Stream On: ‘Rhoda’—where’s the love? Where’s the streaming?

By on July 20, 2023

The 1974 sitcom Rhoda was the first spin-off from the very successful Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was the first television series ever to achieve a number-one Nielsen rating for its premiere episode, even defeating ABC’s Monday Night Football. As with the characters of “Mary Richards” and her friend “Rhoda Morgenstern” from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, so it was with their respective series: I liked Rhoda a whole lot more, and I’m not alone.* But as of this writing, Rhoda is not available for streaming.


/Amazon /Not streaming as of July 2023 /YouTube /S1 DVD Trailer /6.8/10 /1974 /TVG

Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) was the antagonist of the first episode of the 1970 Mary Tyler Moore Show. When Mary Richards leaves her home town and moves to the “big city” of Minneapolis, she rents an apartment from her high-school friend Phyllis Lindstrom (Chloris Leachman) only to find it already occupied by an obnoxious girl from the Bronx who claims it belongs to her, as she saw it first and wants it.

But in the fullness of a few episodes, Mary became best friends with this unpleasant girl, Rhoda Morganstern, who finally took an apartment upstairs from Mary. Rhoda wasn’t so unpleasant after all, and Phyllis, a deeply unlikeable character, became the second series antagonist, while Rhoda became Mary’s best friend, and one of the first “Cosmo Kramer” types: a quirky but loveable neighbor who stole every scene she was in.

In 1974 Valerie Harper left the Mary Tyler Moore Show to set up shop in her own sitcom as the same character. That it was called Rhoda, after the star’s character, when Mary Tyler Moore had named her show after herself, and not her character, fit with my notions about the two actresses. Like Mary Richards, Tyler Moore seemed insincere, condescending and uptight (I’m not saying she wasn’t a great actress), but Rhoda was an Earth Mother: big-hearted, loud and warm. And so, apparently, was Valerie.

The first episode of Rhoda is entitled “Joe.” Rhoda visits her sister Brenda in New York City—and falls in love with a divorced businessman, Joe Gerard (David Groh). She decides to move back permanently. In quick succession we get a bevy of famous guest stars: Henry Winkler, Howard Hesseman, James Burrows, and of course Mary Tyler Moore, reinforcing Rhoda’s link to Mary Richards.

Episodes 8 and 9 were shown together on October 28, 1974: Rhoda’s wedding to Joe. It was a crossover episode with the MTM Show featuring Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) from Minneapolis. 52 million viewers watched: it was the second most-watched episode in TV history up to then. (The first was when Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky on I Love Lucy in 1953.)

Those ties being established, Rhoda moved on with very little further interaction with Mary Tyler Moore Show stars; Rhoda’s brilliant ensemble cast picked up the ball and ran with it. Julie Kavner, in her first professional acting role as Brenda Morganstern, was great as Rhoda’s insecure younger sister; she is still at work as one of the stars of The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s still-popular animated family comedy now in its 34th season.

Nancy Walker was electric as Rhoda and Brenda’s mom, Ida Morganstern: I would say she was a breakout character, but the whole cast were breakout characters. Ida lived in the Bronx; Brenda and Rhoda lived in Manhattan, and when Rhoda married Joe, they took an apartment in the same building as Brenda. The breakout voice of the show, one of the first unseen characters, Carlton, the dipsomaniac doorman, was voiced by producer Lorenzo Music (who later became the voice of Garfield). Carlton was heard on Rhoda’s building’s intercom: his shaky voice would intone “This is Carlton, your doorman,” even when Rhoda or Brenda would buzz him, saying, “Carlton?” “This is Carlton, your doorman,” he would answer.

Carlton had his own storylines. After an off-screen fire in the lobby, he told Rhoda that the fire flared up when he tried to put it out. “The water didn’t help?” Rhoda said into the intercom. After a moment, Carlton replied, sheepishly, “Water?” Carlton became so popular that an animated spinoff pilot was aired in 1980, which is available on YouTube. Although the pilot of Carlton Your Doorman, starring Lorenzo Music, won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program, it was never picked up by the network as a series.

I expect that sooner or later Rhoda will stream; in the meantime, every episode seems to be on YouTube, and DVD’s of every season are available on

*“Watching ‘Rhoda’s Wedding’ followed by an episode like ‘The Ultimatum’ is to see just how the producers created a better show [than the Mary Tyler Moore Show]” (Emily St. James, The AV Club, April 2013)

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers. Columns are archived and updated when necessary on Substack.


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