Rhoda is an American television sitcom starring Valerie Harper. It was a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and ran for five seasons between 1974-1979. Harper played the lead role of Rhoda Morgenstern Gerard, who was the spunky, weight conscious, flamboyantly fashioned best friend of Mary Richards who then returns home to New York City. The series was a ratings success (even beating its parent show) and was also the winner of two Golden Globes and two Emmy Awards.
Rhoda was taped in front of a live audience at CBS Studio Center, Stage 14 in Studio City, California.
The series opened with a slimmed-down Rhoda Morgenstern traveling home to New York City
. While in New York, she met Joe Gerard (David Groh
), a handsome divorcé with a young son who ran a wrecking company. Rhoda decided to stay in New York, initially moving in with her younger sister, Brenda (Julie Kavner
). Brenda, an overweight bank-teller, had self-esteem problems, similar to Rhoda herself at the outset of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
four years earlier.
Brenda's small apartment couldn't hold the both of them, so Rhoda tried moving in with her parents Ida (Nancy Walker) and Martin (Harold Gould) at their apartment in The Bronx. Ida and Martin were the archetypical Jewish parents. Ida was overbearing, overprotective, benevolently manipulative, and desperate to make sure Rhoda found a good husband. Martin was her dutiful, more mild-mannered dad. At first, Ida went to great lengths to baby her daughter. But when it became apparent that Rhoda was sliding into a rut by staying in the room where she grew up, Ida forced Rhoda to move out for her own good.
Meanwhile, Rhoda's relationship with Joe blossomed. Joe invited Rhoda to move in with him so they could live together. Rhoda accepted the offer, although once she moved in, she quickly realized she wanted to be married. After initial hesitation, Joe came around to the idea and a wedding date was set.
Just eight weeks into the series, on October 28
, Rhoda and Joe were married in a special hour-long episode. Heavily publicized, the episode became one of the highest-rated events in 1970s television, even defeating the competing ABC
ratings juggernaut, Monday Night Football
. Virtually all the main characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show
showed up, including Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore
), Lou Grant
), Murray Slaughter
), Georgette Franklin
) and Phyllis Lindstrom
In the episode, Phyllis promised to pick up Rhoda and drive her to Ida and Martin's apartment for the ceremony. The self-absorbed and forgetful Phyllis neglected to keep her promise, forcing Rhoda to take the subway and running down the streets of the Bronx and crossing the Grand Concourse to dash into her parent's apartment building in her wedding gown in one of the series' most memorable moments.
Seasons 1 & 2 (1974-76)
For the remainder of the first and second seasons, the show focused around Rhoda and Joe's new married life. The two moved into a penthouse suite in the same building as Brenda. Rhoda also advanced in her career as a window dresser
by opening up a small window dressing business called "Windows by Rhoda" with her old high school friend Myrna Morgenstein (Barbara Sharma
). Rhoda used her maiden surname "Morgenstern" in her profesional dealings as a window dresser and her married surname "Gerard" in her personal life.
During this period, the show was a massive ratings hit on Monday nights, staying near the top of the ratings in both seasons, even faring better than its parent, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In early seasons, the opening credits of the series featured Rhoda on a New York street trying to imitate Mary Tyler Moore's trademark hat toss, but the cap slips from Rhoda's hand before she can throw it.
Season 3 (1976-77)
During the first two seasons, television audiences seemed to be satisfied with the direction the show was taking. However, the producers found it difficult to write scripts featuring a happily married Rhoda, often writing shows around Brenda's problems instead, including her on-again, off-again relationship with accordion
player Nick Lobo (Richard Masur
). Eventually, they came to the conclusion that Rhoda's appeal came from her status as an insecure single woman.
Consequently, at the start of the third season, Rhoda and Joe separated. After a particularly heated argument, Joe revealed to a bewildered Rhoda that he didn't want to be married, and that he only had gotten married again because Rhoda had pressured him into it. The response from viewers was overwhelmingly negative, with the producers receiving many letters protesting the plot development. This sentiment would translate into a steep ratings decline during the course of the season, even though the program still ranked #25 for the 1976-77 season.
With Rhoda and Joe now separated, they soon moved out of their suite. Joe moved elsewhere, and Rhoda traded apartments in the building with downstairs neighbor Gary Levy (Ron Silver), a jean-store owner who soon struck up a platonic friendship with Rhoda. Stories initially centered around Rhoda and Joe's attempts to work through their differences. As the season progressed, however, Joe was seen less frequently and Rhoda began dating other people, but they never reconciled. Johnny Venture (Michael DeLano), a lounge singer, was a frequent suitor that Rhoda only barely tolerated.
Season 4 (1977-78)
For the fourth season, Rhoda's divorce was finalized and she resumed use of her maiden surname "Morgenstern" full time. The show then centered on her role as a thirty-something divorcée dating from time to time. Ida and Martin returned to the show after a year's absence, ostensibly having returned from a lengthy cross-country trip. (In fact, actress Nancy Walker
had attempted to star in her own series, but both attempts failed). Brenda finally found a boyfriend in professional roller-skater and toll-booth worker Benny Goodwin (Ray Buktenica
), whose principal claim to fame was the similarity of his name to the famous musician Benny Goodman
, although she also occasionally dated Gary Levy.
