Mary Tyler Moore in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Best 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' episodes

Written by:
June 26, 2023
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Best 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' episodes

When "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" premiered in September 1970, it offered viewers a new type of story—that of a single, independent woman more focused on making it on her own than finding her Prince Charming. Even with the rise of second-wave feminism, there had never been a show like this on TV before, and audiences gobbled it up. It became so popular that by the time it wrapped in 1977, 21.2 million viewers tuned in to catch the finale.

Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, the show starred Mary Tyler Moore (as the lead character, Mary Richards), Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Georgia Engel, and Betty White. During its seven-season run, the series took home 29 Emmy Awards and launched three spinoffs ("Rhoda," "Phyllis," and "Lou Grant"). It also changed how Hollywood crafted its sitcoms, shifting from plot-driven storylines to a more character-driven approach, allowing for more growth and development and less narrative predictability.

In celebration of the groundbreaking series, Stacker ranked the top 25 episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" using IMDb user ratings, with ties broken by votes. From episodes with notable guest stars to those that won awards for outstanding writing, these are fans' favorite stories from the lives of the WJM-TV Six O'Clock News team.

#25. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Writer (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3

Mary joins a creative writing class to hone her skills, which inspires Ted to do the same. Unwilling to do the actual work the class requires, Ted attempts to steal Mary's ideas—only to embarrass himself.

#24. Farmer Ted and the News (1972)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3

After Ted convinces Lou to remove the exclusivity clause from his contract, he begins appearing in a string of increasingly ridiculous commercials. Angered by the ridicule he's bringing to the newsroom, the rest of the gang teams up to get him to stop.

#23. My Brother's Keeper (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3

When Phyllis' brother, Ben (Robert Moore), comes to town, she hopes to set him up with Mary, only to discover he's actually hit it off with Rhoda. Dismayed by their connection, Phyllis attempts to break them up, forcing Ben to reveal he's gay.

#22. Mary's Insomnia (1976)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

After suffering from a bout of insomnia, Mary convinces her doctor to prescribe her sleeping pills. Lou worries she'll become addicted to the medication and goes to great lengths to ensure she can kick the habit.

#21. Ted's Wedding (1975)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

Georgette rushes Ted down the aisle after he proposes to her for the umpteenth time in this Season 6 episode. The installment ends with the unlikely couple finally tying the knot in Mary's living room in front of all their friends and colleagues.

#20. The Critic (1977)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

Things go south for the news crew when Lou hires a critic (Eric Braeden) to spice up the show. When the new guy's takedowns of Minneapolis and its attractions begin to upset viewers, Lou convinces Mary to take him on a date, hoping she can persuade him to tone it down.

#19. Operation: Lou (1972)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

Relationships begin to shift and change when Lou is stuck in the hospital following a minor surgery. Tensions rise between Mary and Murray, while Ted and Lou form an unlikely bond.

#18. Not a Christmas Story (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

The second Christmas episode of the series, "Not a Christmas Story" sees the crew getting trapped in the newsroom together following a major snowstorm. There's some infighting, of course, but they manage to put all their differences aside in time to join Sue Ann for a holiday feast she's prepared in the studio.

#17. Rhoda the Beautiful (1972)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

After struggling with body image issues for the first two seasons, Rhoda has finally hit her goal weight and celebrates by entering a beauty pageant. However, she still struggles to feel beautiful—and recognizes that many of her problems haven't been resolved by her weight loss. Mary, Murray, Phyllis, and the rest of the gang are all on hand to lend their support.

#16. Love Is All Around (1970)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4

"Love Is All Around," the pilot episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," sees a 30-year-old Mary move to Minneapolis on the heels of a devastating breakup. As settling in, she lands a job at the newsroom, makes new friends, and gets a new lease on life.

#15. Sue Ann Gets the Ax (1977)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5

Betty White shines in this Season 7 episode. After her show, "The Happy Homemaker," is canceled, Sue Ann begs Lou for a job in the newsroom. Unwilling to turn her away, he delegates the decision to Mary, who struggles to decide what to do with her prickly colleague.

