‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’: Ted Knight Was Driven to Tears, Nearly Quit Show in Season 3

by Keeli Parkey

For any fan of classic television – actually, any fan of good comedy – “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is essential viewing. And actor Ted Knight, who portrayed news anchor Ted Baxter on the popular show, was essential to its comedic success.

According to an article on CheatSheet.com, Knight had his struggles while on the show. In fact, he almost quit during its third season. The actor’s role on the show was to play a character that was – let’s say – less than smart. WJM-TV anchor Ted Baxter was arrogant and out for himself. That made him an easy target for many jokes. So easy in fact that the show went to that well time and time and time again to great effect.

Knight excelled at his role as Ted Baxter. In fact, he was awarded two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, according to the article.

Ted Knight Wanted to Leave ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’

However, playing a character known as a dimwit caused Knight to worry. He didn’t want to be typecast as Ted Baxter for fears that his career would suffer. Knight was so concerned, that according to Moore, that the actor went to Allan Burns, a producer on the show, during its third season to voice his concerns.

“(Ted) entered, as Allan remembers it, with an expression of pain on his face,” Moore wrote in her memoir, “After All.” “He stood there wordlessly, extended both arms in a helpless gesture… slowly shook his head from side to side, unable to speak.”

Moore continued with her description of Ted Knight’s worries.

“Ted flung his arms around Allan’s neck and sobbed, ‘I can’t do it anymore,’” Moore said in the book. “‘I can’t play Ted Baxter. Everybody thinks I’m stupid and I’m not. I’m an intelligent, well-read man, and everyone treats me like I’m a schmuck.'”

Ted Knight didn’t want to be seen as a schmuck and thought about quitting the show. Fortunately for Knight, and sitcom fans, Burns was able to ease the actor’s concerns, according to Moore’s memoir.

“… using examples of the great comedians throughout time whose intellect and soul brilliantly shone through the clowns they’d created, and whose contributions to the hallowed halls of laugher inspire reverence for their commitment.”

According to IMDb.com, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran from 1970-1977. Ted Knight stayed on the show until its final episode.

Of course, Mary Tyler Moore was the show’s star. But, it included a great ensemble cast. That ensemble included Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, and Gavin MacLeod.

You can watch the original opening theme song below. And, don’t forget, Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat into the air is one of the most iconic images in the history of television.

As the show continued, its opening credits changed. You can view the other version below.

‘Mary Tyler Moore’ Actress Cloris Leachman Dies at Age 94

Fans of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” the character of Phyllis was another source of consistent laughs. Sadly, Cloris Leachman, the actress who portrayed the popular character recently died at the age of 94.

Leachman was a fan favorite on the show. She even won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”