Valerie Harper’s Historic TV Wedding On ‘Rhoda’ Remembered By Fans 45 Years Later As They Mourn Her Death

The 'Rhoda's Wedding' episode was almost as watched as Little Ricky's birth on 'I Love Lucy' and even beat Monday Night Football in the ratings.

Photo of Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern and David Groh as Joe Gerard from the television program Rhoda
CBS Television / Wikimedia Commons

The 'Rhoda's Wedding' episode was almost as watched as Little Ricky's birth on 'I Love Lucy' and even beat Monday Night Football in the ratings.

Valerie Harper’s death has television fans remembering her most famous roles. The four-time Emmy Award winner died at age 80 after a long battle with cancer.

Harper was best known as Rhoda Morgenstern, the best friend character she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The character was so popular that she scored her own self-titled spinoff in 1974, as previously shared by The Inquisitr.

The 1970’s series had Rhoda relocating to New York City and it boasted some big TV moments, most notably Rhoda’s wedding to construction executive Joe Gerard (David Groh). Rhoda, fresh from Minneapolis and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, married her short-time beau in an hour-long special episode on October 28, 1974, which was heavily advertised by CBS. The episode was must-see TV before must-see TV was even a thing.

According to Parade, a whopping 52 million viewers tuned in to watch Rhoda marry Joe on the spinoff series’ eighth episode. At the time, the hour-long television episode became one of the highest-rated TV episodes in history, bested only by Little Ricky’s birth on I Love Lucy in 1953.

Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell, who hosted Monday Night Football on ABC that night, even referenced the rival network’s TV wedding during his broadcast as he joked that he wasn’t invited to Rhoda and Joe’s nuptials.

Nearly 45 years later after the historic TV event, fans recalled the famous “Rhoda’s Wedding” episode as they mourned the death of Harper.

Classic TV fans will recall the “Rhoda’s Wedding” episode, which featured Harper’s Rhoda running through New York city in her wedding gown and veil as she hopped a subway to get to her wedding venue. The episode scored Harper her fourth Emmy Award.

The one-hour episode also featured a major TV crossover. On the October 26 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the characters talked about Mary’s best friend Rhoda’s pending nuptials in the Big Apple. In the end, Rhoda’s Minneapolis pals, Mary, Lou Grant (Edward Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) all made cameos on Rhoda as they attended the NYC wedding.

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By the show’s fourth season, however, there was trouble in paradise. Rhoda and Joe were divorced, a story arc that was negatively received by viewers. At the time, producer Charlotte Brown told TV Guide that while the audience wasn’t bored—yet—the show needed a new direction because Rhoda was too settled as a married woman.

“Everything was so nice for our Rhoda in her happily married life,” Brown said, per The Hollywood Reporter. “She had no vulnerability; she wasn’t the underdog anymore.”

Rhoda and Joe separated and then divorced in Season 4—a bold move by 1970s sitcom standards. Unfortunately, the audience didn’t embrace the single Rhoda, and the once-beloved show was canceled early in its fifth season, just four episodes in, in December 1978.

Harper later expressed regret that Rhoda never had a proper sendoff. Sadly, even in today’s reboot-obsessed era, she never had the chance.