About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rhoda (1974)

"Hiya, Joe!"
Welcome to the Valerie Harper blogathon!  A group of pop culture bloggers came together to celebrate and pay tribute to the life and career of actress Valerie Harper.  When I heard that Amanda By Night from Made for TV Mayhem was putting this together, I knew I wanted in.  I'm the hugest Harper fan--and I absolutely LOVE that I'm not the only one.  Of course, I wanted to share my passion through a holiday episode and I chose one from the first season of Rhoda entitled "Guess What I Got You for the Holidays."

"...New York, this is your last chance!"  Rhoda began in 1974 as a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Joe speaks with his employees about his difficulty in collecting his debts and how to pay his bills without any money coming in.

In this episode, Rhoda is excited for the holidays this year: she’s married and she has a little money saved up.  However, her husband Joe is very depressed.  His demolition company New York Wrecking is struggling for contracts and he has debts that need paying.  Rhoda gives him her savings so he can pay his debts and relieve some of his stress.  There’s even an ongoing joke--Rhoda keeps trying to get Joe to cry, either as stress relief or to express his joy at her beautiful sacrifice.

Joe and Rhoda spend a lot of time in this episode trying to solve their emotional troubles together.
While this episode doesn't depict an elaborate holiday celebration, I still like it for what it is.  Rhoda clearly states that she's excited to have the opportunity to give Joe all her money--she's never had money saved before and now that she's married, she sees it more as their money.  And she likes it that way.  For Rhoda, the holiday sacrifice seems to be a fulfilling way she not only gets to express her love to Joe but prove to herself how much she loves him.  If that's not in the holiday spirit, I don't know what is.

Rhoda and Brenda wrap gifts--for Hanukkah or Christmas?

Though you may not even notice while watching this episode, Rhoda doesn't even mention Christmas--nor Hanukkah.  We see establishing shots of New York City decorated for the Christmas season and we see Rhoda with shopping bags and discussing with her sister Brenda what gift they should give their mother.  But there's no Christmas tree in the apartment--and no menorah either.  I think either would be perfectly appropriate with the rest of the episode's storyline.  But the holiday--whichever she's celebrating--kept in the background doesn't make this storyline any less romantic or complete.

If anything, this holiday moment is a bittersweet one as we watch Rhoda giving so freely, trying very hard to express her love for Joe, while we know the marriage will eventually crumble.  But for this one precious holiday in her marriage, Rhoda has her generous gift to give.

Carlton the Doorman asking if Rhoda received the gift he left on her doorstep.
A little Christmas trivia:

Did you know that Lorenzo Music the man who provides the voice to the off-screen character Carlton the Doorman is also the voice of the animated cat in 1987's classic A Garfield Christmas?

Joe's demolition company New York Wrecking includes Mae (above) played by actress Cara Williams.

A little more Christmas trivia:  Actress Cara Williams, who plays Joe's employee in this episode, can also be seen playing Raggedy Ann in the 1961 episode "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll" on The Red Skelton Show--an Christmas episode with a long legacy and one of the most heartwarming of Skelton's pantomime sketches.

Williams and Skelton as Raggedy Ann and Freddie the Freeloader in "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll."

If you love Valerie Harper as much as I do, I encourage you to check out the other posts in this blogathon which celebrate Harper's life and career.  Click HERE for the link to Amanda's site, Made for TV Mayhem with the master list of the other participating blogs.

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