” (Aired: 10/30/76 | Filmed: 08/27/76)

When Murray gets an offer to produce at another station, Lou decides to promote him to co-producer alongside Mary.

Written by Bob Ellison

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This episode doesn’t produce the jokey fun like the installment featured above, but it trucks along humorously and with careful regard for maintaing honest storytelling. When Murray is offered a job at a rival station, Lou determines that the only way to keep him on staff is to promote him to co-producer. Unfortunately, Mary doesn’t take too kindly to the idea, and soon, the longtime friends are forcing Lou to make the decision about who is demoted. It’s a tense scene — well acted and believable. The funniest bit, however, concerns an on-air mix-up involving Sue Ann and a gaggle of pigs. That bit is a must-see!

03) Episode 154: “Murray Can’t Lose” (Aired: 11/27/76 | Filmed: 10/08/76)

Mary is in charge of entertainment at the upcoming Teddy Awards, while a rumor circulates that Murray is finally going to win.

Written by David Lloyd

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The final Teddy Awards episode (airing in the middle of the season, like the first year’s, instead of near the end), this installment seems like one big knowing wink to the fact that, of the entire MTM ensemble, Gavin MacLeod as Murray Slaughter is the only person to never get nominated for an Emmy. (His character is much like Norm on Cheers, a functional exposition and joke deliverer, but not great fodder for stories.) More interesting about this episode is the hot rendition of “Steam Heat” that Georgette performs at the Teddy Awards. It’s totally miscellaneous, but a lot of fun. Some big laughs in this one.

04) Episode 155: “Mary’s Insomnia” (Aired: 12/04/76 | Filmed: 09/17/76)

Lou worries that Mary has become dependent on sleeping pills to counteract her recent onslaught of insomnia.

Written by David Lloyd | Directed by James Burrows

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Another episode that entertains issues that seem a little heavy for this series (namely: addiction), this installment is one of a handful of shows from the final season that thinks its better than it actually is. While normally this inherent cockiness ends up exposing an episode’s shortcomings, this one seems to benefit, as the confidence seems to make everything just a bit funnier than it should be. Hands down, the best moment occurs when the men barge in on Mary while she’s taking a bubble bath. “DON’T. YOU. DARE!!!” Solid installment, with one really standout scene.

05) Episode 160: ‘The Ted And Georgette Show” (Aired: 01/22/77 | Filmed: 11/19/76)

Everyone is surprised at the success of a new talk show starring Ted and Georgette — especially Georgette.

Written by David Lloyd

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It is around this time in the season that the series really begins wrapping up — dedicating episodes to each member of the ensemble (for the last time). This one is thrown to Ted, and specifically, Georgette, as the pair volunteers to star in an ultra cute talk show that becomes a ratings success. But the time away from home and the kids takes a toll on Georgette, and she doesn’t know how to tell Ted that she wants out. The first half of the installment (before Georgette wants to quit) is much funnier than the second, although Mary’s on-air attempt to stall while Ted and Georgette converse is very amusing.

06) Episode 161: “Sue Ann Gets The Ax” (Aired: 01/29/77 | Filmed: 12/03/76)

When Sue Ann’s show is canceled, she bounces around the station in various positions, hoping that the newsroom will hire her.

Written by Bob Ellison

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The last episode thrown to Sue Ann Nivens, this episode also has a dark undercurrent as Sue Ann’s cancelation eerily foreshadows the entire staff’s (minus Ted) upcoming termination. Truthfully, nothing about Sue Ann getting fired is funny (especially since she’s won so many Teddy Awards in the past few years), but the horribly demeaning spots that the script puts her character in (first with the fat flirt and then with the obnoxious puppets) are so undeniably funny, that, although we feel bad for Sue Ann, we don’t take everything so seriously — thankfully.

07) Episode 163: “Mary And The Sexagenarian” (Aired: 02/12/77 | Filmed: 12/17/76)

Mary accepts a date with an older man, whom she later learns is Murray’s visiting father.

