28 March 2015 | Lejink
Another great MTM studio production from the 70's taking the major risk of re-setting a familiar comedic character - the boozy, boorish TV editor Lou Grant as the central character in a 50 minute topical drama set in a major city news-room.
Like its MTM comedy predecessors, likewise invariably named after one character "Lou Grant" of course isn't just about Lou, it's more about the interplay with an ensemble of strong, supporting characters. Better yet, the plot-lines were literate and credible slices of real life, often centring on corruption in high places, with the leg-work being done by the two bright young reporters Joe Rossi, played by Robert Walden and Billie, played by Linda Kelsey. Also in support are beatnik photographer Animal, presumably named after one of the Muppets, the style-conscious sub-editor Art Donovan and at the top end of the paper, its matriarch publisher Mrs Pynchon and her right hand man, Charlie Hulme. Edward Asner in the title role did a fine job re-inventing himself as the pugnacious but principled title character. The whole programme could have failed if his character had failed its transition but this was never in doubt right from the first episode I've recently re-watched.
The plots invariably involved some sort of moral dilemma for one of the characters, not unnaturally given the post-Watergate interest in newspapers and their role in exposing dirty deeds done in high places. Critics might argue against the show's occasional bleeding-heart liberalism, but I remember it just as high quality US drama and staying up till well after 11 o'clock to watch it in the days before video recorders.
In its wake came other MTM hit series like "Hill Street Blues" and "St Elsewhere" but I think I enjoyed this series even better than those. Bad fashion sense aside and even conceding the much lesser role that newspapers play in news dissemination today, I don't think this show has aged much at all, a testimony to good writing and good acting all round.