Betty White Triumphs on "SNL"

May 10th, 2010

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.

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