Dear Mary, Really enjoyed my visit, and it was great to see you settled in your new job. Since the cruise business has slacked off a bit lately, I wouldn't mind getting back into journalism myself. I still can't quite see you fitting in at that seedy tabloid--what is it called?--the Chicago Eagle. But the consumer-advice column they've given you should be fun.
As an old friend, I have to say that the whole setup seems awfully familiar. I mean, back at WJM in Minneapolis we had pompous Ted Baxter; now you've got pompous Ed LaSalle (John Astin), the womanizing theater critic. At least Ted was a comic type--the featherbrained anchorman--that everybody could recognize. This LaSalle fellow doesn't make sense. He comes on as a Broadway blusterer, yet claims he never goes to "commercial pap" like Cats and Dreamgirls. Then what's he doing writing for a blue-collar tabloid? Your other co-workers are more credible. Your boss (James Farentino) seems to hate spunkiness as much as Lou Grant did. And Jo (Katey Sagal), the cynical columnist, couldn't be a better foil if she had been invented by TV comedy writers.
Everybody sure is quick with the quips around there. I liked it when your boss, scoffing at the idea of hiring a fashion writer, cracked, "Most of our readers use this paper for clothing." And you are still terrific. But there's entirely too much harping about your sweet, squeaky-clean personality. One day on the job and people were already making jokes about Care Bears on your desk. A week later you were getting grief for being too polite to a sleazy video auctioneer who was ripping off customers. "What, no hand puppets?" snapped Jo. Enough already.
But who am I to complain? The ratings are hardly spectacular, but you're getting raves. Anyone else might get dumped on for trading in nostalgia or resorting to self-parody. What's your secret? Much love, Murray
Dear Mur, Nice to hear from you. Well, I'm a little uneasy about the job myself. But it makes me feel young again, just like the old days at WJM. The nice thing is that it seems to make everybody else feel young again too.
Besides, didn't you notice the changes? I'm divorced now and supposedly more worldly. My next-door neighbor (Carlene Watkins) comes to me for advice about boyfriends, not the other way around. It took seven years for Mr. Grant and me to make a tentative, farcical try at a love scene; my new boss made a pass at me my very first day. I think he still might be after me. That's called sexual tension. Very adult.
My co-workers may seem pretty one-dimensional so far, but you know how it is: they always improve with time. After all, who would have thought that Ted Baxter, the butt of our jokes for so many years, would eventually get married, adopt a child and start to resemble a human being? Yes, I know, I never really bought it either. But let's keep our memories. They're all we've got.
I was almost as surprised as you at the wonderful reception. But, Mur, I've thought about it, and there's no other explanation. I have to admit: they like me! Fondly, Mary --By Richard Zoglin