'Mary Tyler Moore': Grant Tinker's greatest gift to TV

Mary Tyler Moore (right) and Valerie Harper in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Producer and former NBC chairman Grant Tinker, who died Monday at 90, will be remembered for his many contributions to television, including the oft-quoted advice, "First be best, then be first," but to me he'll always be the man who saw that Mary Tyler Moore was meant to be much more than a TV wife.

Tinker, who helped develop The Dick Van Dyke Show, married Moore (whom he divorced in 1981) while she was co-starring on that show as Laura Petrie. Laura's Capri pants and "Oh, Rob!" helped usher in a new style of TV wifedom, but it was Tinker's later partnering with Moore to form MTM Enterprises that led to  the  Mary Tyler Moore show.

There, Moore cemented her own place in TV history as Mary Richards, a single, thirtysomething TV news producer whose life didn't revolve around the search for a husband. The show, which reportedly tested poorly, was nevertheless a hit, running from 1970 to 1977 and leading to spinoffs for co-stars Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Ed Asner (Lou Grant), and Cloris Leachman (Phyllis).