February 15, 2008 8:53 AM
David Groh's death Tuesday at a far-too-young 68 years old reminded me just how high the hopes once were for the "Rhoda" show in particular, and for Rhoda Morgenstern's relationship with Groh's bright and handsome Joe Gerard character in particular.
Those of us who followed Valerie Harper's development as the weight-challenged, kooky Minneapolis neighbor Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and came to love her New York humor (and failures with the opposite sex) were ecstatic when she finally got her own series; plus, not only did she slim down and return to New York for the spin-off, she met her Prince Charming the first season to boot. What vindication! But Groh, for all of his manly appeal, proved to be Rhoda's undoing. Suddenly she wasn't as funny; she was beautiful now, and had a perfect mate. What's to laugh at? And even attempts to transfer her previous ugly-duckling plight onto schlumpy sister Brenda fell flat despite consistently brilliant turns by Julie Kavner.
The writers realized where they went wrong and tried to salvage matters by splitting Joe and Rhoda up by the beginning of the third season, but it was too late. The show had jumped the shark. It ran a couple more seasons then vanished mid-season.