‘Rhoda’: A Jaw-Dropping Amount of People Watched Rhoda’s Wedding

by Megan Molseed

Today is a big anniversary. It’s been forty-seven years since one of the biggest weddings in television history. This wedding was so big, in fact, that broke records. Ultimately bringing in a jaw-dropping number of viewers on a Monday night. The moment? It was the moment former The Mary Tyler Moore Show character, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) married Joe Gerard.

Audiences were first introduced to Rhoda Morgenstern on the wildly popular sitcom Mary Tyler Moore Show. In this series which aired from 1974 until 1978, Rhoda portrayed the brash and outspoken upstairs neighbor to Moore’s Mary Richards. While she may have been a lot with her outspoken nature, Rhoda quickly became a fan favorite.

So much so that, not long into the start of The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s run, that Harper moved into her own show. Titled Rhoda, this series was a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The series followed Rhoda as she tried her luck leaving Minnesota’s Twin Cities for Manhattan.

‘Rhoda’ Breaks Records During First Season On Air

When the iconic – and record-breaking – Rhoda episode premiered, the series had only been on the air for a total of seven episodes.

But, despite its newness to the Monday evening television lineup, the series had already developed a major fan base. Nearly fifty-two million viewers tuned in for this iconic episode.

A record-breaking number a the time. This viewership was only topped only by the I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy gave birth to little Ricky.

Of course, some fan-favorite guest stars could have helped bring in the large audience. The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Mary Richards and Lou Grant (Ed Asner) were in attendance.

Valerie Harper earned an Emmy award for her portrayal as the soon-to-be-wed Rhoda Morgenstern in this episode. This is actually Harper’s fourth Emmy award. She earned three Emmys prior to the episode, each for portraying the much-adored character as well.

Harper Felt Permanently Connected To Her Character

According to Harper, it was also this episode that forever connected the actress to her character.

“It was this hour-long special that permanently united Valerie Harper and Rhoda Morgenstern for life,” Harper has said of the iconic episode.

“Before the wedding, I’d often been called Rhoda,” the actress explained. “But after the special aired, it took on a whole new dimension.”

Harper added that believes that there was a connection the audience felt with her character.

“The audience felt as if a family member were getting married,” Harper explained.

The October 28, 1974 episode of the popular series featured the actress running around New York City as she tries desperately to make it to her own nuptials.

Rhoda’s friend, the forever self-focused Phylis (Cloris Leachman) forgets to pick the bride up to bring her to the ceremony. So, this takes Rhoda all across the city trying to make it to her own wedding on time. All while dressed in her wedding attire, gown, and all.