Let's see - how did I phrase that?
"It's OK," I said in an early review of Annie McGuire (7:30 p.m., Ch. 5), back when it was just known as the new Mary Tyler Moore project. "But it isn't worthy of Mary Tyler Moore."My opinion was based on the screening of an episode that hasn't even been aired yet. Not only was the show title-less back then, but the part of Annie's new husband was played by Edward More, not Denis Arndt, who currently fills the role. That show was OK, but it wasn't worthy of Mary Tyler Moore. (Hey - haven't I heard that somewhere before?)
But the Mary Tyler Moore project that I've seen on CBS for the past several weeks is a different matter altogether. It's not just "OK" - it's vibrant, a fresh and funny look at a put-together family that is as charming is it is imperfect.
Moore stars as Annie McGuire, a working mother who has become quite independent since she divorced her husband. Arndt plays Nick McGuire, a recently widowed blue-collar type who is trying to be both father and mother to his two kids. Annie is a free-spirited liberal who was raised by an outspoken mother (Eileen Heckart). Nick is a bedrock solid conservative whose right-wing father (John Randolph) taught him to believe in order and discipline.
So of course it was natural to bring these two opposites together in a marriage that brings out the best - and worst - in all of them. The show focuses on their differences, but always brings them together in a spirit of love and harmony - an all-too-rare thing on television these days. Even though it looks and sounds like a "dramedy" with its one-camera filming and its laughtrack-less audio, it feels like a semi-gentle family comedy in the "Family Ties" vein.
"Annie McGuire" allows Moore to move beyond Mary Richards and into sophisticated adulthood. It's not a "let's see what kind of trouble Mary is in this week" kind of a show. And it's not a biting, caustic comedy like the late, unlamented "Mary." Rather, it's an intelligently written, thoughtfully produced series that makes you laugh while it makes you think and feel.
And that's a lot more than just "OK" - and certainly worthy of Moore.