The Full RHODA: Honoring Valerie Harper

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, we’re honoring Valerie Harper, who, at the time of this publication, is coming to the end of her courageous battle against cancer. Although I’m sure this talented lady will receive many glowing tributes in the weeks ahead, I wanted to take a moment while she’s still with us to note just how great a sitcom legacy she’ll leave behind.

I could talk about several different series here, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977, CBS), one of the most character-driven comedies ever created and the world’s first introduction to the iconic Rhoda Morgenstern. But I must confess that when I think of the 1970s — the decade that took us from Nixon to Carter — the first sitcom that comes to my mind is Rhoda (1974-1978, CBS). Why? I mean, it certainly wasn’t the best-written show, and despite besting Mary Tyler Moore in the ratings, only Rhoda‘s first year is consistently competitive in terms of quality. So, why is this show so emblematic of its era?

Well, aside from embodying the decade’s fixation on spin-offs — taking a successful regular from one series and moving her to another — Rhoda also claims two of the most important TV events of the ’70s: the marriage of Rhoda and Joe… and the separation of Rhoda and Joe. While their blissful union — occurring in October 1974, just eight weeks into the run — stands as the ultimate triumph of the MTM system, specifically in cultivating a character as investment-worthy as Rhoda — their separation, once the show decided in ’76 that its leading lady was better off single after all, brings to light a broader truth about the people of the decade, and the uncomfortable ennui that set in following the culturally tumultuous ’60s. You see, Rhoda’s journey was the journey of the Baby Boomers’ American Woman. And no one could bring as much honesty to that adventure as Valerie Harper.

So, in honor of Rhoda and Harper, I’m sharing five episodes from the first season. Oh, yes, this was released on DVD in 2009. But 15 of the 25 half-hours were syndicated copies! Fortunately, the year was run complete and UNCUT on Comedy Gold in Canada, and I have all 25 of these entries beautifully restored and without edits… Now, for subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest, I will send you digital access to these versions of five classic episodes that were each about 02:30 shorter on the DVD: “Joe,” “Pop Goes The Question,” “The Shower,” “I’m A Little Late, Folks,” and “‘S Wonderful.” As a sample, here’s a clip from “Pop Goes The Question.” It’s got about 35 seconds of new footage.

 

Thank you, Ms. Harper, for Rhoda

and for the entirety of your joyful work! 

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Tuesday for more King Of Queens!

20 thoughts on “The Full RHODA: Honoring Valerie Harper

  1. I have always contended that the first season of “Rhoda” had every bit of wit, wisdom and sharp humor that people tried to find in “Taxi” and “Cheers” — two series which, to me, were more gloomy than entertaining.
    Thank you for posting this tribute and I would love to see the other four uncut scenes that you have.

    • Hi, Jeff! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have emailed you at your AT&T address for access to the aforementioned five episodes. (Better than just scenes — the above was only an excerpt of what’s missing from that installment!)

      And, incidentally, I do agree with you that TAXI and CHEERS were darker shows — both visibly and temperamentally — but I don’t think that has anything to do with discrepancies in “wit, wisdom, and sharp humor.” A character-driven show is a character-driven show, and like RHODA, both TAXI and CHEERS are easily traced back to the MTM brand of fine character-driven writing that started with the flagship, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW…

      Now, I know you don’t feel the same way, but I think the main difference is that all those other classics were able to maintain themselves longer than RHODA was, and I do believe the latter ultimately became a palpably sad show after the Joe split — regardless of “darkness” — and while this might not have affected the quality of character writing, it certainly affected the series’ dramatic thesis, for it had been predicated on optimism: “little Rhoda happy at last…” (I guess “at last” meant “until we run out of ideas.”)

  2. I was in college then and only saw Rhoda in summer reruns. She could say anything. And her family was something else. I’d love to see these 5 episodes. Thanks so much.

  3. I would appreciate links to the full episodes.

    When I saw RHODA not long ago on both TV Land & MeTV, I was surprised how much I liked Brenda as a character. Either I could relate to her the best, or she was just the funniest character. I remember in that 1976 TV Guide you picture above that as you stated, RHODA the series was having to go to Brenda stories because Rhoda as a married woman was too happy & not as funny as she was single.

    By your underlined statement above are you saying that all Baby Boomer women were happier single than married? To me that’s a somewhat depressing statement. Are you quoting a source there? That sounds like something that Gloria Steinem may have made, but I doubt that represents all Baby Boomer women. I hope not anyway.

    Thanks for posting this tribute. I’ve read & mostly enjoyed Ms. Harper’s book, I RHODA, and I’m sorry to see that she’s taken a turn for the worse. I hope that she can at least survive to her 80th birthday in a couple weeks.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      If I was quoting a source, I would have used quotation marks and cited the speaker. I think you’ve been around here long enough to know the words I write here are my own. But I’m always happy to expand on them, so thanks for the question.

      Obviously, I am not implying Baby Boomer women were happier single than married because I don’t think Rhoda was happier when she was single than when she was married. I didn’t say that above because I don’t think it.

      But I do think Rhoda’s arc was emblematic of the ‘70s, mirroring the ups and downs of a culture that challenged gender roles and therefore strained the relationship between men and women. She half-embraced the era’s feminism (as many did), holding liberal views on work, sex, and nominal equality, all the while refusing to reject the idea of old-fashioned romance or deny her long-held belief in the sanctity of marriage. And when her marriage didn’t work out (as many of the relationships from this uncertain era often didn’t), the character ended the series mired in an unshakable sadness, an “uncomfortable ennui” — making her the *opposite* of the above: she was happier married.

      By that point, not even Brenda as “Rhoda Lite” could put a positive spin on this once-happy sitcom, which had otherwise contained the genre’s most optimistic and romance-affirming moment of the decade…

      … Which all goes to say that I think Rhoda’s separation was both a function of frustrated writers who thought there was more story with a single lead than a married one (that’s what I meant above when I wrote “the show decided” she was better off single), and an inadvertent reflection of what more and more women were experiencing. And even though she wasn’t technically a boomer (b. 1941), Rhoda was an everywoman (*I* think more than Mary), and her arc ended up being more personal to the culture and more identifiable to the young women of that moment.

      So, I actually am saying something sad here, at least as far as the ‘70s is concerned, for I think Rhoda’s arc, on the two shows on which she existed anyway, *is* a sad one… But, fortunately, it’s filled with so much palpable humanity — thanks in large part to Valerie Harper.

      Also, I don’t see you on my subscribers list. If you’d like access to the episodes offered above, please subscribe to this blog using your preferred email address.

  4. I am so sorry to hear that Valerie is now towards the end of her life. She has brought so much enjoyment to the world of television. Thanks Valerie.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Fortunately, thanks to these wonderful shows, she’ll never be forgotten!

      Let me know if you’d like access to these uncut episodes.

  5. Oh please oh please include me! Rhoda was the sitcom that most closely approximated my experience of the 70s, living in Queens NY!

  6. Hi Jackson, I enjoy reading your blog, since I am a sitcom Man. Your posts are well written and insightful. I would love to see the Rhoda uncut episodes. When the 2-5 season DVD’s came out, I was able to notice right away the scenes that were cut for syndication, since I was so familiar with the show. Rhoda is somewhere in my top 5-10 sitcoms that are my all time favorites. Thank you for offering the digital copies!! It is nice of you to offer these. I cannot wait to see what dialogue I have been missing for decades!

  7. Jackson, i would truly love receiving these episodes.. I never missed an episode of RHODA and to see these uncut episodes would be a treat. Thank you.

    • Hi, Jeffrey! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Please subscribe to this blog using your preferred email address (don’t forget to confirm it) and I will send the episodes your way!

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