1 9 7 4 – 1 9 7 8 (USA)
The first of three spin-offs from the highly successful Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda was created as a vehicle for Valerie Harper, who had played Mary’s delightfully realistic best friend and upstairs neighbour.
The series – which debuted on CBS on Monday 9 September 1974 – starred Harper in the title role, playing a young woman living in Manhattan, and began when Rhoda returned to New York City, her hometown, after having lived in Minneapolis for several years.
When audiences first met Rhoda on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she had been a sharp-tongued, overweight and insecure young woman.
By the time of her homecoming, Rhoda had slimmed down and begun dressing more fashionably. Luckily her new self-confidence never diminished her facility for snappy wisecracks.
To provide contrast for Rhoda’s new, improved image, her overweight and insecure younger sister, Brenda, played her roommate in the show’s early episodes.
First-season plots followed a blossoming romance between Rhoda and handsome Joe Gerard, who owned a wrecking company and was the divorced father of a ten-year-old boy.
The romance culminated in a special one-hour episode chronicling the couple’s marriage; the episode achieved stellar ratings on 28 October 1974
However, the writers of Rhoda found it difficult to wring much humour from the story of a happily married couple and once the wedding was out of the way, the show’s ratings began to decline.
For a while, the show’s focus shifted to Brenda’s troubled search for romance and to Rhoda’s career. (Rhoda was the co-owner of a window-dressing company with her childhood friend Myrna).
After two seasons of marital bliss proved not conducive to sitcom humour, Joe and Rhoda separated. Thereafter, viewers followed the ex-couple’s lives as unattached singles until Joe had been phased out entirely by the end of the third season.
At the start of the fourth season, Rhoda had a new job working for a costume company owned by Jack Doyle and Brenda had a steady boyfriend, Benny.
In a last reach for ratings at the start of the final season, Rhoda’s overly protective mother, Ida was separated from Martin, her husband of many decades.
Although Rhoda never achieved as much popularity as the series that had spawned it, the show is remembered fondly for its insights into the difficulties of married and single life in the big city.
Rhoda also introduced TV viewers to such future stars as Julie Kavner and Lorenzo Music (a former writer for The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who played the voice of the never-seen but always intoxicated doorman Carlton, who would preface every conversation through the intercom with “This is Carlton, your doorman”.
Lorenzo Music would later be well known as the voice of the animated cat Garfield but sadly passed away in 2001 of lung cancer.
Valerie Harper passed away, aged 80, on 30 August 2019.
Rhoda Morgenstern Gerard
Carlton The Doorman