Rhoda is an American television sitcom, starring Valerie Harper, which ran for five seasons, from 1974 to 1978 airing in 109 episodes. The show was a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which Harper between the years 1970 and 1974 had played the role of Rhoda Morgenstern, a spunky, weight-conscious, flamboyantly fashioned Jewish neighbor and native New Yorker in the role of Mary Richards' best friend. After four seasons, Rhoda left Minneapolis and returned to her original hometown of New York City. The series was a huge ratings success (even beating its parent show) and was the winner of two Golden Globes and two Emmy Awards. Two of its first-season episodes broke numerous television records, and created one of the most iconic moments in television.
Rhoda was filmed Friday evenings in front of a live studio audience at CBS Studio Center, Stage 14 in Studio City, Los Angeles, California.
Rhoda is staying with Brenda for a vacation; Brenda and Ida think it will be for longer than that. The series opens with the pilot episode featuring a slimmed-down Rhoda Morgenstern traveling to New York City from her home in Minneapolis for a two-week vacation staying with her twenty-one-year-old sister, Brenda (Julie Kavner). While there, she meets Joe Gerard (David Groh), a handsome divorc who owns a wrecking company and has a ten-year-old son, Donny, whom Brenda babysits. Following Brenda's prompting, they meet and develop an instant attraction to each other which leads to their dating nightly for the duration of her vacation. After an argument about their feelings for each other, Joe asks Rhoda to stay in New York, which she does, initially moving in with Brenda at 332 E. 64th Street (actual exterior shots are of 332 East 84th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues on the south east end of the block.) Brenda, an overweight bank-teller, is insecure and possesses a lack of self-esteem, both of which contribute to her frequently lamented difficulty in attracting the opposite sex—similar problems to those experienced by Rhoda herself at the outset of The Mary Tyler Moore Show four years earlier.
The pilot episode entitled "Joe" aired on Monday, September 9, 1974 at 9:30 PM and immediately set an unprecedented record that has yet to be overturned by being the first and only television series ever to achieve a number-one Nielsen rating for its premiere episode, easily defeating the ABC ratings juggernaut, Monday Night Football. Joe asks Rhoda to move in with him.
Rhoda and Brenda soon realize that the small studio apartment can't hold them both, so Rhoda moves in with their parents Ida (Nancy Walker) and Martin (Harold Gould) at their apartment in the Bronx. Ida and Martin are the stereotypical Jewish parents. Ida is overbearing, overprotective, benevolently manipulative, and desperate to ensure her daughters find a good husband. Martin is her dutiful, mild-mannered dad. Ida initially goes to great lengths to baby her daughter. When it becomes apparent Rhoda is sliding into a rut by occupying her childhood bedroom, Ida forces her to move out for her own good.
As the weeks go by, the relationship between Joe and Rhoda quickly blossoms. By the sixth episode, "Pop Goes the Question", an insecure Rhoda asks Joe where their relationship is heading. His response is to invite Rhoda to move in with him. After some careful thought and consultation with her sister and father, Rhoda accepts Joe's invitation, but within minutes of moving in decides that rather than living together out of wedlock she wants to be married. Rhoda attempts to convince Joe that they are very compatible and would be a happily married couple. After some hesitation, Joe agrees and a wedding is planned.
Eight weeks into the series on Monday, October 28, 1974, Rhoda and Joe were married in a special hour-long episode which broke several television records. Heavily publicized, it became the highest-rated television episode of the 1970s, a record it held until the miniseries Roots claimed that title in 1977. Additionally, on the night of its airing it had the distinction of being the second most-watched television episode of all time, only slightly surpassed by the birth of Little Ricky in I Love Lucy in 1953. It was watched by more than 52 million Americans, over half of the US viewing audience. At the conclusion of the episode, Monday Night Football host Howard Cosell knowing that few had been watching the football game up to that point joked on the air that he had not been invited to the wedding, and welcomed viewers back to the game. Hundreds of "wedding parties" were held by fans across the United States on the night of the episode to celebrate the television wedding, and within days the CBS-TV studios were inundated with wedding gifts sent in by fans for the fictional Joe and Rhoda Gerard. The episode was overwhelmingly praised by critics, widely touted as a "television phenomenon", "unlike anything that had happened on television for nearly twenty years", and garnered Harper her fourth Emmy award in 1975. Vogue magazine reported that people across the country pulled off the road into motels, and friends cancelled out on dinner invitations (feigning illness), just to watch Rhoda's wedding.
