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Are Amy Poehler and Tina Fey secretly channeling Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore?

April 10, 2009 |  3:43 pm

Are you among the viewers who felt, like some TV critics, that the pilot episode of "Parks and Recreation" didn't live up to its promise? Relax. Give these proven geniuses a break. "Parks and Recreation" is by the same wizards who gave us "The Office" (Greg Daniels and Mike Schur) and "Saturday Night Live" (the white-hot Amy Poehler) — who need a little time to tinker with the gears of their Porsche. TV series with this potential payoff don't come around very often. It's worth hanging in there to see where this baby goes — and how fast it takes off. I have a hunch it will.

Let's assume it does and then let's assume Amy Poehler gets nominated for best comedy actress this year at the Emmys. There's a very good chance that could happen considering that the contenders will be chosen by a popular ballot and the number of nominees per category will be expanded this year to six or seven from the usual five.

Amy poehler Tina fey

If Poehler gets nominated, that means Emmy nuts like you and me can look forward to a fascinating clawfest: Poehler, the scrappy rookie, taking on heavyweight champ Tina Fey (lead actress winner, "30 Rock," 2008), who also happens to be her best friend. The two former costars are now appearing in their own TV series, slugging it out for the gold. Remind you of any parallels?

In 1975, Valerie Harper split with her former costar, Mary Tyler Moore, to launch her own spin-off sitcom "Rhoda." At the next Emmys, the onetime best pals squared off in the same kind of dishy bout. Everyone assumed that Moore — the Lucille Ball of her day — would clobber Harper. If anyone could topple the TV queen, it might be Jean Stapleton ("All in the Family"), but not Harper. Harper portrayed Rhoda as a gum-snapping wisecracker. Her character didn't have the emotional depth of Mary Richards, say, or Edith Bunker, right?

But on Emmy night all jaws— including Harper's — dropped when she pulled an Eve Harrington and nabbed the gold prize. At the podium, Harper acknowledged Moore gratefully and gleefully. The L.A. Times noted that she also "felt compelled to thank everyone profusely," including her analyst.

But Moore ended up getting a royal consolation prize at the end of the Emmy ceremony. When the last envelope of the night was opened, it revealed that the winner of best comedy series was "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The news was trumpeted by Lucille Ball in a scene that is remembered today as one of those goose-bump times in Emmy history. When Moore arrived on stage and took the golden statuette from Ball's hand — looking wonderstruck, taking in the grand context of the scene — we saw comedy's scepter and crown being passed from one generation to another. Hail, hail TV's queens!

One more got hailed last year when "30 Rock" won best comedy series for a second time in a row and Tina Fey was handed the prize by Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White (see video below). Click HERE to KEEP READING!

OK, OK, "30 Rock" can easily won best comedy series again, but you don't think Poehler can beat Fey for best comedy actress? You're forgetting how Emmy voting works. It all comes down to the sample episode of "Parks and Recreation" Poehler submits to the Emmy judges. If it's a doozy, she'll win. That's how upsets happen all the time at the Emmys. That's why Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") and James Spader ("Boston Legal") keep clobbering hipsters like Steve Carell ("The Office") and Kiefer Sutherland ("24").


'Parks and Recreation' can rally at the Emmys

Critics fail to find fun in 'Parks and Recreation'

Emmys comedy race: '30 Rock'? 'Family Guy'?

Photos: NBC, CBS

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