Friday, May 15, 2009

All About Rhoda

The first season of RHODA, the first and best spin-off of the MARY TYLER MOORE show recently came out on dvd. Despite that many of the episodes are the edited syndicated versions and not the uncut network originals, it's really good to see our old friend Rho again.The character of Rhoda Morgenstern first appeared in 1970 as Mary Richards' frumpy and sharp-tongued upstairs neighbor. Since saying to Mary, "Hello, get outta my apartment", Valerie Harper's portrayal has always been one of our favorite TV neighbors. RHODA begins with our heroine returning home to New York after living several years in Minneapolis (where it's cold and she figured she'd keep better).  By the time Rho moved back home, she had lost weight and now dressed in designer duds. The brilliant Nancy Walker and Harold Gould recreated their MARY TYLER MOORE guest roles of Ida and Martin Morgenstern, joining newcomer Julie Kavner as Rhoda's younger, frumpier sister Brenda, a bank teller. (Ignoring Rhoda's other sister Debbie - who got married in Episode 75 of MARY TYLER MOORE - which also featured Bret Somers as Rhoda's Aunt Rose).
Ida and Martin were typical Jewish parents. Ida was outrageous, overbearing and manipulative – and she covered her furniture in plastic! And martin was Rhoda's sweet, dutiful father.
In the very first episode of RHODA, we meet Joe Gerard (the sexy, swaggering David Groh), who seven episodes later would be her husband! The classic hour-long episode "Rhoda's Wedding" airined on October 28, 1974 and featured guest turns by the gang from Minneapolis.
In addition to Mary, Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel), and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) all attended the wedding - winning huge ratings in the process.
After the wedding, Rhoda returned to her career as a freelance window dresser by starting her own business called "Windows by Rhoda" with her old high school friend Myrna Morgenstein (the underrated Barbara Sharma).
Like many 1970s marriages, Joe's and Rhoda's did not last, nor did her career as a window dresser. By season 4, Rhoda was divorced and working at a costume company. Perhaps in an attempt to make RHODA different than MARY TYLER MOORE, they may have married her off too soon - and then when they ran out of story ideas for newlyweds - they split them up! Viewers were unhappy and abandoned the show in droves. What started out a promising run ended mid-way though the show's 5th season when CBS pulled the plug on the show.
Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore were eventually reunited as Rhoda and Mary in an excruciatingly painful two-hour TV-movie for ABC on February 7, 2000. The less said about it, the better.

Valerie received 4 Emmys playing Rhoda, 3 for the MARY TYLER MOORE show and 1 for RHODA in 1975. Julie Kavner also received an Emmy for her supporting role in 1978. RHODA also received two Golden Globe Awards (one for Valerie and the other for the show itself) in 1975. 


Pax Romano said...

Rhoda...what a great show. I had such a crush on Ron Silver when he played Gary on that show ... sheesh, the 70's - what can I tell ya?

Oh, and doesn't that theme song get stuck in your head, especially when they had the children's chorus going "la, la, la, la, laaaaa"?

sherri dee said...

my neck hurts remembering the wedding episode...