The wedding episode featured guest appearances by many of the main characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, including Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel), and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). The only major characters who didn't attend were Ted Baxter (played by Ted Knight) and Sue Ann Nivens (played by Betty White).
In The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "The New Sue Ann," airing Saturday, October 26, 1974, two days before Rhoda's Wedding, the characters frequently discuss the upcoming event and buy wedding gifts. At the end of the episode Murray and Lou leave the TV station to drive Mary to the airport. During Rhoda's Wedding it is revealed that on a lark they had all decided to fly to New York to surprise Rhoda, including her frequent nemesis, Phyllis who had intentionally not been invited. During the episode, Phyllis asks for the opportunity to participate in the wedding and is appointed the responsibility to pick up Rhoda at Brenda's Manhattan apartment and drive her to her parents' apartment in the Bronx where the ceremony is being held. The self-absorbed and forgetful Phyllis neglects to keep her promise. This forces Rhoda to take the subway, running through the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx fully regaled in her wedding dress and veil, crossing the Grand Concourse and dashing into her parents' apartment building in one of the most memorable and iconic moments in the history of series television. Ida, in a state of shock, refuses Phyllis's profuse apologies saying "I'll kill you". Phyllis begs everyone in the room to forgive her, but the only one who does is Georgette, who then suggests to Phyllis that she leave before Rhoda arrives. The episode also features special closing credits, showing additional footage of Rhoda (Harper) running down a Manhattan street in her wedding dress and veil accompanied by an alternative version of the theme song played to the tune of Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
Seasons 1 & 2 (1974-1976)
For the remainder of the first and second seasons, the show focuses around Rhoda and Joe's new married life. The two move into a penthouse suite in the same building as Brenda. Rhoda advances 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 uses her maiden surname "Morgenstern" in her professional 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 closing 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.
Upon transitioning from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to her own eponymous series, the mention of Rhoda Morgenstern s Jewish religious and ethnic background faded. While on the parent sitcom, the character of Rhoda Morgenstern was explicitly Jewish. Throughout the tenure of Rhoda Morgenstern's character being featured on the The Mary Tyler Moore Show, her Jewish-ness was discussed on several episodes. Such episodes included: "Some of My Best Friends are Rhoda" from which the subject of anti-Semitism was covered; and Enter Rhoda s Parents from which Rhoda s parents renewed their wedding vows by a rabbi. This candid expression of Jewish-ness changed however when Rhoda was spun off in 1974. During the first season of Rhoda, the representation of Rhoda Morgenstern altered from her parent show to fit a more mainstream audience: she was trimmer, more confident, and less Jewish . Throughout the first season, there were scant references about Rhoda s Jewish-ness . Moreover, there was even a Christmas episode with no mention of the character s Jewish background entitled, "Guess What I Got You for the Holidays". Thus, the creation of Rhoda s own series stifled the representation of Jewish-ness as Charlotte Brown, the executive producer of Rhoda, conveyed in an interview the display of Jewish-ness , was just set dressing Ida s brisket, her plastic on the furniture .
Season 3 (1976-1977)
When Ida gets depressed, Brenda and Rhoda try to help. During the first two seasons, television audiences were satisfied with the direction the show was taking. However, the producers found it difficult to write scripts featuring a happily married Rhoda, often writing episodes showcasing Nancy Walker's comedic performance as neurotic, overbearing Ida, or focusing on Brenda's problems including her on-again, off-again relationship with accordion player Nick Lobo (Richard Masur), as well as her weight issues. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that Rhoda's appeal came from her status as an insecure single woman.