Meanwhile, Rhoda's career was also undergoing a transition: seeking a career change, she found a job at the Doyle Costume Company, working for the gruff Jack Doyle (Kenneth McMillan), a man not altogether unlike Lou Grant.
Season 5 (1978-79)
The show and Rhoda's hairstyle underwent additional changes in the fifth and final season (she now sported a perm). Ida and Martin went through a separation of their own, with Martin going off to Florida
to find himself. After several episodes, Martin returned home. Ida, however, wanted to be won back, leading to dating and other romantic rituals between the two. Also in the final season, Brenda and Benny became engaged to be married and the wedding was to occur later in the season. The Gary Levy character disappeared completely; it was explained briefly near the season's start that he had moved to Chicago. A new co-worker, Tina Molinari (Nancy Lane), joined Rhoda and Jack at the costume shop. She was distinguished by her highly affected, Valley Girl-like speech patterns. The character had appeared in several Season 4 episodes as an employee at Gary's jeans store.
The show, which had seen precipitously declining ratings, was abruptly cancelled by CBS in December 1978, with four episodes remaining unaired until they were finally seen in syndication.
Other recurring characters and guest stars
- Carlton, the Doorman in Rhoda's building, was played by Lorenzo Music. He was often heard on the intercom, but never seen.
- Rhoda's girlfriends over the years included: Alice Barth (Candice Azzara), Myrna Morgenstein (whom Rhoda had sat behind in high school, when in alphabetical order in home room) (Barbara Sharma), Susan Alborn, another friend from high school (Beverly Sanders) and Sally Gallagher (a divorced airline stewardess who befriended Rhoda and accompanied her in the singles scene) (Anne Meara).
- Brenda's boyfriend in early episodes was accordionist Nick Lobo (Richard Masur).
- Shortly following her separation from Joe, Rhoda began an on-again, off-again romance with egocentric Las Vegas entertainer Johnny Venture (Michael DeLano).
- Joe's friend Charlie Burke (whom Rhoda found annoying) was played by Valerie Harper's then-husband, actor Richard Schaal.
The following are well-known actors who were featured in guest-starring roles on Rhoda
: Vivian Vance
, John Ritter
, Norman Fell
, Doris Roberts
, Joan Van Ark
, Tim Matheson
, Linda Lavin
, Judd Hirsch
, Ruth Gordon
, Howard Hessman
, Anne Jackson
, Rene Auberjonois
The following is a list of the ratings for Rhoda
during its five year run:
- 1974-75: #6
- 1975-76: #8
- 1976-77: #25
- 1977-78: #100
- September–December 1978: #101
Broadcast history (CBS)
- September 1974 - September 1975---Mondays----9:30-10:00 p.m.
- September 1975 - January 1977-----Mondays----8:00-8:30 p.m.
- January 1977 - September 1978-----Sundays----8:00-8:30 p.m.
- September 1978 - December 1978----Saturdays--8:00-8:30 p.m.
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Valerie Harper, 1975
- Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Julie Kavner, 1978
Golden Globe Awards:
- Best TV Show, Musical/Comedy - 1975
- Best TV Actress, Musical/Comedy - Valerie Harper, 1975
Collectively, Rhoda garnered a total of 17 Emmy nominations and 7 Golden Globe nominations.
Mary Tyler Moore Show tie-ins
- During the first season, the closing credits showed Rhoda crossing Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Times Square and attempting to emulate her friend Mary Richards by tossing her hat in the air, only to drop it. She then picks up the hat, pulls it down onto her head, and dejectedly slinks away.
- Most of the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show appeared in the hour-long episode surrounding Rhoda's wedding (October 28, 1974).
- Mary Richards was featured on four other episodes of Rhoda: Mary accompanied Rhoda to the airport for her flight to New York in the pilot episode "Joe" (September 9, 1974); Mary surprised Rhoda with a visit in one episode, "Along Comes Mary" (March 10, 1975); Rhoda phoned Mary in the episodes "Pop Goes the Question" (October 14, 1974) and "The Ultimatum" (January 30, 1977).
- Rhoda and Joe guest starred together on a Mary Tyler Moore Show episode, "Mary Richards Falls in Love" (November 22, 1975).
- Rhoda appeared in the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "The Last Show" (March 19, 1977).
- In 2000, Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore starred in the made-for-TV reunion film Mary and Rhoda which finds a recently-divorced Rhoda Morgenstern-Rousseau (with her adult daughter, Meredith) reunited with her old friend, recently-widowed Mary Richards (with her adult daughter, Rose) after many years of estrangement.
Although they have never reunited on a TV special or movie, some of the cast members of Rhoda have gotten together over the years on the following shows:
Episode list and video releases