July 16, 2014


The familiar sets of a favorite sitcom can be as comforting as the sight of your own living room. The settings of The Mary Tyler Moore Show have always made my TV screen feel like home. True to many of our lives, most of Mary's time is spent ping-ponging between home and the office, but sometimes the story takes us out of Mary's entertaining rut and transports us into the homes, restaurants, and bars of a glorious fake 1970s Minneapolis. These locations are often comfy, den-like retreats covered in bold colors and wood veneer, where the lighting is low and the seating is grand.

I've captured over fifty of my favorite Mary Tyler places in the following pictorial. The program ran from 1970 to 1977, but the majority of these are taken from the first four years. That's because the production design of the later seasons shed most of its 1960s sheen. Well, and also because I don't own seasons five or seven.

The set that inspired this collection is my most beloved of them all, Murray's place. It's the embodiment of the mid-century basement rec room, the trend that emerged in 1950s suburbia and is far less celebrated these days for reasons I cannot comprehend.

It is the culmination of so many words that I like to hear: relaxed, split-level, freestanding cone fireplace, built-in bar, wood paneling with orange highlights, and yes, bumper pool. It is an entire room that is reserved not just for living, but for recreating. Its lack of windows means an extra level of privacy and security that can only be achieved with subterranean walls.

A closeup on Lou reveals witty placards, a novelty trophy, and other whimsical barware. All a reminder that this isn't a place for seriousness. "Welcome To Ulcerville," that's rich!

I'll let the rest of them speak for themselves. So please enjoy this self-guided journey through design history.


Exterior of Murray's house

Looking at View Masters

Rhoda gets a "Visible Woman" model for Christmas

Mary's Christmas desk


Brian Barnes said...

What an embarrassment of riches. I kept this blog on my "blogs I read" list knowing that eventually it would return.

How's that for pressure? Has the dull "haven't posted" throbbing sprung back into a full fledged headache yet? :)

This will seem slightly unrelated but this long and turgid path will lead back to the sets: Over at the parade I pretty much get into lots of extended snark on late 60s "Nudie Cutie" films, and wood paneling, big lapels, and clothing patterns you wouldn't use to torture the devil are in abundance. And these video grabs remind me that, yes, I would rock a bright red sports jacket and checkered pants. I'd rock it un-ironically.

I would walk down the street proud, with my head up high, at least until the town managed to get the pitchfork and torches mob together.

Also: What did women use in their hair in 1970s? An internal structure of legos and shellac?

Kirk D. said...

Brian- Thanks for keeping the faith! This time I've pre-written a couple weeks worth of posts to avoid that no-post feeling, but it's sure to return when they run out.

I could see definitely see big, bold, bright styles making a comeback at some point. It's a lot more fun than 'safer' styles.