In March 1977, the very successful Mary Tyler Moore Show sitcom said farewell after seven seasons. The cast and crew wanted to leave while they were still on top. In the final episode, Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and Lou Grant (Ed Asner) were fired from their WJM newsroom positions while inept anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) kept his job.
In the fall, Lou Grant moved to his own spin-off show and took a job as the city editor for the fictional Los Angeles Tribune. Some tuned in expecting to find another comedy. Instead, they found that Lou Grant was a drama series that didn’t shy away from provocative subjects like nuclear waste, mental illness, prostitution, and gay rights.
In addition to the gruff title character, the series follows the work of general-assignment reporters Joe Rossi (Robert Walden) and Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey), photographer Dennis “Animal” Price (Daryl Anderson), assistant city editor Art Donovan (Jack Bannon), managing editor Charles Hume (Mason Adams), and the paper’s over-bearing publisher, Margaret Pynchon (Nancy Marchand).
Though many would have liked to have seen some of the main characters from Mary Tyler Moore to drop by for a visit, it never happened. The closest we got was an appearance by Mary’s Aunt Flo Meredith (Eileen Heckart). On Mary, Flo was an old-school newspaper reporter. She shared a romantic relationship with tough-guy Lou and they almost married. She later made a brief appearance in a 1980 episode of Lou Grant called “Pack.” Unfortunately, Heckart didn’t share a scene with Asner and primarily worked with Kelsey. Still, it’s a nice, subtle nod to the sitcom that spawned the newspaper drama.
Though Lou Grant’s fifth season ratings were still very respectable, the show was abruptly cancelled by CBS. At the time, Asner was very outspoken in opposing the U.S. government’s intervention in El Salvador. It’s believed that the network execs would have ordinarily renewed the series for a sixth year but cancelled it to be rid of Asner’s unwelcome controversy. Because of this, unlike Mary, the series wasn’t given a proper series finale.
We recently had an opportunity to ask Asner about the show’s cancellation, how he would have ended the show, the reason why other Mary actors didn’t appear on Lou Grant and more. Have a look!