Today's TV History lesson, prompted by a discussion I saw on a Facebook page this morning:

No, Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show was not the first woman to wear pants on TV. Yes, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance both wore them on I Love Lucy. I'm pretty sure you can find some other examples of pre-Petrie panted pulchritude as well, if one wishes to take the time to investigate. Yet it was very much Mary's pants which DID become an issue with some sponsors and network execs.

The reason was that the Capri pants that MTM wore - how can I say this delicately? -  accentuated her bottom in a way deemed far too sexy for TV at the time. "Too much cupping" was one of the phrases used by one of the sponsors. Eventually a compromise was struck and Mary was allowed one “pants” scene per episode - and even then sponsors were so worried about possible backlash that they insisted on checking to make sure that there was as little undercupping as possible. 

(Can you imagine putting that on your resumé: "Executive in charge of checking actress' undercupping.")

Anyway, this battle has been very well documented in a variety of places. And if you go back and look at the I Love Lucy episodes in question, you can see a world of difference between Lucy's pedal-pushers and Mary's hip-hugging Capri slacks.

So the REAL issue wasn't Mary's pants; the issue was she had a sexier butt than most TV sitcom wives at the time. 

Over time, the DVD writers started to sneak Mary’s Capris into more scenes. “Within a few weeks, we were sneaking them into a few other scenes in every episode, and they were definitely cupping under and everyone thought it was great," Moore once said during an interview with NPR.

And the interesting thing was that Moore’s insistance on the pants was NOT the staunch feminist stand some have suggested it to have been. Rather, she had simply wanted to give the show a dose of realism she felt was lacking in other sitcoms of the era. 

"I've seen all the other actresses and they're always running the vacuum in these little flowered frocks with high heels on, and I don't do that. And I don't know any of my friends who do that," Moore remembered. "So why don't we try to make this real? And I'll dress on the show the way I do in real life."

And God bless her for it!

But here’s my question: I wonder how much of an uproar there might be if the conservatives out there one day suddenly realize that Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble probably weren’t wearing panties under their prehistoric frocks?