TV viewers that saw “Lou Grant” in their listings back in 1977 probably were thinking Ed Asner would play the role with humor.
But the show, which premiered on this day in 1977 on CBS, did not go for the laugh. Asner, who died on Aug. 29, 2021, at 91 years old, made the Lou Grant character memorable. After all, he was news director at WJM-TV in Minneapolis during “The MaryTyler Moore Show” run.
Yet “Lou Grant” totally went in a different direction. The show had Asner play Grant as a newspaperman who oversaw the Los Angeles Tribune. It was not a real newspaper in L.A. on the show.
Take a look at its opening credits, courtesy of RetroNewsNow on Twitter.
‘Lou Grant’ Had Two Standout Names From TV Shows Connected To Its Start
Did you catch a couple of names in those opening credits, Outsiders? Sure, we know you saw Asner. But we’re talking about a couple of guys behind the scenes.
James L. Brooks was brought over from the CBS sitcom starring Mary Tyler Moore. He was hired by MTM Productions boss Grant Tinker to create “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1970. Gene Reynolds co-created “M*A*S*H” with Larry Gelbart and directed 11 “Lou Grant” episodes. Both Reynolds and Brooks, along with Brooks’ business partner Allan Burns, created the hour-long drama.
Asner won three Primetime Emmy Awards for playing Grant. One was with the Moore show while two were from “Lou Grant.”
Grant was a city editor at the Tribune who butted heads with his managing editor, Charlie Hume, played by Mason Adams. He also squared off with Tribune publisher Margaret Pynchon, played by Nancy Marchand. The show ran on CBS between 1977 and 1982.
Asner Admitted that He ‘Had No Idea’ How Drama Would Be Received By Viewers
Did Asner care if the show was a success? He talked about it in a 2009 interview.
Asner said he never knew how viewers would receive the show.
“I had no idea,” said Asner. “All I knew was the character I was asked to play was one of the most exciting characters I had been offered in the nine years I had been in Hollywood.” If you happen to catch him on shows like “Bonanza” or others, then it was just part of his path to stardom.
Asner said he didn’t care if CBS canceled the show. He said that he was just happy to land a role on what he viewed as high-quality television.
“As I saw succeeding scripts, I was delighted by their craftsmanship and their humor,” Asner said.
So today, Outsiders, we take a minute to remember Asner and his incredible turn on “Lou Grant.”