Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: With the Primetime Emmy Awards taking place September 20, we’re looking at “award shows”—episodes that depict award ceremonies, that is.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Put On A Happy Face” (season three, episode 23; originally aired 2/24/1973)
On its way to winning the first of its record-setting 29 Primetime Emmys (a mark that stood until Frasier turned it to tossed salad and scrambled eggs in 2002), The Mary Tyler Moore Show threw itself an award show. Honoring the best local television produced in Mary Tyler Moore’s vision of the Twin Cities, the Television Editors Awards—colloquially known as the Teddys—were introduced in the ninth episode of the show, “Bob And Rhoda And Teddy And Mary,” and became a recurring plot point in subsequent seasons. In these years, the Teddys were the one trophy the Mary Tyler Moore regulars couldn’t win—and when they did, they didn’t want them, like the career-achievement prize that represents the end of the line for Lou Grant (Ed Asner)—in Mr. Grant’s mind, at least—in season five’s “You Can’t Lose ’Em All.”
But when they lost, the news crew at WJM-TV lost together. There’s a spectacular sequence in season three’s Teddy episode, “Put On A Happy Face,” in which a tremendous streak of bad luck for Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) leads to her being ferried around the newsroom by her co-workers. After slipping on a newly waxed floor, she’s carried by Lou, as copywriter Murray (Gavin MacLeod) and anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) hover nearby, opening doors, moving furniture, and answering Mary’s phone. It’s a display of ensemble work choreographed with balletic finesse by director Jay Sandrich, and the studio audience eats it up. Sensing the heat from the risers, Asner does a little showing off, tossing Moore in the air as he adjusts his grip on her.
Outside of this slapstick showcase, “Put On A Happy Face” is Mary’s episode of Mary’s show—and it’s her Teddy to claim in the final act. And she earns it, too, as Moore hobbles, hacks, and harrumphs through the worst week of Mary Richards’ life, a lead up to the Teddys in which she injures her foot and then contracts a cold while trying to heal the injured foot. At the climactic Teddy ceremony, she sacrifices all vanity, trudging into the banquet hall with one slipper, flat hair, and a dress that’s more “upholstered” than “tailored.” It’d be a comedic triumph for any sitcom; for a show whose cast was as collectively self-conscious about its on-camera appearance as Mary Tyler Moore’s, “Put On A Happy Face” is nothing short of a miracle.
On the strength of episodes like this one, Mary Tyler Moore won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series in 1973, her first for her portrayal of Mary Richards. It was her third consecutive nomination in the category (All In The Family’s Jean Stapleton won the two previous years), a win that vindicated the excellent work she’d been doing on her namesake program. But whatever that award meant to Mary Tyler Moore, it couldn’t have meant as much as the Teddy means to Mary Richards at the end of “Put On A Happy Face.” An acknowledgment of the good work she does in the face of gray skies, missing obituaries, and Ted Baxter, it’s a spot of sunshine so warm, she winds up pulling it closer for comfort.
Availability: “Put On A Happy Face” is available as part of The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Third Season DVD set. It can also be streamed on Hulu and purchased from Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.