Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mary Tyler Moore, "New York News, 1995

Mary Tyler Moore was making no bones about why she's co-starring on the new CBS drama "New York News" -- admitting that her decision had as much to do with location as love for the project.

"It's going to be shot in New York City," Moore said at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I live in the city ... and I was not interested in interrupting my life any more than that.

"It's wonderful to be part of a huge ensemble. It's not going to be falling on my shoulders, the responsibility for this show. I'll be one of many who are happily going to be doing our very best."

Moore will be playing a hard-nosed tabloid newspaper editor in "New York News," which premieres tonight at 8 on KUTV Channel 2. Her co-stars include Joe Morton (late of the fine drama "Under One Roof"), as the paper's managing editor, and Madeline Kahn as the gossip columnist. It is not Moore's first brush with playing a soldier in the news business, since she previously starred in the classic sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," in which she played a TV news producer, and "Mary," a short-lived dud set in a Chicago newsroom.

And another thing, the actress said: Despite the popular assumptions, the premise for "New York News" predates director Ron Howard's hit movie "The Paper."

Furthermore, and with that nagging issue settled, Moore said the time was right for her to play a supporting character -- and one who was not in the traditional Mary Tyler Moore mold.

"I decided I was not going to play any more characters with whom I was totally familiar," she explained. "It doesn't interest me any more to play very straightforward, very nice, very likable, somewhat naive, vulnerable, you know, all of those adorable features of the two ladies that I've played."

This new version of Moore, then, has more in common with the one who blurted out the f-word, more than once, on "The Late Show with David Letterman" last summer.

"I want to go to work nervous," Moore continued. "I want not to be sure exactly how I'm going to play a scene. ... Listen, I've always had a wicked side. It just hasn't come to the fore. I mean, as Laura Petrie (on 'The Dick VanDyke Show'), I mean, she has to have been a little naughty to have managed to get pregnant in twin beds. And let's not forget that Mary Richards (on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") was the first to use the pill and admit it."

Michelle Ashford, an executive producer and writer on "New York News," said she spent time at a tabloid newspaper's office in New York City in preparation for working on the series.

"I spent a week there doing what they do," Ashford recalled. "And it was fabulous, actually. It was great. I'd rather not reveal my source for many reasons," she explained, employing some reporterspeak. "But (the series) is based on a lot of what I learned that week."

One humorous aspect of "New York News," or at least the clips that were screened for critics, was the way the paper's newsroom was a sea of movement and brimming with excitement. As one journalist described it, most newsrooms resemble insurance offices.

"Well," Ashford admitted, "there's a difference between reality and television. We are doing entertainment here."

And it was interesting to hear Kahn's assessment of journalism as a whole: "I experience the press as this large clump of the press, and you tend to objectify all, you know, critics or press people as just being P.R. people," she said. "And you don't think of them as individuals.

"So it will be interesting to me to try to find the inner life and find the individual underneath the person who's doing the reporting that I often feel uncomfortable with."

OK, Ms. Kahn, thanks for spitting in our cornflakes, and we'll just scratch you right off the holiday greeting card list.

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