‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’: Why Some Cast Members Were Happy To See Valerie Harper’s Rhoda Leave for Her Own Spinoff

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is an iconic TV series. Mary Tyler Moore may have been the sitcom’s main focus but she wasn’t the only actor to reach new levels of fame because of its success.

Valerie Harper became synonymous with her role as Moore’s on-screen best friend, Rhoda Morgenstern. Harper’s character became so popular she eventually got her own spinoff. But some of the actor’s fellow cast members on The Mary Tyler Moore Show were happy to see her go.  

‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ ran for 7 seasons 

The cast of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
The cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was unlike anything else when it premiered on Sept. 17, 1970. The program followed Moore’s character, Mary Richards, as a 30-something single woman living and working in Minneapolis, Minn. 

She landed a job as an associate producer of the evening news at WJM-TV. When she wasn’t trying to improve the station’s ratings, Mary helped anchor, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), and news writer, Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), with personal and work-related problems. After work, she retreated to her small studio apartment where she’d spend time with her upstairs neighbor, Morgenstern (Harper). 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran for seven seasons before ending in 1977. And in that time, the program landed multiple industry accolades. The comedy series landed not just award nominations but wins too. Betty White won two Emmys for her performance as Sue Ann Nivens. And Moore won a Golden Globe. Not to mention the entire ensemble cast won awards.

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Men got more screen time after Valerie Harper left for ‘Rhoda’

According to Mental Floss, men on The Mary Tyler Moore Show were happy to see Harper and her character leave for her own spinoff series in 1974. But it had nothing to do with her personally. The cast enjoyed working with Harper but when her character left, that freed up some of the show’s screen time.

During Harper’s four seasons on the program, many episodes focused on “the girls.” Set at Mary’s apartment, the men were stuck off-camera in the newsroom. So when Harper left to star on Rhoda that meant the men had the opportunity to be in more scenes.

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‘Rhoda’ became a success

Spinoffs don’t always succeed. But in the case of Rhoda, having a character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show strike out on their own proved successful for CBS.

Rhoda premiered in 1974 and ran for five seasons. It followed Harper’s character as she left Minneapolis and moved to New York City. Although it didn’t reach the same level of fame as the original, Rhoda did well. Harper won two awards for her performance in Rhoda. She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 1975 for the series. 

Watch every season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu. 

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