The reviews and ratings are golden for Betty White’s turn as guest host on Saturday Night Live. With Betty’s latest TV success, the Archive looks back on her Emmy-winning role as Sue Ann Nivens- the Happy Homemaker, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Before her continued (and possibly greatest) fame as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, Betty White had a decades-long career that began in the early 1950s, with a high water mark as a semi-regular on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When the producers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show sought to find a sickeningly sweet Betty White-type to play WJM’s “Happy Homemaker,” they cast the real McCoy. Sue Ann Nivens was introduced on the September 15, 1973 episode: “The Lars Affair,” wherein she has an affair with Phyllis’ (Cloris Leachman) husband. With White’s great take on the Happy Homemaker, she soon became a fixture of the series. In reviewing this now-classic episode- the show’s fourth season opener- Variety lauded Cloris Leachman’s performance (she’d win the Emmy that year) and noted that Betty White satirized the TV homemaker “to a tee” furthering that this “preem’s inventiveness indicates that the series is off and running for another successful year.”
In ranking the top 100 sitcom episodes of all-time, TV Land To Go: The Big Book of TV Lists, TV Lore, and TV Bests by Tom Hill ranked “The Lars Affair” at #22; in 1997, TV Guide, in its ranking of the Greatest TV episodes, placed it at #27. Take a look at the Archive’s new page on The Mary Tyler Moore Show: “The Lars Affair” to watch interview excerpts with Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White.