Sunday, 1 May 2016

389 Rhoda

First  viewed : Uncertain

I  have  little  idea  when  I  first  saw  this. I  recall  that  my  Mum  had  been  watching  it  for  a  while  without  me  and  my  sister  and  that  by  the  time  we  caught  up, her  favourite  character  Ida  wasn't  in  it.  That  would  make  it  the  third  US  season  which  was  broadcast  here  in  1978  and 1979.

Rhoda  was  a  spin-off  from  The  Mary  Tyler  Moore  Show  where  the  character  of  Rhoda  Morgenstern  (  Valerie  Harper  )  appeared  as  Mary's  Jewish  best  friend. She  was  given  her  own  show  in  1974  along  with  her  frumpy  sister  Brenda  ( Julie  Kavner ) and  overbearing  mama  Ida  ( Nancy  Walker ).   Despite  Ida's  stereotypical  behaviour,   Rhoda's  Jewishness  was  actually  downplayed  compared  to    TMTMS    and  in  fact  neither  Harper  nor  Walker  were  genuinely  Jewish.  The  show  took  off  like  a  bomb  and  the  hour  long  episode  where  Rhoda  got  married  to  a  guy  named  Joe  drew  a  phenomenal  audience.

There  was  a  price  to  be  paid  for  that  though. When  the  writers  felt  Rhoda's  marriage  had  run  its  course  and  decided  on  a  divorce  in  the  third  season   much  of   the  show's  audience    turned  off  ( Walker's  absence  from  this  season  probably  also  contributed  to  the  desertion ).  In  the   subsequent  seasons ,  the  focus  switched  more  to  Brenda's  love  life  and  there  was  some  recovery  in  the  ratings  but  it  never  regained  its  former  popularity.  It  was  cancelled  in  1978  after  five  seasons.

I  never  liked  it. I  hated  the  laughter  track  with  its  wild  whoops   at  not  particularly  funny  moments  and  simply  couldn't  believe  that  any  guy  would  be  interested  in  Brenda,  with  her  big  nose  and  that  grating  squawk  of  a  voice , if   Rhoda  was on  hand.  Even  more  irritating  though  was  Carlton, the  unseen  doorman  whose  whiny  camp  monotone  was  surely  the  inspiration  for  the  voice  of   Marvin  in  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  To  The  Galaxy.

Harper  eventually  found  another  successful   comedy  vehicle  in  Valerie  in  the  mid-eighties  though  it  ended  sourly  for  her  and  she  later  to  Broadway. In  recent  years  she  has  been  struggling  with  cancer.   Walker  fancied  moving  behind  the  camera  but  her  directorial  career  was  stillborn  after  the  notorious  failure  of  the  Village  People  film   Can't  Stop  The  Music. She  continued  to  find  work  in  TV comedy  and  won  an  Emmy  for  her  work  in  The  Golden  Girls  . She  died  in  1992.  Kavner  had  a  few  lean  years  before  being  rescued  by  Woody  Allen  with  a  good  role  in  Hannah  and  Her  Sisters  .  That  was  followed  by  The  Tracey  Ullman  Show   which   led   directly  to  the  part  which  has  been  her  bread  and  butter  for  the  past  three  decades  - the  voice  of  Marge  in  The  Simpsons - though  she  has  taken  film  roles. mainly  for  Allen.

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