Remember on The Mary Tyler Moore Show when single Mary Richards admitted she was on the pill? Or when the men of Evening Shade wore shrubbery because their clothes were stolen by their significant others who didn’t get to go skinny-dipping? And that woman who started speaking in tongues because she had seen the Lord on The 700 Club? What unites these television events? Not much now, but soon they may all be run by Rev. Pat Robertson, televangelist and former presidential candidate, if he succeeds with his recent bid to buy TVS Entertainment, parent company of MTM Enterprises.
The $68.5 million deal (expected to be concluded by January) would give Robertson — whose International Family Entertainment launched cable’s 24-hour Family Channel in 1977 — control over the MTM library. The irony of Robertson’s company owning such provocative shows as Lou Grant, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and The Bob Newhart Show is not lost on the principals of the deal.
In a statement, Robertson’s son Tim, who is president and chief executive officer of IFE, defended the transaction, saying that MTM ”has produced programming with a family-oriented focus that is compatible with IFE’s needs.” The younger Robertson added that no decisions have been made concerning any staff or management changes.
And while some current MTM-ers, such as Evening Shade producers Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, may chafe at Robertson’s right-wing Republicanism (they’re friends and supporters of Bill Clinton), most former MTM stars aren’t taking sides. Tony Randall, whose eponymous MTM show aired in the mid-’70s, would say only that Robertson is ”an enormously rich man who knows how to make money.” Former president of the Screen Actors Guild Ed Asner (Lou Grant) cautiously adds, ”No matter who owns MTM I would hope they’d continue to bring honor and plaudits with MTM productions.” And Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco had a succinct — if sarcastic — response: ”Amen.”