Gavin MacLeod: “He played the humble head writer on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show'”

From a New York Times obit by Mike Flaherty on actor Gavin MacLeod, one of the stars of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”:

Gavin MacLeod, who tasted stardom after years as a journeyman actor when he landed roles on two of the most successful television series of the 1970s and ’80s — as the news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Capt. Merrill Stubing on “The Love Boat” — died on Saturday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif….

When Mr. MacLeod was invited to audition for the pilot of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1970, he was almost 40, a recovering alcoholic and still looking for a breakthrough role after more than a dozen years as a working actor with a string of modest stage, film and television credits — notably on the sitcom “McHale’s Navy” — but little name recognition.

The audition was for the role of Lou Grant, the gruff newsroom boss of Ms. Moore’s character, Mary Richards, a sweet-natured associate news producer at a fictional Minneapolis television station. But Mr. MacLeod asked instead if he could read for the more understated role of Murray, saying he felt more comfortable playing Mary’s co-worker than her superior. (The role of Lou Grant went to Ed Asner.)

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran from 1970 to 1977 and became one of the most acclaimed comedies in television history, winning Emmys and a devoted audience, not least because it centered on a young, single professional woman — still an adventurous premise at the time — and offered quick-witted comedy with generous doses of the real world, addressing serious topics like drug use, homosexuality, women’s rights and premarital sex.

As Murray, the balding, humble head writer and Mary’s office best friend, Mr. MacLeod was given to firing zingers at the show’s other regulars, especially the pompously vain anchorman, Ted Baxter….He saw Murray as an Everyman character.

“Murray represented all the brown-baggers — not just in newsrooms, but in all sorts of professions,” he wrote in his autobiography “This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith and Life”….

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