RIP Ed Asner, Long Live Lou Grant

Seven time Emmy winner Ed Asner has passed.
Ed Asner as Lou Grant, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards
Ed Asner as Lou Grant, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards(bio)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 4:29 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 9:26 AM EDT
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With Ed Asner passing this week, there is only one leading player left of the legendary ensemble of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS 1970-1977). The loveable, venerable Betty White who is 99. There are a few recurring actors left on the planet, John Amos who played weatherman Gordy and Joyce Bufilant who played Murray’s wife, Marie but they were in only 14 and 11 episodes respectively.

According to IMDB Ed Asner appeared in 166 of the 168 episodes as the gruff, lovable Lou Grant. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the two episodes he wasn’t in. Asner, who has won a total of seven Emmys, won three of them for Best supporting actor in a comedy series for the MTM show. From his appearance in the pilot when he utters the famous line: “You’ve got spunk. I hate spunk” to the final episode when he takes part in the group hug shuffle, Lou Grant was a father figure, a big brother, a confidant, a strict boss, a brutally honest friend, all while being a boozy, introverted bear of a man.

The Mary Tyler Moore show is one of my favorite shows, and I, like many University teachers who teach film and television regard it as one of the greatest television shows of all time. I have watched all the episodes, many of them several times. My favorite list is: 1. Put on a Happy Face 2. The Lars Affair 3. My Brother’s Keeper 4. Rhoda, the Beautiful 5. The Dinner Party and of course the most famous episode of all time 6. Chuckles Bites the Dust.

For many years I would watch reruns with the comfort of knowing most of the main cast was still alive; except Ted Knight, who played Ted Baxter, he died at only 62 in 1985. But over the last five years, these beloved actors/characters have been passing in rapid succession. We lost the last three, Gavin Macleod (Murray Slaughter) Asner and Cloris Leachman (Phyllis) within an eighth month period in 2021.

When main cast members pass, I feel like I have lost part of my family, my MTM family. Especially difficult was the loss of Valerie Harper, the greatest girl next door, Rhoda Morgenstern in 2019.

But unlike real family members that I lose, the MTM family lives on and I can visit and spend time with them, just as I always have.

If you’re looking for some great episodes to see Ed Asner’s magic as Lou Grant-here is a short list of episodes I love.

1. “Happy Birthday, Lou” (S4, E15) When Mary finds out that it’s Lou’s birthday, she can’t help herself. She has to do something for him and decides to throw him a surprise birthday party. Of course, he hates it and Mary has to talk him into letting guests into the apartment one at a time. Best line: Rhoda “I think we found a theme for this party, Mar – hatred”

2. The Pilot “Love is All Around” (S1, E1) Often ranked as one of the best television pilots of all time, this episode is still funny fifty years later. The two scenes between Mary and Lou demonstrate Asner and Tyler Moore’s amazing chemistry. Along with the hysterical spunk line, also a classic is Mary’s “Okay I’ll have a Brandy Alexander.” There are so many good ones here.

3. “Once I Had a Secret Love” (S6, E18) When voracious Sue Anne finally beds the lonely Lou, and he shares his secret with Mary, their friendship is tested. This is one of the episodes that deals with the complexity and rocky nature of friendships. One of the few episodes where Asner reveals Grant’s vulnerability.

Stream all 168 episodes on Hulu

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