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Mary and Rhoda.
|First appearance||"Love Is All Around"|
|Last appearance||Mary and Rhoda|
|Created by||James L. Brooks and Allan Burns|
|Portrayed by||Valerie Harper|
Former costume designer
Former window dresser
|Family||Martin Morgenstern (father)
Ida Morgenstern (mother)
Debbie Morgenstern (sister)
Brenda Morgernstern (sister)
Arnold Morgenstern (brother)
Grandmother Morgenstern (paternal grandmother)
|Spouse(s)||Joe Gerard (divorced)
Jean-Pierre Rousseau (divorced)
|Children||Meredith Rousseau (daughter)
Donny Gerard (stepson)
The original opening of the series Rhoda establishes that Rhoda Faye Morgenstern was born in the Bronx, New York, in December of 1941. She is the daughter of Ida and Martin Morgenstern (Nancy Walker and Harold Gould), and grew up in New York before moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota sometime in the late 1960s. On The Mary Tyler Moore Show Rhoda had a sister named Debbie (Liberty Williams) seen in one episode, and a briefly-mentioned brother named Arnold; they were retconned out of the back story when the character got her own series. On Rhoda, Rhoda's only sibling was a younger sister named Brenda, although in the sixth episode, Brenda refers to herself as Rhoda's "youngest sister."
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Relocating from New York City, Rhoda was a window dresser at Hempel's after being fired at Bloomfield's department store in Minneapolis. (She also became the proprietor of a plant boutique in one third season episode, though this was not again referenced after that.) She rented an attic loft apartment in the same house as the building manager, Phyllis Lindstrom.
Though she initially clashed with Mary Richards in the show's debut episode, when Mary moved into the larger apartment a floor below Rhoda's (which Rhoda had been trying to secure for herself), they quickly became best friends, despite their differences. (While Mary was a polite, sophisticated midwesterner, Rhoda was an astringent, brash New Yorker.) Throughout the series, Rhoda and Phyllis maintained an adversarial-but-friendly relationship. She also developed a close bond with Phyllis's daughter, Bess, who referred to Rhoda as her "aunt."
While living in Minneapolis, Rhoda received infrequent visits from her parents.
In 1974, Harper departed from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to star in Rhoda.
In Rhoda, Rhoda Morgenstern moved back to New York City, where she met ruggedly handsome Joe Gerard (David Groh) and married him soon afterward. The couple moved into the same building occupied by Rhoda's sister, Brenda, and for the first two years of the show, Rhoda worked at her own small window dressing company while Joe pursued his career as a building contractor. Brenda, a single, insecure, self-conscious bank teller, often turned to Rhoda for advice (especially with regard to her love life), and Rhoda's parents Ida and Martin were seen frequently.
Rhoda's marriage soured after two years, and Rhoda and Joe eventually divorced. Later episodes featured Rhoda tentatively re-entering the dating scene. She also wound down her struggling window dressing company, and took a job at a costume company.
Mary and Rhoda
Rhoda gave up her career as a window dresser/costume designer and pursued a career as a photographer in the time between the 1978 cancellation of Rhoda and the 2000 made-for-television movie Mary and Rhoda. By this time she had also married and divorced Jean-Pierre Rousseau, a union which produced her only child, a daughter named Meredith. Mary and Rhoda had lost track of one-another after an argument over Rhoda's second husband, whom Mary disliked, but they reconnected and reestablished their friendship in the 2000 movie.
Harper won four Primetime Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Rhoda, with three of these awards for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and one for Rhoda. In 2006, Entertainment Weekly ranked Rhoda Morgenstern 23rd on its list of the best sidekicks ever. Bravo ranked Rhoda 57th on their list of the 100 greatest TV characters. In 2000, Time magazine stated that Rhoda's relationship with Mary Richards was "one of the most renowned friendships in TV."