LOU GRANT

U.S. Drama

Created by executive producers Gene Reynolds with James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, this series drew on the comedy character of the executive producer of TV news in the long-running Mary Tyler Moore Show. But it transformed that comic persona into a serious, reflective, committed newsman at a major metropolitan newspaper.

As he developed the concept for the series, Reynolds drew on his experience with researching the TV series M*A*S*H. He haunted Toronto newspaper offices to learn first?hand how they operate, how principals interact, procedures for processing news stories, what issues trouble professional newsgatherers, how they thrash out the daily agenda to be distributed to the mass public. From tape-recorded interviews came the seeds of storylines and snatches of dialogue to capture the flavor and cadences of newspeople in action.

The series sought weekly to explore a knotty issue facing media people in contemporary society, focusing on how investigating and reporting those issues impact on the layers of personalities populating a complex newspaper publishing company. The program served as a vehicle for dramatic reflection, analyzing sometimes bold and sometimes tangential conflicts in business practices, government, media, and the professions. Topics treated dramatically included gun control, invasion of privacy, confidential sources, child abuse, Vietnamese refugees, news reporting vs. publishing economics. Mingled with each episode's issue was interplay of personalities, often light-hearted, among featured characters.

Reynolds risked undercutting issue-oriented themes by importing Ed Asner from the long-running comedy about a flaky TV newsroom to act as city editor of a daily newspaper. Asner not only effectively adapted the original comedic character to the serious role of Lou Grant; off-screen the actor spoke out increasingly about social and political issues possibly causing some audience disaffection in its final years.

The series (1977?1982) received critical acclaim for exploring complicated challenges involving media and society. It received a Peabody award in 1978, Emmy awards in 1979 and 1980 for outstanding drama series, plus other Emmies for writing and acting during its five years on the air. Yet it never ended any season among the top-20 most popular prime?time programs. First scheduled the last hour of Tuesday evenings (10:00 P.M.), in the second and following seasons it was aired on Mondays at that time. It enjoyed strong lead-in shows M*A*S*H and One Day At a Time; but competing networks scheduled Monday night football (ABC) and theatrical movies (NBC), both at mid-point when Lou Grant came on. Scheduling was thus probably a "wash" as a factor; audiences were perhaps deterred more by the substantive issues explored which called for attentive involvement, unlike more passive TV entertainment.

Lou Grant is also significant in the history of MTM Productions as the "bridge" program between comedies such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later, more complex dramas such as Hill Street Blues. Few independent production companies have had such visible success in crossing lines among television genres. The transformation of Asner's character, then, and the focus on serious social issues pointed new directions for the company and, ultimately, for the history of American television.

-James Brown

 


Lou Grant

CAST

Lou Grant................................................ Edward Asner Charlie Hume ..........................................Mason Adams Joe Rossi.............................................. Robert Walden Billie Newman McCovey............................. Linda Kelsey Margaret Pynchon................................ Nancy Marchand Art Donovan.............................................. Jack Bannon Dennis "Animal" Price............................ Daryl Anderson National Editor (1977-1979)......................... Sidney Clute National Editor (1979-1982)..................... Emilio Delgado Foreign Editor (1977-1980)................... Laurence Haddon Financial Editor (1978-1979)........................ Gary Pagett Adam Wilson (1978-1982)........................ Allen Williams Photo Editor (1979-1981)................................ Billy Beck Carla Mardigian (1977).......................... Rebecca Balding Ted McCovey (1981-1982)............................... Cliff Potts Linda (1981-1982)........................ Barbara Jane Edelman Lance (1981-1982)..................................... Lance Guest

PRODUCERS Allan Burns, James L. Brooks, Gene Reynolds

PROGRAMMING HISTORY 110 Episodes

CBS
September 1977-January 1978         Tuesday 10:00-11:00 January 1978-September 1982           Monday l0:00-11:00

FURTHER READING

Feuer, Jane, Paul Kerr, and Tise Vahimagi, editors. MTM-"Quality Television." London: The British Film Institute, 1984.

Gitlin, Todd. Inside Prime Time. New York, Pantheon, 1983.

Schatz, Thomas. "St. Elsewhere and the Evolution of the Ensemble Series." In Newcomb, Horace, editor. Television: The Critical View. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Schudson, Michael. "The Politics of Lou Grant." In Newcomb, Horace, editor. Television: The Critical View. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Tinker, Grant, and Bud Rukeyser. Tinker in Television: From General Sarnoff to General Electric. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

 

See also Asner, Ed; Brooks, James L.; Mary Tyler Moore Show; Reynolds, Gene; Tinker, Grant