"You know what, kid? You've got spunk!"
"Well - I -"
"I hate spunk!"
It was this exchange, more than anything else, that brought me to the work of Ed Asner. While it is entirely possible that I was aware of his presence before I watched this scene because of the marathon of a career he had on film and especially television, but this was the moment that captured my attention. This gruff, shirtsleeves rolled up guy, was on the verge of giving America's Sweetheart played in this case by Mary Tyler Moore a chance. Instead, he spat his pointed indifference to her presence in his office. As a result, what would eventually become a TV institution was almost over before it began.
We all know that Lou Grant ended up hiring Mary Richards, where she worked as associate producer for WJM-TV news for seven years. I watched them all the first time they aired, and then again whenever reruns appeared. This was one of the very few shows that proved an exception to my hardline stance that all episodic TV should be limited to three seasons. For example, I could have done without the episode in which Lou attempts to act on the crush he believes he may have grown to nurture for his associate producer. But mostly it was the better part of a decade getting to know the crew at WJM News.
And now Lou Grant is gone, along with pretty much the rest of the cast. Except Betty White, also known as Sue Ann Nivens, The Happy Homewrecker. Maker. Sue Ann's tireless pursuit of the cantankerous Lou Grant was always a reliable source of laughs, as these seasoned pros showed their stuff. Ed Asner won five of his seven Emmys for his portrayal of Mister Grant, spanning the Mary Tyler Moore Show and its dramatic spinoff that featured Lou Grant as an LA newspaper man. And before you decide that he was just a one-trick pony, don't forget the Emmy he won for playing the morally conflicted slave ship captain in Roots.
Then there was the way he supported so many liberal causes over the course of his career, including those that may have led to the cancellation of his hit CBS series. Ed Asner probably deserved some sort of special award or recognition for the way he proved to be a burr under Ronald Reagan's saddle back in the day.
Now, he's gone. Lou Grant probably would have hated Ed Asner. He had spunk. He stomped on the Terra and made television a little more interesting in his wake. He will be missed. Aloha, Ed.