Consequently, in the first episode of the third season during a particularly dramatic scene Joe leaves Rhoda and the two remain separated for the entire season, with Groh appearing in only nine of the season's episodes. A few weeks later they mutually agree to see a marriage counselor where Joe reveals to a stunned Rhoda that he had never wanted to be married, and that he married her only because she had pressured him into it after he had invited her to live with him. Audiences were equally stunned and deserted the program in droves. Although the producers believed the plot development was essential, the fan response to Rhoda and Joe's separation was overwhelmingly negative and hostile. CBS was inundated with thousands of angry letters protesting the plot development, "Rhoda" and "Joe" received sympathy cards and letters of condolence, with Groh later reporting that he had received hate mail for as much as a year after the season had ended. This sentiment would translate into a steep ratings decline during the course of the season and the show ranked #32 for the 1976-77 season (falling from #8 the year before). Though Ida appears in the opening episode ("The Separation"), both she and Martin are absent for the remainder of the season, explained as traveling across the country in an RV. (At this time, Nancy Walker departed the program to headline two short-lived ABC series - The Nancy Walker Show, and Blansky's Beauties - and Harold Gould left to star in his own show - The Feather And Father Gang - on NBC.) To help fill in the void left by Walker and Gould, the producers hired comedienne Anne Meara as Rhoda's new friend, Sally Gallagher, a middle-aged divorcee who makes her living as an airline stewardess. Meara did not catch on with viewers and her character lasted only one season.
With Rhoda and Joe now separated, they soon move out of their apartment. Joe moves to another building while Rhoda trades apartments with downstairs neighbor Gary Levy (Ron Silver), a jean-store owner who soon strikes up a platonic friendship with Rhoda. Stories initially center on Rhoda and Joe's attempts to work through their differences. As the season progresses, however, Joe is seen less frequently and Rhoda begins dating other people. Ultimately, they never reconcile and Joe is never seen again after this season. Johnny Venture (Michael DeLano), a lounge singer, becomes a frequent suitor that Rhoda only barely tolerates. Meanwhile, Brenda, no longer overweight but still with self-esteem problems, finally finds a boyfriend in professional roller-skater and toll-booth worker Benny Goodwin (Ray Buktenica), whose principal claim to fame is the similarity of his name to the famous musician Benny Goodman. She also occasionally dates neighbor Gary Levy as well as continuing her casual relationship with Nick Lobo.
Season 4 (1977-1978)
Ida takes a job at the costume store where Rhoda works. For the fourth season, Rhoda's divorce is finalized and she resumes use of her maiden name "Morgenstern" full time. The show then centers on her role as a thirty-something divorc e, dating from time to time. Ida and Martin come home after a year's absence from their lengthy cross-country trip (in reality, both Nancy Walker's and Harold Gould's attempts at a new series the previous year had failed).
Brenda continues to date Gary Levy and Benny Goodwin. Meanwhile, Rhoda's career is undergoing a transition. Seeking a career change, she finds a job at the Doyle Costume Company. There she works for the gruff Jack Doyle (Kenneth McMillan), a man with similarities to Lou Grant. Season 4 ranked higher than season 3 in the ratings (finishing at #25 for the year). Nancy Walker's return to the series, plus Valerie Harper's astounding weight loss, brought back some of the lost audience members from the previous year, but "Rhoda" never regained the popularity it had achieved during its first two seasons on television.
Season 5 (September December 1978)
The show underwent additional changes in the fifth and final season. Ida and Martin go through a separation of their own; Martin then goes to Florida to find himself. He returns after several episodes but Ida wants to be wooed back, leading to dating and other romantic rituals between the two. Brenda and Benny get engaged to be married, with their wedding planned for later in the season. Gary Levy does not return for this season; it is briefly mentioned near the season's start that he has moved to Chicago. A new co-worker, Tina Molinari (Nancy Lane), joins Rhoda and Jack at the costume shop, having appeared in several Season 4 episodes as an employee at Gary's jeans store. She has 'Valley Girl'-like speech patterns.
With the show now moved to Saturday night, ratings declined drastically and Rhoda was canceled by CBS in December 1978 with four episodes remaining unaired, though these episodes later aired in syndication.
