Thursday, March 1, 2007


For the March induction into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, we turn to the world of Toobworld journalism (as we will once again before the year is out). We've already inducted several newspapers into the Hall - the NY Ledger, the LA Sun, and the LA Tribune - and now it's time to have one of their editors join the ranks.

Lou Grant.

Here's some information... information... information gleaned from the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. (Their link is to the left.)

Ed Asner is one of U.S. television's most acclaimed and most controversial actors. Through the miracle of the spin-off, Asner became the only actor to win Emmy awards for playing the same character in both a comedy and dramatic series.

James L. Brooks, Allan Burns and 'M*A*S*H' executive producer Gene Reynolds began adapting the Lou Grant character to a dramatic role for CBS, in which Asner would star as the crusading editor of the fictional L.A. Tribune. Despite a shaky start, the beloved comic character gradually became accepted in this new venue. More than just moving to the big city and losing his sense of humor, however, Asner's more serious Grant become a fictional spokesperson for issues ignored by other mass media venues, including the mainstream press. At the same time, the dramatic narrative offered opportunities for exploring the character more deeply, revealing his strained domestic relationships and his own complex emotional struggles. These revelations, in turn, complicated the professional persona of Lou Grant, the editor.

This series drew on the comedy character of the executive producer of TV news in the long-running 'Mary Tyler Moore Show'. But it transformed that comic persona into a serious, reflective, committed newsman at a major metropolitan newspaper.

Reynolds risked undercutting issue-oriented themes by importing Ed Asner from the long-running comedy about a flaky TV newsroom to act as city editor of a daily newspaper. Asner... effectively adapted the original comedic character to the serious role of Lou Grant.

'Lou Grant' is also significant in the history of MTM Productions as the "bridge" program between comedies such as 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and later, more complex dramas such as 'Hill Street Blues'. Few independent production companies have had such visible success in crossing lines among television genres. The transformation of Asner's character, then, and the focus on serious social issues pointed new directions for the company and, ultimately, for the history of American television.

The singularity of his Emmy wins puts him in the same company as Dr. Frasier Crane (3 Emmy wins for the same character in three different shows) as being one of the main reasons he deserves the "accolade" of Hall membership. However, the two series wouldn't be enough to qualify save for an Honors List technicality without that one last appearance.

And in 1974, Lou Grant showed up in New York City for the two-part wedding celebration of his old friend 'Rhoda' Morgenstern.

There was talk back in the late 1990s that there might be a second MTM reunion movie after "Mary And Rhoda", this time with Mary and Lou. But it's probably safe to say that the idea was scuttled.

Still, Lou Grant did appear again in Toobworld, but this time in an alternate dimension, that of Skitlandia - the world of sketch comedy.

There it is the norm for characters to suddenly change appearance due to casting revisions. (Look how many alterations Bush has gone through on 'Saturday Night Live' alone.)

So Lou Grant once showed up on 'Saturday Night Live' (allegedly) in a spoof on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' hosted by Steve Martin and looking more like John Belushi than Ed Asner. But later, actor and character were reunited when Lou Grant led a band of South American rebels in a rescue mission to free Mary Richards from the endless loop of syndication repeats.

And he did so during one of her parties, always a focal point for disaster!

Lou Grant:
Mary, you've been stuck here for seven years in syndicated reruns, doing the same things over and over and over. You've been promoted to Producer, you met Walter Cronkite, you went to the Teddy Awards, you went to Chuckles the Clown's funeral - not once, but hundreds of times! Two, three, four times a night, in some cities! You're in a rut!

There's a big, wonderful world out there, and you've missed it! I mean, you missed MTV, you missed Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, you missed "The New Odd Couple" show.

And, all of you would like it out there! Murray, you know what they have now? Hair weaving. Rhoda! Your mother's making a fortune out there, selling Bounty paper towels!

["Lou Grant Rescue Mission" from 'Saturday Night Live']

For all of these reasons, we salute Lou Grant as the March 2007 inductee into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame.

Go on. You can shout it out. You know you want to.....

Oh, Mr. Grant!!!!


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