I’m talking about just one 30-minute episode which ranks as a towering achievement to beat all the other half hours.
I have to date myself and pick one from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which is considered by many smart people to be the greatest sitcom of all time.
For me, it’s not the “Chuckles the Clown” episode that ranks as number one, mainly because I never liked the bit about the mobile consisting of the four food groups.
It’s the one where Ted has a mild heart attack and learns to appreciate life to the fullest because he’s almost faced death. And I mean every aspect of life, to the point where he’s asking people “Have you ever really looked at salt?”
Ted’s coworkers are annoyed by his Pollyanna attitude, but they come to realize, “Maybe he’s right. Maybe we SHOULD appreciate sunsets and each other while we’re alive.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
And so, Mary, Lou, and Murray develop a wonderful, optimistic glow of appreciation all their own. Alas, by time they tell Ted about it, he’s totally moved on! “Big deal,” he says, about sunsets and even salt. Mary, Lou, and Murray are shattered by this turn of events, but eventually decide they should savor their feeling while they have it. They turn off the TV news and lovingly gaze at the sunset together.
Funny and profound–like the best sitcom should be.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2009