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Playing Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran from 1970 to 1977, the star (who died Jan. 25) often seemed to be one of the only wholly sane people working at a Minneapolis local news station, burdened with co-workers either inept or misanthropic. Though she didn’t create the situations, she made the comedy, with an easy grin and a razor wit indicating that the men who surrounded her were easily deflated.

The show’s depiction of a woman, happily unmarried and invested in her job, resonates still; after getting her start as a housewife on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore found a story in step with its changing times and yet ahead of anything else on TV. Her relationship with Ed Asner’s Lou Grant was warmly cordial even as Lou was unambiguously the boss. The role was a social victory, and an artistic one. The smile that could turn the world on was also imbued, wonderfully, with ambition and grit.

This appears in the February 06, 2017 issue of TIME.

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