Written by Les Charles & Glen Charles

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Perhaps the companion piece to Season Four’s “Angels In The Snow,” in which Mary dates a younger man, this installment presents us with the exact opposite: Mary with an older man. The cherry on top is that he’s not just any older man, but Murray’s father. Cue all of the smart remarks and Murray’s expected awkwardness. Though the premise is a little ostentatious for this series (Mary dating Murray’s father… really?), the script does provide a generous supply of laughs. And in this season, they are more than welcome. One of my favorite episodes of the season because it’s exactly as funny as it needs to be.

08) Episode 165: “Mary’s Three Husbands” (Aired: 02/26/77 | Filmed: 01/14/77)

Over drinks, Lou, Murray, and Ted each imagine what life being married to Mary would be like.

Written by Bob Ellison

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Undoubtedly one of the gimmicky episodes that I mentioned in this post’s introduction, this installment backs up its forced set-up with plenty of comedy. Each character’s vision progresses in both story and comedy, which is great because none of them end up looking inferior to the others. Murray’s vision makes perfect sense, Ted’s vision has lots of laughs (and a nice meta moment), and the Lou vision is unquestionably satisfying. The best line in the whole show comes near the end, where the 87-year-old Mary Richards tells us that Rhoda is still waiting for Joe to come back… HA!

09) Episode 166: “Mary’s Big Party” (Aired: 03/05/77 | Filmed: 01/28/77)

Mary and the gang reminisce about past parties while waiting for Johnny Carson to attend her latest soiree — where the power goes out.

Written by Bob Ellison

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The series’ only clip show, this episode makes the list because, not only are the clips that were chosen for inclusion (which all pertain to Mary’s disastrous parties –and there’s a lot from Season Four, which seemed heavy on parties) some of the series’ best, but the wraparound segments do exactly what they should: motivate the clips by providing a story that has a logical beginning, middle, and end. Additionally, there are lots of nice character moments (this was the last episode filmed before the finale), and though the Carson cameo does disappoint a little, the whole thing is very funny.

10) Episode 167: “Lou Dates Mary” (Aired: 03/12/77 | Filmed: 01/07/77) 

Georgette suggests that the perfect man for Mary is Lou Grant, so the pair decide to go out on a date.

Written by David Lloyd

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The second-to-last episode of the series, this brilliant episode gives the audience exactly what they think they want: Lou and Mary together as a romantic couple. Fortunately, as the episode demonstrates, the pair have zero romantic chemistry, so contrary to the then rumors, the series would NOT end with Lou and Mary hooking up. But, it’s such a smart idea to have the characters test this out in a way that doesn’t stretch credibility, and also doesn’t disappoint the audience. Now, I can’t say that this is a hilarious installment, but it’s probably one of the final season’s most satisfying — clever, logical, and a wise penultimate episode.


Other notable episodes that didn’t quite make the list above include: “Mary Midwife,” a BIG EVENT episode in which Georgette gives birth in Mary’s apartment, but it doesn’t have the laughs it needs, “Mary The Writer,” a solid episode that nevertheless feels like its stuff we’ve already seen before, “Ted’s Change Of Heart,” the series’ most profound episode that, again, simply doesn’t have the laughs it needs, “Mary Gets A Lawyer,” which is largely a hammy showcase for guest John McMartin, “Look At Us, We’re Walking,” which introduces David Ogden Stiers in his brief recurring role as station manager, “Murray Ghosts For Ted,” the last episode in which the writers get to play with the Ted/Murray dynamic, and “The Last Show,” which, despite its reputation as one of television’s greatest finales, is way too dramatic and weepy to be enjoyed alongside any other episode of the series — it’s self-indulgent and sentimental: the death of good comedy.

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Seven of The Mary Tyler Moore Show goes to…..

“Sue Ann’s Sister”

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Come back next Tuesday for the best from the first season of The Odd Couple (1970-1975, ABC)! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!