The husband and I watch all our TV on the internet now. The choices are more limited, and we usually can't watch first-run shows on the night they air, but otherwise it's worked out pretty well for us. The only real problem with it is that there aren't that many shows out there that I consider worth watching, and TV executives have done horrible things to scheduling (13-episode seasons, "daily" shows that are only on four days a week and go on vacation all the time, 8-month gaps in the middle of a season, shows getting moved to different days and times) so some nights we wind up without anything to watch, and have to dig a little deeper.
Fortunately, by now, Hulu has a lot of old TV shows in its archives, and I was moved to check out the page for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which currently has the first three seasons of MTM on-line. The very last episode of the show's third season was titled "Mary Richards and the Incredible Plant Lady," and with a title like that, how could I not watch it? (In the U.S., you can watch the episode on Hulu here; outside the U.S. you may or may not be able to see it: I understand shows on Hulu are often/always only available in the U.S., for some reason.)
The plot, for what it's worth, is that Mary's neighbor Rhoda (Valerie Harper) borrows a lot of money from Mary to start a "plant boutique." ($1300! Which in 1973 was apparently enough to buy a new convertible. I guess I sort of remember car prices like that. I watched a lot of "The Price is Right" as a child.) And then she doesn't pay it back when she said she was going to, so Mary worries about how to say something to her. The plants aren't a major part of the show, though there's an early scene involving an African violet, and a longer scene in Rhoda's apartment, which was, yes, covered with plants.
Anyway. The show originally aired on March 3, 1973, which is before I was born, but I think it explains a lot about me anyway. Somehow. Rhoda's apartment has certain obvious similarities to the inside of the house (though the inside of the house isn't painted red, thank goodness).
Also people tend to react to it the same way when they see it for the first time:
The show makes awful puns, too. When Rhoda is explaining her idea to Mary, she comes up with a name for the place --
that sounds just like something I might come up with. And the episode comes damned close to stealing my blog title from me, thirty-four years before I came up with it:
And there's even more anthropomorphization:
Now, I'd always wanted to discover a close personal connection to Mary Tyler Moore, but I'd been hoping that it would be more, um, financial than this. Like that she was really my otherwise-heirless grandma or something. But I suppose having Mary Tyler Moore directing my life choices from before I was born should be enough. Certainly I have no reason to expect better. So, probably, Moore has just replaced Helen Hunt as the patron actress of PATSP.1
Anyway. I do have a serious horticultural point to make, which is: all the plants in the show look so . . . scrawny. Or I guess not all: there's a spider plant in Rhoda's apartment that's pretty good size, and she also has a substantial asparagus fern (though surely it doesn't get enough light where she has it?2). Mary has a big Boston fern in her place. But the African violet that Rhoda was holding in the photo above? That single Aglaonema stem in the middle of Rhoda's apartment? I'm assuming these were supposed to look full and lush and overgrown, so Rhoda would have credibility with the viewer as a Person Who Knows About Plants, and yet -- that's the best they could do? They filmed in California, right?
So I'm wondering how to explain this. Has plant-breeding made that much progress since the 1970s, that our cultivars are bigger, freer-branching, bushier, etc.? I mean, it would make sense that forty years of intense plant breeding and selection would result in really awesome plants, in general, I suppose. Have the industry standards changed for what's considered a "full" plant? (I.e., was it once okay to stick a single Aglaonema cane in a pot and sell it, and now you always have to have at least two, usually three?) Are people just somehow that much better at taking care of plants now? I suppose we do probably have warmer, more energy-efficient houses on average than we did in the 70s. Were there no plant-rental places in Southern California in 1973? I know they have plenty of them now.
Anybody have other theories?
Do you even agree with me that Rhoda's plants look kinda sad, or is it just me? (I realize it's hard to tell from the stills: they seemed crisp enough when I took the screen-captures, but once I'd e-mailed them to myself, downloaded them to my computer, and uploaded them to Blogger, they seemed a lot blurrier. If you watch the actual episode, it's clear enough what most of the plants are.)
1 Oh, yeah, you totally have to have a patron actress. Or actor. Whichever. Possibly PATSP's should be Valerie Harper, considering the episode, but I like Mary. Let's go with Mary. (The explanation for Helen Hunt.)
2 Yep. I'm now concerned about the care being received by long-dead fictional plants. (It was a real plant in 1973, but it didn't live on the set of Rhoda's apartment. Or at least I hope it didn't. So that much of it is fictional. You know what I mean.)