In May 2021, the great Ed Asner tweeted a note mourning the death of Gavin McLeod, the actor who played his colleague Murray on The Mary Tyler Moore Show: “Tell the gang I’ll see them in a moment. Betty! It’s just you and me now.” Three months later, in August, Asner died. And now Betty White, the last of the principle Mary tyler moore casting, left at the age of 99, less than one months before his 100th birthday.
White was more than a legend, spanning generations in Hollywood, and there are countless ways to remember her. You can think of his appearances on the game show Password, flirting with her late husband, host Allen Ludden. (Here in 1964, she brazenly tells the public that she is “not pregnant, to answer all your letters. “) You could turn to countless episodes of Daddy’s Girls. Or there is his resumption of career at the end of his life with his tricks Proposal Where his big appearance on SNL. But I immediately thought of an episode that I turned to almost every time a member of the MTM the crew is dead: “Laughter bites the dust.”
It’s a brilliantly morbid half hour of television. Minneapolis icon Chuckles the Clown has passed away and the WJM team can’t help but laugh, but Mary is upset that everyone is treating Chuckles’ disappearance lightly. White’s not-so-secretly sexy happy housewife Sue Ann Nivens says she’ll be paying the tribute on her show. “I’m peeling onions,” she said. “My eyes will be too swollen for anything else.” Of course, it’s Mary who can’t stay the course at Chuckles’ funeral.
Once that’s all over, the staff at WJM sit down to discuss what they would like their funeral to be, a particularly profound moment now that every actor is no longer with us. The gang, as Asner wrote, are all together now. “I want to be cremated and have my ashes thrown at Robert Redford,” Sue Ann said. I hope she will make her wish come true.