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Lou Grant is an Americanmarker television drama series starring Ed Asner as a newspaper editor. The series won 13 Emmy Awards, including "Outstanding Drama Series". Asner won the Emmy Award for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series" in 1978 and 1980. The series also won two Golden Globe awards, a Peabody award, an Eddie award, three awards from the Directors Guild of Americamarker, and two Humanitas prizes. Ed Asner became the only person to win an Emmy Award for both "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series" and "Actor in a Comedy Series", the latter for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for portraying the same character.

Broadcast history

Lou Grant was a spinoff from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and premiered on CBS in September 1977. Unlike The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a 30-minute situation comedy, Lou Grant was a one-hour drama.

Lou Grant ran from 1977-1982 and consisted of 114 episodes. It is one of four shows in the history of American television to have weekly finishes of first and dead last during its run, the others being AfterMASH, Cheers, and fellow Mary Tyler Moore spinoff Rhoda.

The theme music for the series was composed by Patrick Williams.


Lou Grant worked at the fictitious Los Angeles Tribune daily newspaper as its city editor, a job he took after the WJM television station fired him. (Though Mary Tyler Moore Show viewers were introduced to the character as a television news producer, the character noted many times that he'd begun his career as a print journalist.) The rest of the main cast included Robert Walden and Linda Kelsey, who played general-assignment reporters Joe Rossi and Billie Newman, respectively (Kelsey joined the show in the fourth episode, replacing Rebecca Balding, who had portrayed reporter Carla Mardigian during the show's first three episodes); Mason Adams, who played managing editor Charles Hume, an old friend of Lou's who had convinced him to move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles; Jack Bannon, who played assistant city editor Art Donovan; Daryl Anderson, who played photographer Dennis Price, usually referred to as "Animal"; and Nancy Marchand, who played the widowed, patrician publisher, Margaret Pynchon, a character loosely based on real life newspaper publishers Dorothy Chandler of the Los Angeles Times and Katharine Graham of The Washington Post. Recurring actors who played editors of various departments included Gordon Jump and Emilio Delgado. Asner won two Emmys for his portrayal of Lou; Marchand won Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series" four of the five years the series ran; Walden, Kelsey, and Adams all received multiple nominations for supporting Emmys.

The episode often had Lou assigning Rossi and Billie to cover news stories, with the episode's plots revealing problems of the people covered in the stories as well as frustrations and challenges reporters experienced to get the stories. The series frequently delved into serious societal issues, such as nuclear proliferation, mental illness, prostitution, gay rights, and chemical waste, in addition to demonstrating coverage of breaking news stories, such as fires, earthquakes, and accidents of all kind. The series also took serious examination of ethical questions in journalism, including plagiarism, checkbook journalism, entrapment of sources, staging news photos, and conflicts of interest that journalists encounter in their work. There were also glimpses into the personal lives of the Tribune staff.

Gene Reynolds, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns were executive producers, and Gary David Goldberg was a producer.

Many of the episodes in the first season were based on incidents described by Gay Talese in his history of his former employer The New York Times, The Kingdom and the Power. Talese was unaware of this fact more than a decade after the show was canceled.


The cancellation of Lou Grant in 1982 was the subject of much controversy. Reportedly the series had significant enough ratings in its last season to be renewed (it was in the ACNielsen top ten throughout its final month on the air), but the network declined to renew it largely because of controversies created by Asner in using both the series and his presidency of the Screen Actors Guild as political soapboxes. Asner's outspokenness in directly opposing the U.S. government's intervention in El Salvadormarker created problems for the network with its advertisers. Asner also gave one press conference, not long before the show was cancelled, in which he was asked whether he would support free elections in El Salvador even if those elected were communists. Asner responded that if that was what the voters chose in a free election then he would have to support it.


  • Douglass K. Daniel, Lou Grant: The Making of TV's Top Newspaper Drama, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

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