BROOKE GLADSTONE: Fictional news producer Mary Richards was in the news recently in Minneapolis. The character, played by Mary Tyler Moore, is being offered in the form of a bronze statue to the city she made famous, Minnesota Public Radio's Marisa Helms reports.
MARISA HELMS: First time visitors to Minneapolis are usually looking for Mary Richards. They want to know where she lives and where she works! Face it -- Mary Richards is Minneapolis, and there are some who are pretty proud of that, including the Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton.
MAYOR SHARON SAYLES-BELTON: There are really quite a few women out there who watch the Mary Tyler Moore show and really thought that her character helped to affirm the fact that women can be in major leadership roles and can break through that glass ceiling!
MARISA HELMS: Talks over the gift from TVLand began last summer. The cable company is offering to pay for all costs of commissioning and erecting Mary Richards. They aren't saying how much they're dropping on the statue which would be the second in a series TVLand hopes to put up around the country.
The first was of Ralph Cramden from the Honeymooners Show. That was put at the Port Authority in New York City.
In Minneapolis, resident Tim Connolly ponders the statue of Hubert Humphrey near the entrance to City Hall. He says that if the city's going to put up a statue, it should honor someone who did something of political or social significance.
TIM CONNOLLY: Why is TVLand putting up this statue? Is it marketing? If it's marketing, and we're -- the mayor is buying into it, then we are complicit in marketing TVLand Network!
CLAY STEINMEN: It's like honoring a unicorn! You know it's honoring something that doesn't exist.
MARISA HELMS: Clay Steinmen is a communications studies professor at Macalester College in St. Paul.
CLAY STEINMEN: The world that's being shown by that statue is not one that anyone lives in! It's a fictional world that was constructed by MTM to sell to T--CBS who used it in order to sell audiences to advertisers. That's a very different thing, I think; a dery--very different kind of phenomenon than honoring someone from the past like Eleanor Roosevelt who might give us a clue of how to live well and be a better person in the world.
MARISA HELMS: But can't a make believe character provide real life inspiration?
LARRY JONES: Those fictionalized characters are very, very real to millions and millions of people.
MARISA HELMS: TVLand executive Larry Jones says the statue will offer a reminder of hours well spent in front of the tube.
LARRY JONES: I see that as a benefit on a long term that's not about a corporate agenda but it's about an agenda that supports, you know, a great American television icon, and it'll be something that generations to come can enjoy.
MARISA HELMS: The Minneapolis Office of Cultural Affairs says by fall there will be a statue of Mary somewhere on downtown's Nicolette Mall [sp?]; artists' proposals from across the country are starting to come in. Public art administrator Mary Altman says among other criteria they'll consider how the artist handles the challenge of the hat. One proposal suggests multiple wistful swirls of metal rods that symbolize wind. The rods will connect the finger and the hat in the triumphant moment when it leaves her fingertips. For On the Media, this is Marisa Helms. [THEME MUSIC FROM MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW]