9 things you never knew about 'Rhoda'
Who knew this sitcom had such an influence on cartoons?
Image: The Everett Collection
Who could forget those head scarves? Rhoda Morgenstern brought life and color to 1970s television, and helped redefine the single (and then married, and then single again) woman on network sitcoms. Brilliantly played by Valerie Harper, Rhoda was an immediate fan favorite on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which led to her own hit sitcom, Rhoda, in 1974.
Just how popular was Rhoda? The series went head-to-head with Monday Night Football — and won. People loved the city dweller in Minneapolis and in New York City.
Let's take a deeper look into this classic series.
1. The wedding episode set ratings records.
Early in season one, Rhoda got hitched to her flame Joe Gerard. The big event was the highest rated television episode of the 1970s, until Roots came along in 1977. More than 53 million Americans tuned in to watch Rhoda frantically run around New York City in her wedding dress. At the time, only the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" had been seen by more viewers. Rhoda and Joe would split a couple seasons later, and the sitcom shifted focus to the life of a divorcée.
2. Rhoda originally had a little sister named Debbie who disappeared.
Speaking of weddings… A 1973 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "Rhoda's Sister Gets Married," introduced a younger Morgenstern named Debbie. However, when Rhoda rolled along a year later, Debbie was nowhere to be found. What happened to little Debbie? The character was played by Louise "Liberty" Williams, who would later voice Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins on Super Friends.
3. Harper went from making $700 a week to $25,000 a week playing Rhoda.
When Rhoda kicked off in 1974, Harper was earning $25,000 and a percentage in the series, according to a People article from the time. The deal was in part to help make up for the measly salary she made when she started playing the character four years earlier. When she began on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Harper pulled in just $700 per week.
4. Rhoda's sister is the voice of Marge Simpson.
Julie Kavner portrayed the younger Morgenstern sister, Brenda. Today, the performer is best recognized as the voice of Marge Simpson. Brenda would not get married on the series, unfortunately. She gets engaged in the fifth and final season, and a wedding episode was planned, but the series was canceled midseason. Poor Brenda.
5. The voice of Carlton was the voice of Garfield.
One of Rhoda's — and '70s TV's — greatest characters was Carlton, the mostly unseen, lackadaisical doorman in Rhoda's building. Rhoda and Brenda would often chat with him through an intercom by the door. (Carlton's body was seen briefly in two episodes, like when he wore an ape mask, seen here.) Lorenzo Music brought the character to life with little more than sound. He would go on to bring essentially the same voice to Garfield. When Music passed away in 2001, Garfield creator Jim Davis wrote in tribute, "I began to wonder if anyone could deliver the sardonic, lazy voice I was hearing in my head. Then Lorenzo sat down to the mike. He helped define Garfield."
6. Carlton got his own cartoon spin-off.
The obscure cartoon might be the ultimate Mary Tyler Moore Show trivia question, as it was a spin-off of the spin-off. This animated pilot aimed to explore his life. However, despite winning an Emmy award in 1980, the show was not picked up as a series and aired only once.
7. Carlton even released a song.
Yes, Carlton became quite the pop culture phenomenon. With a name like Music, how could the actor not record a song? Music released the single "Who Is It?" b/w "The Girl In 510" in 1975. The doorman proclaims, "No strangers can enter on my watch — but they can when I'm on break." Take a listen to it.
8. Nancy Walker left for a season.
Nancy Walker and Harold Gould delighted audiences as Rhoda's parents, Ida and Martin. In season three, the 1976–77 season, Walker left the series to headline her own sitcoms, The Nancy Walker Show (seen here) and the Happy Days spin-off Blansky's Beauties. The writers explained the parents' absence by saying they were traveling the country in an RV. Both Walker shows flopped. She returned to Rhoda the following season.
Image: The Everett Collection
9. An apartment in Rhoda's building is worth around $750,000 today.
On the show, it is said that Rhoda lives at 332 E. 64th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In reality, the exterior shown onscreen sits at 332 E. 84th Street. Today, a unit in the building can run anywhere from $450,000 (for a one-bedroom flat on the first floor) to nearly $800,000 for two bedrooms. Hopefully they have a better doorman than Carlton these days.
Image: Google Maps
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