One of the best American sitcoms of all time was Rhoda. It was a groundbreaking sitcom that showed a female character navigating through the complexities of modern life. Valerie Harper, who played the eponymous Rhoda, made waves with this show.
The show lasted for 5 seasons for a total of 110 episodes. Yet, despite its successful start, the latter of these 110 episodes weren’t watched as much.
So, what went wrong? What caused this initially successful show to plummet after such a successful start?
Well, before we get into that – we’ll have to start at the beginning…
Join FactsVerse to learn about the Rhoda episode which single-handedly ruined the series…
HOW RHODA GOT HER START
Rhoda ran from September 9, 1974, to December 9, 1978. It was created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns and was broadcast on CBS.
The show followed Rhoda Morgenstern – a character we first met on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The character was played by Valerie Harper who gave one of the most memorable performances of any female character in an American sitcom.
The character was so popular that audiences wanted to see more of her after The Mary Tyler Moore Show came to an end. The show “Rhoda” was a successful spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
It followed Rhoda as she navigated her life in the busy streets of Manhattan. The show came at a time when many female-oriented sitcoms were taking the country the storm. This was the show that American audiences wanted to see – a complete contrast to the more traditional shows from the 50s and 60s.
Valerie Harper is still remembered for her role as Rhoda and the sitcom is still remembered fondly by fans today.
However, despite its initial success – the show actually plummeted and barely managed to stay on air for the later seasons.
So, what exactly went wrong?
Before we tell you more about Rhoda and what ruined the series, please like this video and subscribe to FactsVerse for more interesting stories about pop culture and your favorite celebrities and more fascinating biopics! Now, let’s get back to the video…
RHODA AND JOE
The show began with Rhoda leaving Minneapolis and returning to her native New York City. While her intention is to only stay for a short vacation and to meet her sister Brenda, she ends up staying for good.
Through Brenda, Rhoda ends up meeting a young man named Joe Gerard. Joe is a divorcee, with a 10-year old son named Donny. They end up dating during Rhoda’s vacation and eventually, Joe asks Rhoda to stay in New York City so that they can be together.
All of this happened in the pilot episode of the show – which was simply entitled “Joe.”
That’s how important the relationship between Rhoda and Joe was for the show. While the focus was on a young woman achieving her dreams, it was also crucial for the producers and writers to have a love interest to add to the dynamic of the show.
This pilot episode premiered at 9:30 PM on September 9, 1974. At the time, it set a record for being the first pilot episode to reach a #1 on the Nielsen Ratings. The show was an instant success and it was estimated that American audiences would want to see what Rhoda was up to for quite some time.
Eventually, Rhoda moves into her parent’s home – as Brenda’s apartment is a bit too small. While initially things go well, eventually her parents feel that Rhoda is spending too much time at home and needs to become independent once again.
Rhoda continues to spend even more time with Joe. And she soon decides their relationship has to go to the next level…
RHODA GETS MARRIED
Eventually, Rhoda and Joe became so close that Rhoda felt it was time for them to get married. On October 28, 1974, an hour-long episode aired that depicted Rhoda and Joe’s wedding.
This was perhaps one of the most advertised TV episodes in American sitcom history. The episode, The episode became the most popular TV episode in American history until it’s record was beaten by Roots in 1977.
The show won praise from the audience and critics alike. It was a well-scripted and acted episode and even though the show was still in its first season, it was already one of the most-loved sitcoms of all time!
It seemed that Rhoda was unstoppable. And now, Rhoda had Joe on her side. One would expect the show to get better and better with this new dynamic.
And indeed it did! Rhoda continued to rise up in the ratings and find new audience members again and again.
It was one of America’s most popular shows.
Until it wasn’t…
THIS RHODA EPISODE SINGLE-HANDEDLY RUINED THE SERIES
The episode where Rhoda and Joe got married was watched by over 52 million Americans. At the time, this was over half of the population that owned television sets!
It was such a phenomenon that families and groups of friends across the country gathered together to watch the episode. To this day, it remains one of the most popular TV show episodes of all time. Without a doubt, it’s on par with “Who Shot JR” and the last episode of “MASH”
There was much hype for this episode. The episode prior to the wedding episode was entitled “The New Sue Ann.” This episode discussing the upcoming wedding and this is what caused Americans to free up their schedules to watch “Rhoda’s Wedding.”
The show continued to be a success after “Rhoda’s Wedding.” However, there would soon be a rift that would cause it to fall apart.
One of the driving factors behind Rhoda is that it was a female-oriented sitcom which was the rage at the time. There was a desire among creators and audiences alike for gripping stories revolving around women.
It was then decided, that “Rhoda” should focus more on – well, Rhoda – and not Rhoda and Joe.
In the first episode of the 3rd season Rhoda and Joe have a huge fight and decide to separate. The episodes of the third season almost make you forget that you’re watching a sitcom and make you think that you’re watching a serious drama.
After all the fights, Rhoda tells Joe that if their marriage doesn’t work – then she’s going to start dating other men. Joe, tells her to go ahead and proceed and then we don’t see him after 9 episodes.
The producers and show’s writers obviously thought this was a great idea.
The audiences, did not.
HANGING IN THERE
The first episode of the third season of Rhoda is what ruined the series. Audiences had fallen in love with the couple and to see them fight was a huge – and unwelcome shocker.
There were many angry letters sent to CBS from loyal fans. It was clear that audiences loved both Rhoda and Joe and wanted to see them together. The show’s creators and writing team had to find a way to continue the show – even though ratings and viewership were plummeting!
In the fourth season, Rhoda and Joe have gotten divorced and Rhoda has now returned back to using her maiden name. She’s also much slimmer – as Valerie Harper went on a liquid diet at the time and lost 40 pounds.
She also finds a new job at a costume store and is eager to remain independent.
While season 4 was a hit, it still wasn’t as successful as previous seasons. It was clear that there was still an interest in Rhoda. But it was also clear that this interest was fading.
The show’s producers had to act fast – and find a way to revive the show.
The fifth season could have been that opportunity – but, alas, it wasn’t. The show’s creators tried to create more interesting stories around Rhoda but without Joe, the show wasn’t a success.
The show was cancelled after the fifth season and, alas, we never heard from Rhoda again.
Ironically, Rhoda remains one of the most popular sitcoms of all time – albeit, only for the first two seasons.
Sadly, we lost Valerie Harper in 2019 only a few days after her 80th birthday. She had been battling cancer for several years. Upon her passing, a new interest in Rhoda came about.
While she was a versatile actress with a great number of films and TV shows under her belt, it was clear that the character of Rhoda was one of her best performances. And though the show wasn’t a success in later years, the first two seasons are still remembered fondly.
So how should we look back at Rhoda today? While we may wish things would have worked out for Rhoda and Joe – we can remember the show as a groundbreaking sitcom and one of the first that put a female character in the spotlight.
With Rhoda, Valerie Harper paved the way for a new generation of TV actresses. For that, we should thank her and thank Rhoda.
Rhoda still has re-runs today and is available on streaming platforms. It’s still watched by legions of fans who remembered tuning in for “Rhoda’s Wedding” back in 1974. And we can expect that we’ll soon see a new legion of fans discovering this great show for the first time today!
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Rhoda? Did you watch it till the very end?
Here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think there’s a current sitcom that’s made as much of a cultural impact as Rhoda?
Or does there need to be a revival or re-introduction of Rhoda to a new generation?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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