Other recurring characters/guest stars
- Carlton, the drunken doorman in Rhoda's building, is played by Lorenzo Music (who would later voice Garfield). He is often heard on the intercom, but almost never seen, only his arm occasionally appearing from doors. In the third season episode "H-e-e-e-r-e's Johnny" he is seen from the back after hitching a cab ride with Rhoda and her friends, and in the episode "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" is shown dancing and conversing with Queenie Smith while wearing a gorilla mask.
- Mae, the office bookkeeper at Joe's wrecking company, appears prominently in two episodes during the first season and is played by actress-comedienne Cara Williams (of Pete and Gladys).
- Rhoda's girlfriends over the years include: Alice Barth (Candice Azzara); Myrna Morgenstein (Barbara Sharma), whom Rhoda had sat behind in high school when in alphabetical order in home room; Susan Alborn (Beverly Sanders), another friend from high school; and Sally Gallagher (Anne Meara), a divorced airline stewardess who befriends Rhoda and accompanies her in the singles scene. (Meara's husband Jerry Stiller also appears in one episode as Sally's ex-husband.)
- Brenda's boyfriend in early episodes is accordionist Nick Lobo (Richard Masur).
- Lenny Fiedler, another of Brenda's boyfriends, is played by actor Wes Stern. Lenny appears frequently throughout the first two seasons.
- Sandy Franks, Brenda's girl friend and colleague at the bank she works in, is played by actress Melanie Mayron. She is featured in a few episodes during the 1975-1976 season.
- Shortly following her separation from Joe, Rhoda begins an on-again, off-again romance with conceited Las Vegas entertainer Johnny Venture (Michael DeLano).
- Joe's friend Charlie Burke (whom Rhoda finds annoying) is played by Valerie Harper's then-husband, actor Richard Schaal (who also appears in several episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as at least three different characters and as a regular in the first season of Phyllis).
The following are well-known actors who feature in guest-starring roles on Rhoda: Henry Winkler, Vivian Vance, Eileen Heckart, John Ritter, Norman Fell, Doris Roberts, Joan Van Ark, Tim Matheson, Linda Lavin, Judd Hirsch, Ruth Gordon, Howard Hessman, Anne Jackson, Robert Alda, David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Stiller, Jack Gilford, Rene Auberjonois.
The following is a list of the ratings for Rhoda during its five year run:
NOTE: The highest average rating for the series is in bold text.
|24.4 (Tied with Sanford and Son)
||Not in the Top 30
||Not in the Top 30
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.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show tie-ins
- Nancy Walker and Harold Gould originated their roles as Rhoda's parents on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In the second season episode ("A Girl's Best Mother Is Not Her Friend"), Ida visits Rhoda in Minneapolis. Rhoda's sister and brother, Brenda and Arnold, are casually referred to in this installment. It is also mentioned that Brenda lives in Chicago. In the fourth season (1973 1974), Mary and Rhoda travel to New York City for the wedding of Rhoda's sister, Debbie (played by Liberty Williams — a role that Julie Kavner originally auditioned for). Comedienne Brett Somers also makes an appearance in this episode as Rhoda's Aunt Rose. Brenda and Arnold are not seen or referred to.
- During the first season of Rhoda the closing credits show 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 walks away slightly embarrassed.
- Mary Richards is featured in or referred to in seven episodes of Rhoda:
- Mary accompanies Rhoda to the airport for her flight to New York City in the pilot episode "Joe" (September 9, 1974). This scene is shown prior to the opening credits, and was cut from U.S. syndication, as well as the Season One DVD release.
- Mary is mentioned in the second episode of the first season when Rhoda first moves in to Brenda's apartment, and again when Rhoda is talking to her on the phone when in her old bedroom at Ida and Martin's apartment in the Bronx. (September 16, 1974)
- Rhoda phones Mary to announce she and Joe are getting married at the end of the episode "Pop Goes the Question" (October 14, 1974).
- Mary (along with Lou Grant, Murray Slaughter, Georgette Franklin and Phyllis Lindstrom) appear in the hour-long episode, "Rhoda's Wedding" (October 28, 1974).