#14. Ted Baxter Meets Walter Cronkite (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5

Real-life news legend Walter Cronkite guest stars as himself in this Season 4 episode. After Ted wins the Newscaster of the Year award, he's convinced life will change completely. But when he makes a fool of himself in front of Cronkite, he's forced to reevaluate his behavior and intentions.

#13. Sue Ann's Sister (1976)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5

Pat Priest stars as Sue Ann's estranged sister, Lila, in this Season 7 episode. The younger Nivens visits Minneapolis, hits it off with Lou, and is offered her own homemaking show on a rival network. Struggling with her sibling's newfound success, Sue Ann seeks comfort in the arms of her colleagues.

#12. Lou's First Date (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5

Facing his first big industry event since separating from his wife, Lou asks Mary to help find him a date. She recruits a friend of Rhoda's (Florence Lake), who winds up being nothing like she expected, which leads to a very interesting night.

#11. Once I Had a Secret Love (1976)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6

Lou drunkenly sleeps with Sue Ann, which sets off a chain of explosive events around the newsroom. While he struggles to let Sue Ann down gently, Mary spills the beans to Murray, which only heightens the chaos.

#10. Mary Midwife (1976)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7

A lot happens in the Season 7 opener: The gang gathers in Mary's apartment to watch Sue Ann's latest special, Mary and Lou fight over her insensitive weight comments, and Ted and Georgette welcome their first daughter in Mary's living room.

#9. Better Late… That's a Pun… Than Never (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7

Mary finds herself in a heap of trouble after a joke obituary she wrote makes it to air. When Lou hands down a punishment, Mary's reaction threatens to change her life forever.

#8. A New Sue Ann (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7

Influenced by the plot of the 1950 film "All About Eve," this episode sees the biggest fan of "The Happy Homemaker" do her darndest to take over Sue Ann's job. Not one to take a threat lightly, Sue Ann fights back, intentionally sabotaging her protege's chances at success.

#7. Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcasters' School (1975)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8

In this mid-series episode, Ted finds himself swindled into running a broadcaster's school by a slimy conman (Norman Bartold). When he's left high and dry upon opening, Mary and Murry help him devise a plan to relieve his obligation.

#6. Will Mary Richards Go to Jail? (1974)

- IMDb user rating: 8.9

When Mary refuses to name the source who tipped her off to a major financial scandal, she's threatened with jail time by a grand jury. She struggles with remaining true to her principles (including the freedom of the press, as ascribed by the First Amendment) and her deep desire to not get locked up.

#5. The Lars Affair (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 8.9

In the Season 4 opener, "The Happy Homemaker" host Sue Ann begins an affair with Phyllis' husband, Lars. Caught off guard by the news, Phyllis attempts to fix things by being the perfect spouse, only to ultimately decide that a more aggressive response is necessary. The episode marks Betty White's first appearance on the show as Sue Ann.

#4. The Dinner Party (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 9

Throughout the show's seven-season run, Mary throws dozens of parties in her home, almost all ending in disaster. In "The Dinner Party," a last-minute affair thrown in honor of a congresswoman threatens to be yet another fiasco.

#3. Put on a Happy Face (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 9

In the lead-up to an important awards dinner, Mary suffers a string of mishaps—from losing her date to spraining her ankle to picking up her newly ruined dress from the cleaners. Not one to throw in the towel, she shows up to the ceremony anyway, only to find that her luck may be changing.

#2. The Last Show (1977)

- IMDb user rating: 9.4

The series finale of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" sees Mary, Murray, Lou, and Sue Ann all fired from the Six O'Clock News. With the station under new ownership, Ted is allowed to keep his job and says goodbye to his colleagues in a genuinely heartwarming send-off. The episode's writers won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.

#1. Chuckles Bites the Dust (1975)

- IMDb user rating: 9.4

Earning episode writer David Lloyd an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, the Season 6 installment sees the gang struggling to deal with the death of Chuckles the Clown (the often-mentioned but rarely seen host of a WJM-TV's children's program). The episode has long received praise from critics and even other TV writers for how it handled loss, highlighting the fact that there is no one proper way to grieve.

Data reporting by Lucas Hicks. Story editing by Sandi Hemmerlein. Copy editing by Meg Shields. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

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