Mary, Rhoda return with daughters in Ford-penned update

It looks like a “Mary Tyler Moore Show” update project is gonna make it after all.

Moore has committed to star in and exec produce a two-hour ABC made-for based on characters from the original Emmy-winning 1970-77 CBS comedy. Co-star Valerie Harper is also in advanced negotiations to join the project, which is being produced by Fox Television Studios.

Scribe Katie Ford (“Family Ties,” “My Last Love”) has signed on to write the teleplay for the movie, which ABC is hoping to have in the can in time for an early spring 2000 airdate. Along with Moore, Doro Bachrach and Jane Startz are exec producing.

Idea for pic originated from last year’s busted “MTM” reunion pilot, which would have had Moore and Harper playing, respectively, their famed Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern characters, aged by 20 years. In the pilot, which ABC ultimately passed on, the two pals had daughters who were also best friends.

Pic will also feature the older Mary and Rhoda, along with their daughters, but is not expected to share other attributes of the failed pilot. There’s no word yet on whether other “MTM” stars such as Ed Asner (Lou Grant) will be asked to appear in the new project.

While the movie is being developed as a stand-alone project, ABC execs are keeping an open mind about using the pic as a backdoor pilot to a new “MTM” series. Ultimate decision will depend on quality of the pic and aud reaction.

In addition to Moore, Harper and Asner, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” starred Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel. Show led to two spinoffs: “Rhoda” and “Phyllis,” the latter starring Leachman.

Months after “MTM” signed off, Asner reprised his role as gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant in a CBS drama of the same name.

Eye web aired a 90-minute clip tribute to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1991.

Moore was repped in the deal by UTA.

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