Sunday, 1 May 2016
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.