Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! In today’s post, I’m thrilled to present a That’s Entertainment! exclusive — an original script for an unproduced episode of Rhoda (1974-1978, CBS), which we covered here in full on Sitcom Tuesdays last year. This particular script was the second commissioned for the fourth season, dated 06/20/77, and assigned the production number of #7152. It was written by David Lloyd, the wonderful teleplaywright whose crowning achievement is perhaps The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s legendary “Chuckles Bites The Dust.” Entitled “Your Old Friend Phyllis,” the episode was to reunite Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) with her old nemesis from Moore’s series, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), whose own self-titled spin-off had been cancelled earlier that year. This would have made for the last time that these two characters appeared on screen together. The reason that the script ultimately never made it into production is unknown, but it is likely that Leachman was either unavailable or uninterested in revisiting the character, which she had been playing for two consecutive, and mostly unfruitful, years. (Phyllis has also been covered in full on Sitcom Tuesdays!)
I believe this to be a shame, for as you’ll see below, this is a wonderfully written script that could have provided appropriate closure to these two iconic characters. Even for a first draft, Lloyd’s script is incredibly funny and his sense of the characters’ voices — including Brenda’s (Julie Kavner) and Johnny Venture’s (Michael DeLano), the only other regulars to appear, aside from Carlton, of course — is pitch perfect. The premise has Phyllis staying with Rhoda when she gets stranded in the city sans wallet, and the story culminates in a drunken truth-session between the two. This is undoubtedly the script’s most interesting scene, and should this episode have progressed any further, I’d have liked to see it fleshed out even more, perhaps occurring over the entirety of the second act. As it stands now, most of the conversation, itself about a third of the script, occurs off-screen, as the women get progressively schnockered. (Why not show us them getting this way, and make their conversation the crux of the episode, not just the climax?) Also, you’ll note that there are no references to Mary or the events of Phyllis — details that would have provided welcome continuity.
But Lloyd’s first draft has the right idea for these two characters and had this episode been produced, “Your Old Friend Phyllis” would have easily made my list of the year’s best, and could have very possibly been the MVE. Check it out below and let me know what you think!
Come back next Wednesday for a new Wildcard post! And tune in on Monday for another forgotten musical!