About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Betty White: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1974)

Happy Birthday Betty White!  This week Betty White celebrates her 90th birthday and I've been inspired to write several blog posts as a tribute to her wonderful legacy on television. Yesterday I wrote about her late 1950s sitcom Date With the AngelsClick here to see that again.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)  Starting left: Sue Ann, Mary, Georgette, Ted, Lou and Murray.
Another program where Betty White shines is the fifth season episode "Not A Christmas Show" from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Betty plays Sue Ann Nivens, the Minneapolis TV station's cooking show host.  If you've seen the show, you know that Sue Ann is a hilarious mix of traditionalism and aggressiveness.  Though this episode takes place in early November, this is one of those episodes that has become very closely associated with Christmas.

After several days of fighting amongst themselves, the staff at WJM become snowed in at the office.  Sue Ann has taped her Christmas cooking show in advance of the holiday, preparing delicacies from all over the world.  “Yuletide yummies for worldwide tummies.”  She invites her newsroom friends to come to the studio to enjoy the food she cooked for the show but everyone declines the offer only to later accept the invitation after they are unable to leave the station.  But the hurt feelings and anger prevent the co-workers from enjoying each other’s company as well as the delicious meal.

The cooking show set is still elaborately decorated for the taping of Sue Ann's Christmas show.
Sue Ann tries to force the Christmas spirit on them by making them wear funny international hats and  sing Christmas carols. 

"...four calling birds..."
Don’t miss this funny opportunity to see Mary wearing the ridiculous World War I Kaiser Wilhelm helmet and Lou looking silly while wearing a sombrero.  Ar Sue Ann's request, they sing the popular holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but it's the angriest, most miserable rendition you've ever heard.  It's hilarious.  The bad mood and hurt feelings finally cease after Georgette sings a very tender rendition of “Silent Night.”

Georgette's beautiful but fragile singing voice reminds the staff to reflect on the spirit of the season.
This episode can be found on the second disc on the fifth season DVD set of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Check your local library or on-line rental queu for access.  The series is also currently airing weeknights at 8pm (ET) on Me-TV.

Sue Ann catches Lou under the mistletoe!


  1. We watched the NBC birthday special for Betty and found it to be tons of fun! Not only was it great to honor a television legend, but we got to see other faces from the past. And for the most part, it was all quite funny!

    1. I watched it and thought it was funny too! It seemed well written. Amy Poehler opening the show was hilarious.

  2. “Lou, put on your sombrero.” My favorite line!