- A letter from Mary is referenced in the first season episode, "Everything I Have is Yours, Almost" (January 27, 1975).
- Mary surprises Rhoda and Joe with a unannounced visit in the final episode of the first season, "Along Comes Mary" (March 10, 1975).
- Rhoda phones Mary seeking advice and comfort when it finally becomes clear to her that her marriage to Joe is coming to an end in "The Ultimatum" (January 30, 1977).
- Rhoda and Joe are featured together on The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode, "Mary Richards Falls in Love" (November 22, 1975).
- In episode 165 ("Mary's Three Husbands") of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in a future fantasy sequence, an elderly Mary receives a postcard from Rhoda, which states she is "still waiting for Joe to come back." (February 26, 1977)
- Rhoda appears in the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "The Last Show" (March 19, 1977).
- A recently divorced Rhoda Morgenstern-Rousseau (with her adult daughter, Meredith) is reunited with her old friend, recently widowed Mary Richards-Cronin (with her adult daughter, Rose) after many years of estrangement in the made-for-TV movie Mary and Rhoda (February 7, 2000).
Although they have never reunited in-character on a TV special or movie, some of the cast members of Rhoda have gotten together over the years on the following daytime talk-shows:
On April 21, 2009, Shout! Factory released the first season of Rhoda on DVD in Region 1, which was the year of the show's 35th anniversary.
The release also includes a "Remembering Rhoda" featurette, as well as the original one-hour version of "Rhoda's Wedding", as opposed to the two-part edited version that aired in syndication. Unfortunately, 15 of the season's 24 episodes are the edited-for-syndication versions taken from poor quality masters, while the other 9 episodes (including the Wedding episode) are the unedited network versions. A review on DVDTalk also states some of the edited episodes being time compressed.
Because the pilot episode in the DVD set is the syndicated version, Mary Tyler Moore's appearance at the beginning of the episode is cut. However, the full version of the pilot, in much better quality (complete with Mary's scene) can be viewed at The Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles. Footage from the missing scene is even included in the end credits to the pilot. Season 2 and Season 3 episodes were released unedited.
Season four was released on September 21, 2010, as a Shout! Factory select title, available exclusively through their online store.
||April 21, 2009
||March 30, 2010
||July 6, 2010
||September 21, 2010
- Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store
A 2-VHS set, Rhoda: Volumes 1 & 2 containing two episodes on each cassette, was released by MTM Home Video in July 1992.
|Rhoda - Volume 1
- You Can Go Home Again
|Rhoda - Volume 2
- I'll Be Loving You, Sometimes
- Parents' Day
The Very Best of Rhoda, a 4-VHS boxed-set containing the best episodes from each season, was released by MTM Home Video on March 24, 1998.
|Season 1 (1974 75)
||March 24, 1998
- Rhoda's Wedding (Part 1)
- Rhoda's Wedding (Part 2)
|Season 2 (1975 76)
||March 24, 1998
- Friends and Mothers
- A Night with the Girls
|Season 3 (1976 77)
||March 24, 1998
- The Separation
- An Elephant Never Forgets
|Seasons 4 & 5 (1977 79)
||March 24, 1998
- One is a Number
- Happy Anniversary
- Martin Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Season 1 of the show is currently available for free online viewing on Hulu.com. All episodes from that season are there, except for "The Honeymoon", due to legal issues. While the versions of the episodes are, for the most part, the same as the versions on the DVD, there are a few minor differences:
- "You Can Go Home Again", which was released unedited on the DVD, is edited on Hulu.
- The following 4 episodes, all of which were released edited on the DVD, are unedited on Hulu: "The Lady in Red", "The Shower", "I'm a Little Late, Folks", and "Anything Wrong?".
In Canada, Rhoda started airing on Comedy Gold on February 28, 2011.
The long-awaited Rhoda Revisited, author Julius C. Burnett's book on the series (with Foreword by Valerie Harper) was released by Ju-Ju & Co. Entertainment LLC on December 21, 2010.
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