Beck also revealed that Moore was really enthusiastic about the special -- or if she wasn't, she was at least trying to seem that way:
Mary's so convinced the special is the best thing ever to hit the airwaves she's been talking it up to anyone who will listen. And has been cornering so many of her friends for preview cassette-unit glimpses of the all-musical hour that actress Betty White finally told her teasingly, "It's a shame you don't put it on TV, instead of showing it door to door."
It's basically a standard variety special in a lot of ways: glitzy, cheesy musical numbers, and a song list that spans about five decades (making sure everyone in the audience will like at least some of the songs). But it has no sketches or any dialogue for anyone except the narrator -- plus one line of dialogue for Mary at the beginning -- and instead connects the musical numbers with what Moore called "a story of the eternal cycle of man. If viewers don't want to follow the story they can just enjoy the music and dancing." (Update: There is also a bit of talking in the form of Chicago-style introductions to the songs, and Moore has one other line of dialogue in the course of the special, to someone on the phone: "I can't talk now, I'm having this incredible dream.")
The fact that Moore, who usually kept a low media profile at the time, was out there plugging the special in the press was an indication that she really wanted to make a case for it, and for Jack Good's bizarre mish-mash of music, religion, philosophy, and high-in-every-sense-of-the-word camp. Of course, you could read some of her praise for Good as being almost the same as blame, pointing out in advance that the whole concept was his, not hers: "When he came to me with the idea," Moore told UPI's Vernon Scott, "I told him he had carte blanche. Without any structure or guidelines from me, Jack produced a unique, no-holds-barred musical happening."
At least it was an attempt to do something different; that can't be denied. And it's remembered a bit more fondly than the variety show she finally did do (without Good) after her sitcom ended: Mary was a disaster, and so was the retooled sitcom/variety hybrid The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. Moore was like the opposite of singer/dancers who want to prove they can act: she'd proved herself as an actress, but wanted to be taken seriously as an all-around entertainer.
But whether it's this special, where she tries to talk-sing her way through "I'm Still Here" or make a decent try of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields's "Nobody Does It Like Me", or her flop stage musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, she's not exactly a top-tier entertainer. Even on her own show, Georgia Engel's version of "Steam Heat" was better than most musical numbers Moore did without Dick Van Dyke around. And this special probably is a better showcase for Ben Vereen, in one of his first big TV parts, than Moore, who gets to do all the stuff she's only OK at and little of the stuff she's great at (delivery of and reaction to dialogue).
But it is what it is, and I can't help enjoying it just for the strangeness of it all. This is a special that ends with Mary Tyler Moore as a pink angel, floating and spinning in front of religious symbols and clouds while singing "Morning Has Broken." This is a special with Arthur Fiedler conducting the "Hallelujah Chorus" in heaven; a historical version of "Sh-Boom," and Jerome Kern's "She Didn't Say Yes" retrofitted as a song about the temptation of Eve. TV really could be pleasantly insane in the mid-'70s.
Also, any special that begins with the "CBS Special" logo and ends with the MTM kitten is a special that gets a few extra points just for logo coolness.
Mary's Incredible Dream Act 1
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Mary's Incredible Dream Act 2
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Mary's Incredible Dream Act 3
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Mary's Incredible Dream Act 4 and credits
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