“It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Farewell Leicester Square!
It’s a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart’s right there.”
The final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show did something rather novel: it introduced a World War I battle song into the 1970’s lexicon. “The Last Show” aired on CBS on March 19, 1977 and re-acclimated the world to “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” Jack Judge and Harry Williams’ 1912 song that was adopted by British soldiers in the first World War. Though Mary, Lou, Murray and Sue Ann weren’t exactly going off to battle, they were about to enter the great unknown, leaving a world they and viewers had come to love over the previous seven years.
When new ownership takes over WJM-TV, the entire Six O’ Clock News Crew is fired, except for Ted, the one truly expendable member of the team. To cheer up a despondent Mary, Lou arranges for Phyllis and Rhoda to visit, and in the famous final scene, the WJM news crew group hugs, moves as a unit to retrieve tissues, and exits the newsroom singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. It’s an ending that’s been spoofed and referred to in several shows since (notably parodied in MAD-TV, and referenced in the final episode of another MTM Enterprises show, St. Elsewhere, in which the group hug and shuffle to the tissue box is reenacted).
“The Last Show” won an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series and reminded us all that sometimes the people you work with aren’t just the people you work with. Mary eloquently tells her co-workers, “thank you for being my family,” and even Lou Grant gets mushy, admitting to the gang, “I treasure you people.” As co-creator James L. Brooks states in his Archive interview, “The Last Show” was one of the first series finales to have the characters say goodbye to each other. Art imitated life:
Mary Tyler Moore describes how the show’s cast indeed felt like family:
Jay Sandrich shares what the mood was like on set as he directed “The Last Show”:
Gavin MacLeod (“Murray Slaughter”) offers his remembrances of shooting the final episode:
And according to James Brooks, The Mary Tyler Moore wrap party gave him his philosophy on all future wrap parties:
Have a look at the final curtain call, which does not appear in syndication. You can truly sense the love between cast members:
It’s been 35 years since the finale first aired, but as the battle cry says, our hearts are still right there, with the original WJM-TV news crew. Farewell, guys. Catch you in syndication.
Learn more about The Mary Tyler Moore Show at our show page.
- by Adrienne Faillace