How many TV pilots feature dialogue that we remember 43 years later? The Mary Tyler Moore pilot contains the most famous job interview in TV history, with WJM-TV news producer Lou Grant (Edward Asner) sizing up applicant Mary Richards (Moore) and telling her, “You’ve got spunk!… I hate spunk!” Of course, Lou hires her anyway, a moment that marks the birth of the workplace-as-family sitcom. (Mary’s new WJM family includes sardonic writer Murray Slaughter, played by Gavin McLeod, and magnificent idiot anchorman Ted Baxter, played by Ted Knight.)
The pilot also sets up Mary’s home life, introducing us to her jaded landlady Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) and her fellow single-gal neighbor, brassy Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper). Most of all, it makes clear that Mary herself is a new kind of TV character, a woman who is single but not dependent on a man nor looking for one (indeed, she kicks her old beau to the curb here), a woman who’s determined to find her own place in the world and live up to that joyful hat toss in the opening credits.