I finally remembered to have a look to see WHY Mary Tyler Moore was famous, i.e. what did she do before that meant she got her own show. The answer is that she played Dick Van Dyke's wife in the 'Dick Van Dyke Show' (1960-66). The characters were called Rob and Laura Petrie - amusingly the names that Mulder and Scully take when they go undercover in the episode Arcadia.
When I read this, I felt that somehow I should have known this, that it should have been covered in history at school - more use than all the explanations of how blast furnaces work. I don't know why they were so keen on explaining blast furnaces, I have never had the need to make one and do not feel particularly better for the knowledge. The political, cultural and technical history of American television would have been much more useful and contributed much more to my understanding of the way the world works. I shall be working on the specimen exam paper and post it here shortly!
The couple of episodes I watched at double speed, with selected slowing down to single speed, made me more convinced than ever that Ed Asner and Valerie Harper were much better in it than Mary herself. Actually, Valerie Harper as Rhoda circa 1970 is very cute and funny.
A DVD set sadly lacking in subtitles so defying this technique for watching is Freaks And Geeks. I am not very good at watching things where the humour is primarily in embarrassment. It has some good moments, and Sarah Hagan (the non-annoying Slayerette in the last season of Buffy) is amusing as Lindsay's non-freak friend. On the whole, however, I have found myself fast forwarding through it looking for non annoying scenes.
As I may have said before, the portrayal of American high school is just too different from my own unexciting but broadly speaking trouble free adolescence to be particularly engaging.
Of course, looking in the Mary Tyler Moore entry in IMDB reminds me of her famous film where she plays an undercover nun opposite Elvis as a dedicated ghetto doctor in Change Of Habit (user comments: 'No Wonder Elvis Gave Up Features'). I wonder if the fact that Elvis's character's name is John Carpenter is significant - initials JC and the 'Carpenter' surname. A fine film, worth a slot in my cultural history course too.