RIP Valerie Harper…”Rhoda” Was Part Of A Revolution For Women On TV…

valerie harper dancing withg the stars

RIP Valerie harper…

Sad new…one of television’s most empowered women has died. As reports:

“Valerie Harper, the Emmy-winning sitcom star whose role as the somewhat neurotic “Rhoda Morgenstern” made her one of television’s biggest and most beloved stars in the 1970s, has died. She was 80 and had been suffering from various cancers for a number of years. She had been in a coma for a while before succumbing today, her family told ABC entertainment reporter George Pennacchio.”

The veteran TV and stage actress was best known for playing sidekick Rhoda Morgenstern in the 1970s on the groundbreaking TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, and starred in her own popular spin-off, “Rhoda.”

This is such a sad story, as Harper had battled cancer in the past. Many know her TV work, but you might not know just how revolutionary “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was at the time it aired in the 70’s…here’s some backstory on this groundbreaking series:


“American audiences won’t tolerate divorce in a series’ lead any more than they will tolerate Jews, people with mustaches, and people who live in New York.”

And with that, TV Execs trashed the concept for one of the greatest TV sitcoms of all time – The Mary Tyler Moore Show!

Read what they said again:

“American audiences won’t tolerate divorce in a series’ lead any more than they will tolerate Jews, people with mustaches, and people who live in New York.”

No divorce. No mustaches. No New Yorkers.



It’s almost impossible to understand the way TV was at the end of the 60’s. Lucky for us, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” broke through ALL of these restrictions to create an iconic TV comedy. Here is the cast that helped change the rules for TV forever!

Best TV casts of all time

And here is the classic line, uttered by News Director Lou Grant, when young Mary Richards came in for a job interview:

“You Got Spunk! (short pause) I Hate Spunk!”


What you may not know is that veteran character actor Ed Asner, when he auditioned for the role of grizzled newman Lou Grant, botched that line so bad he had to burst back into the room and demand to try it again!


Cue The Behind-The-Scenes Stories!

It has been called one of the five best TV sitcoms of all time. It opened doors for women, both onscreen and off, and it almost never happened! Wait until you hear about some of the stories of what happened behind-the-scenes during the creation of this classic show!


When writer-producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns dreamed up an edgy show about a divorced woman with a career, you already know how the CBS executives reacted. Now, read how the Producers persevered again all odds!

Mary Tyler Moore Show biography

Now A Book Tells All!

I came across this TERRIFIC book several years ago that looked inside the creation of this classic TV show – with tons of interviews with all of those involved!


“I’m an experienced woman. I’ve been around…well all right, I might not have been around, but I’ve been…nearby.”

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted” tells the stories behind the making of this show, shining a well-deserved light on the groundbreaking female writers who in some cases turned their real-life stories of being a single woman at the dawn of the sexual revolution into scripts…

Treva Silverman

You’ll meet writers like Treva Silverman, and find out how she made it in a male-dominated industry – resulting in the show taking on “modern day female issues” that were never discussed on TV before then!

great female TV characters

Mary, Phyllis And Rhoda!

It was unprecedented for a woman to headline her own show – and now add Phyllis and Rhoda, and you had three of the most important, groundbreaking characters on TV. The book introduces you to creative team behind these indelible characters; the lone woman network executive who cast the legendary ensemble — and advocated for this provocative show — and the colorful cast of actors who made it all work.

Ted Baxter and Lou Grant

James L. Brooks, Grant Tinker, Allan Burns, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel — they all came together to make a show that changed women’s lives and television itself. “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted” is the tale of how they did it.

The First Cast Photo!

Here’s the first publicity photo shot for the show…

Best TV casts of all time

For fun, the cast also did a goofy version of their publicity shot at the same time, which they planned to send Critics who wrote a negative article about the show…supposedly to show they had a sense of humor…but as BAD reviews started coming in, they panicked, and so they destroyed the picture…except for this copy that a secretary kept as a souvenir!

best TV cast

The book is full of great anecdotes and candid comments from everyone, including Mary Tyler Moore, who was afraid the audience would reject her as a divorced woman – and then of course it didn’t matter, because the network demanded she just get “dumped” by a fiance instead!

The Last Episode!

Mary Tyler Moore Farewell

Of course, the final episode is one of TV’s best ever, and it is a show with so much heart, emotion and of course humor, you can watch it over and over…which is easier to do now that every episode of the show is also on DVD!

Mary Tyler Moore DVD

“I’m Ted Baxter, The Best Darn Anchorman On TV!”

That is, of course, what Ted said when he testified in court. Why did he say that?

“I had to – I was under oath!”

Just another hilarious line from one of the greatest character ever created for TV. The book is full of stories about how insecure Ted Knight was with his character, afraid that people would think he was as stupid as his TV character…

Ted Knight As Ted Baxter

And when Rhoda and Phyllis left for spin-offs, the book also tells the fascinating story about how Betty White was cast as “Happy Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens…so many great anecdotes!

MTM best show on TV

And now Betty White has been given a Guinness Book of World Records award as the longest running TV personality of all time…congrats Betty!

It is, without a doubt, one of the funniest shows ever created, and this book gives you great inside stories about how it was created – and gives you a much better appreciation for the talent of Mary Tyler Moore as well.

Valerie Harper was one of the members of this incredible cast that broke barriers forever…

RIP Valerie Harper.

Categories: Art, Awards, Books / Media, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Politics, Pop Culture, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show

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18 replies

  1. I loved the Mary Tyler More Show. She was a role model for many of us at the time. So sad to hear that Valerie Harper has passed away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to love watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show when I was a kid. I did not realize then that it was pushing the boundaries. An interesting article John.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is sad when such iconic people pass, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wanted to share the information on the book about the show, because people don’t realize just how revolutionary it was for its time..she portrayed an empowered SINGLE woman, of which there were none on TV – and Jewish as well, which was, amazingly enough, a controversial choice! Thanks for commenting, Robbie!


  4. I used to watch Rhoda, and always thought Valerie was such a nice lady too.
    Sad news.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such sad news. I remember the shows well – they truly were groundbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a groundbreaking show. And Valerie Harper will be greatly missed.😞

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a fun show with so many great memories! Too bad she lost her battle with cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent post! I loved The Mary Tyler Moore show. It was very ahead of its time! thank you for the memory!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Way ahead of their time


  10. Mary: I know. I know. I’ve been around.
    (Everyone in the news room freezes and the looks @ her, disbelieving. A beat.)
    Mary: Ok, so maybe i haven’t been around. But i’ve been nearby.

    A classic.

    Liked by 1 person

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