• U.S.

Television: Viewpoints

3 minute read

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. CBS. Saturday, 9-9:30 p.m., E.S.T.

Someone should write an ode to Mary Tyler Moore, whose show seems to get better with every passing week. Now in its third year, the series has taken the brass of the usual situation comedy formula and transmuted it into something resembling gold.

Though the basic plot has remained the same, revolving around Mary, the assistant producer of a Minneapolis TV news show, the series has taken on a new and more interesting dimension. Still pretty, single and thirtyish, Mary is no longer the Doris Day-Julie Andrews brand of antiseptic woman. This year’s Mary is even a little naughty. On one recent show she kissed a boy friend (Jerry Van Dyke) rather soulfully while in the newsroom. On another she spent the night at some fellow’s pad, to the vocal dismay of her mother (Nanette Fabray). Judging from this season’s shows, the new chemistry may provide just the pick-me-up a weary viewer needs.

AMERICA. NBC. Every other Tuesday, 10 p.m. E.S.T.

It takes a certain amount of gall for Englishmen to tell Americans about America. But the English, thank God, have it. In this 13-part series, a coproduction by the BBC and TIME-LIFE Films, they are using it to show a country that, even to Americans, sometimes seems as foreign and fascinating as Marco Polo’s Cathay.

The on-camera Marco Polo is Alistair Cooke, a longtime correspondent of The Guardian and a naturalized American of several decades. This is not dramatized history, with costumed actors declaiming famous texts. The images are montages of old photos, documents and engravings, alternated with footage of historic settings. Thus, though the words are Cooke’s, the real narrator is the camera, which records not only the natural and man-made beauty of America but also much of its human ugliness. (In an upcoming episode, the camera glides behind the porticoes of the ante-bellum South to visit the slave quarters, making its point more vividly than words could.)

Historians well might argue with Cooke’s priorities: he dismisses the Pilgrims, for instance, with a courtly brush of his hand in this week’s episode, but dwelt at length on the explorations of Coronado in the first show. Still. Cooke’s tour is never bland or boring—which alone is enough to make it one of the bonuses of the current season.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com