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Series / Rhoda

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"My name is Rhoda Morgenstern. I was born in the Bronx, New York, in December 1941. I've always felt responsible for World War II. The first thing I remember liking that liked me back was food. I had a bad puberty — it lasted 17 years. I'm a high school graduate. I went to art school. My entrance exam was on a book of matches. I decided to move out of the house when I was 24; my mother still refers to this as the time I ran away from home. Eventually I ran to Minneapolis, where it's cold, and I figured I'd keep better. Now I'm back in Manhattan. New York, this is your last chance!"
Rhoda Morgenstern, Opening Narration

A Spin-Off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that ran on CBS from 1974–78. Developed by that show's creators, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, Rhoda followed Mary's best friend and former neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) as she moved from Minneapolis to her native New York City to be with the man of her dreams, good-looking divorcé Joe Gerard (David Groh), whom she marries midway through the first season. Other characters include Rhoda's perpetually self-deprecating kid sister Brenda (Julie Kavner), with whom she initially shared an apartment; their parents, meddling Jewish Mother Ida (Nancy Walker) and Closer to Earth father Martin (Harold Gould); and the never clearly seen doorman in their building, Carlton (voiced by Lorenzo Music).

The show became famous as an example of the disaster that can befall a show when a Relationship Upgrade occurs too soon. CBS chief programmer Fred Silverman forced the writers to marry Rhoda to Joe as soon as possible, with the reasoning that getting her married at last would result in huge ratings. He was right about the ratings: the special one-hour Wedding Episode was one of the most-watched TV events in history. Unfortunately, however, the writers were now finding it increasingly difficult to write stories about a happily-married Rhoda, often instead writing episodes showcasing Walker's comedic performance as Ida, or focusing on Brenda's problems including her on-again, off-again relationship with accordion player Nick Lobo (Richard Masur). Eventually, they decided that Rhoda's appeal came from her status as an insecure single woman. A series of Retools thus ensued, with Rhoda getting separated and divorced from Joe, which caused the show's popularity to plummet. It managed to last for over 100 episodes, but it never got back the popularity of its early years. Even Silverman later admitted that having Rhoda marry Joe so soon was a mistake.

This show provides examples of:

  • And a Diet Coke: Brenda unloads a bunch of frozen convenience foods, followed by a six-pack of diet soda, because according to her after eating all that junk she needs to watch her calories.
  • Big Eater: Brenda, who is often seen either buying or eating large amounts of food
  • Catchphrase: "Hello, this is Carlton, your doorman."
  • Christmas Episode: "Guess What I Got You for the Holidays" is an interesting example, in that it's never specified whether Rhoda and Joe are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, or both.
  • Halloween Episode: "Ida Works Out"
  • Happily Married: Rhoda and Joe were supposed to be this in the first two seasons, but the writers had trouble making it convincing.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Rhoda and Brenda tend to drown their romantic woes in food. They once commiserated over a pie a la mode - unfortunately, it was a beef pie.
  • Informed Judaism: Rhoda's Jewishness is considerably de-emphasized compared with her portrayal on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This was presumably done in order to make the character (and her relationship with the non-Jewish Joe) more acceptable to "mainstream" audiences. (For context, a few years earlier there had been a sitcom about another interfaith marriage, Bridget Loves Bernie, which was cancelled because of the resultant controversy.)
  • Jewish Complaining: Ida can pull off a rant with the best of them.
  • Jewish Mother: Ida. She wields guilt like a sledgehammer on Rhoda and Brenda.
  • New Year Has Come: "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"
  • Progressively Prettier: Brenda dresses better and gets more dates as the show goes on, mirroring Rhoda's own progress on the parent show.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Nancy Walker and Harold Gould both left the show during season 3: Walker to headline Blansky's Beauties and The Nancy Walker Show on ABC; Gould to star in The Feather and Father Gang on NBC. Both returned the following year after their respective programs ended up failing.
    • Season 4 opens with the revelation that Rhoda has divorced Joe, who's never seen again.
  • Replacement Flat Character: Brenda is basically everything Rhoda had been on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, with the same low self-esteem and Deadpan Snarker tendencies. Lampshaded in the pilot by Rhoda, who says that looking at Brenda is "like looking in a four year-old mirror."
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Mary Richards appears in several episodes, and almost the entire MTM cast (minus Ted and Sue Ann) shows up for Rhoda's wedding.
  • Retool: Several. The fourth season of the show even had Rhoda going to work for a crusty but Benevolent Boss Jack Doyle who was the writers' obvious attempt to re-create the Mary/Lou Grant relationship from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave:
    • Rhoda herself, in a way; the pilot episode has her staying with Brenda for a "two-week vacation", but things change once she meets Joe.
    • Mary Richards was this in Joe's eyes in one episode in which she suddenly pops in unannounced just before a romantic, and possibly marriage-saving, planned weekend away.
  • The Voice: Carlton is heard on the intercom but never seen (save for a couple times when he appears as The Faceless).
    • Subverted and then averted in Carlton's animated pilot, which spends the first full minute carefully avoiding showing Carlton's face, before zooming in for a dramatic close-up as he says his catchphrase into a mirror, and thereafter making no attempt to hide his face. If you're wondering, he's thin and stooped, with a long nose, shoulder-length blond hair, and a droopy mustache.
  • Wedding Episode: The eighth episode of season 1, the appropriately-titled "Rhoda's Wedding", is about the titular character getting married.