• PTC Mourns Passing of Doris Roberts

    by  • April 21, 2016 • Television • 4 Comments

    This tribute also contains the PTC’s 2003 interview with Ms. Roberts.

    Beloved television character actress Doris Roberts passed away last week. A five-time Emmy winner as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Roberts was probably best-known for her part as Ray Romano’s mother Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond.

    Roberts’ acting career began in 1952 with a role on the dramaticTV series Studio One. In her career she appeared in literally dozens of television series, from Naked City and Ben Casey to Full House and Remington Steele. She also appeared in several made-for-TV movies on the Hallmark Channel, starring as the matchmaking “Mrs. Miracle” in movies based on author Debbie Macomber’s books.

    In every part she played, Doris Roberts brought a sense of down-to-earth realism and enthusiasm. The PTC thanks her for her many contributions to family-friendly TV, and extends our condolences to her family.

    Beloved television character actress Doris Roberts passed away last week. A five-time Emmy winner as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Roberts was probably best-known for her part as Ray Romano’s mother Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond.

    Roberts’ acting career began in 1952 with a role on the dramaticTV series Studio One. In her career she appeared in literally dozens of television series, from Naked City and Ben Casey to Full House and Remington Steele. She also appeared in several made-for-TV movies on the Hallmark Channel, starring as the matchmaking “Mrs. Miracle” in movies based on author Debbie Macomber’s books.

    In every part she played, Doris Roberts brought a sense of down-to-earth realism and enthusiasm. The PTC thanks her for her many contributions to family-friendly TV, and extends our condolences to her family.

     Below is an exclusive interview with Doris Roberts, conducted by PTC intern Beth Reynolds in 2003.

     “Would you tell Picasso he couldn’t paint anymore because was too old?”

    That’s just the type of treatment that older people are faced with in the media these days, says veteran actor Doris Roberts, who most recently appears as the strong-willed Marie Barone on the CBS program and PTC Seal of Approval winner Everybody Loves Raymond. Roberts will also be seen leading the cast in The Hallmark Channel’s A Time to Remember, which airs this fall.

    The Parents Television Council recently talked with Roberts about the depictions of seniors in advertising and on television. On Hollywood’s obsession with marketing to youth, Roberts feels that advertisers target a young demographic because older audiences consider their consumer choices more carefully than young people. “They don’t want an older audience because we have a brain.” The message that Roberts wants to give advertisers is, “change our minds by working harder—I will buy a different car if you tell me it’s safer or give me instructions on how it works better for me.”

    Marketers target youth because they are easier to convince. Ms. Roberts finds the quest by advertisers to target young buyers puzzling when more than ¾ of the wealth in the United States is controlled by older Americans. “Young people can’t afford to buy cars. Young people don’t buy houses,” she asserts. So why, then, the push for youth-oriented marketing strategies? 

    Advertisers are influenced by what Roberts refers to as “image-makers,” and this image-consciousness is what leads to the ubiquitous ads featuring young, beautiful woman in advertisements for anything from alcohol, to cars, to magazines. “Nowhere do you see a picture of a woman over the age of 45 on a magazine cover. They’re airbrushing us out of society.”

    The PTC surmises that the rise of television programming rife with sex and violence is because these image-makers are attempting to draw young viewers in with prurient content. Clean shows that appeal to older viewers, such as Diagnosis Murder and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, seem to be a thing of the past, because the tastes of seniors are not valued.

    Roberts says that the problem is further exemplified in the portrayals of seniors in television programming. Seniors are not seeing accurate representation of themselves; either they are not represented at all, or are portrayed negatively. “[Seniors] do not see themselves portrayed and when then do, it’s in a demeaning manner. They’re referred to as ‘over the hill,’ ‘old goats’ and ‘old farts’—oh please, ugly ways of talking about us.”

    Roberts says that older people are frequently portrayed as feeble, unproductive, and helpless, and these images can be detrimental. Roberts, who testified before Senate during a September 2002 panel on aging, cites a Yale study presented at the same hearing. According to the 20-year study (which was published in the August 2002 issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), older people who have positive self-perceptions live more than seven years longer than seniors exposed to negative images of aging. “We shouldn’t be shown that way. Seven and a half years longer—when you’re in your seventies—is quite something, isn’t it?”

    Roberts thinks that in order for real change to take place, people must speak out and make themselves heard. Borrowing from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Roberts states that “‘attention must be paid’ to people making enough noise so that congress listens to us and there is some type of law against ageism.” Disappointed with the AARP’s inaction and lack of support in the ageism argument, Roberts says that, although invited to the Senate hearing, not a single AARP representative attended. While they may have one of the best vehicles for bringing attention to ageism—their magazine—they turn a blind eye toward the subject. “I am appalled—and you can quote me—appalled that the AARP doesn’t do anything about this…I am a member of that organization, but why should I be when they don’t fight for us?”

    Ageism in Hollywood is not limited to the images that we see on the screen, but exists behind the scenes also. “People who worked on M*A*S*H—one of the great shows—are afraid to put that on their résumé because it will date them. Don’t you get wiser as you get older? Isn’t that the premise?” Roberts asks.  She feels that talented older workers, with more experience and know-how than their younger counterparts, are often cast aside in Hollywood in favor of younger workers.

    Characteristically humorous even in light of the serious topic, Roberts illustrates her point by posing this question: “Would you say to Einstein, ‘Please Al, I don’t want anymore of your theories?’” Roberts qualifies her assertions by adding that she is not referring to ill or infirm seniors, but she says that healthy, vibrant older people are being denied opportunity. At age 72, Roberts is one of the lucky ones; she continues to be able to work in her chosen field but says that many have not fared so well. Hollywood, Roberts says, is the “last bastion of bigotry;” and she reminds us that there are laws against other forms of discrimination, but no laws are in place to specifically protect seniors. 

    One of the projects that Roberts is excited to be involved in is the upcoming A Time to Remember, which will air on The Hallmark Channel on Thanksgiving evening. “It will be interesting for me, because it’s not a comic role. It’s a very straight dramatic role which I am delighted to play and am very proud of.”  The film is about a controlling woman, the matriarch of her family, who finds that she has Alzheimer’s disease. Roberts researched on the topic of Alzheimer’s disease in preparation for the role, and feels that her depiction will be an honest one.

    Our country is made up of a wide mix of diverse individuals. People do not come in cookie-cutter uniformity. Talented actors and writers also come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Hollywood should make an effort to better frame the diversity that exists in our country. Accurate portrayals of seniors benefit all viewers and add value to the lives of older viewers who are able to see themselves accurately portrayed. We applaud Doris Roberts for her outspoken efforts to stop ageism in marketing and the media.

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    About

    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    4 Responses to PTC Mourns Passing of Doris Roberts

    1. D
      April 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Farwell, Doris Roberts, and I thank you not only for your talent, but for your insights as well.

    2. Robert
      April 21, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      That’s sad, I really enjoyed her presence. :(

      You guys should also do a tribute to Prince as well.

    3. JK
      April 23, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      I will miss Doris Roberts. I loved her on Remington Steele, Everybody Loves Raymond and the Mrs. Miracle movies on Hallmark. Thank you for your contributions. Rest in peace.

      • moax429
        April 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

        Seconded.

        Not to forget “Angie” in the late 70′s, where she played mother to Donna Pescow as the title character and (the late) Debralee Scott as her other daughter, Marie Falco.

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