The loss of Mary Tyler Moore goes deep. I loved her show with all my heart when it first ran, every Saturday night at 9. Years later, my best friend, Frank, and I watched all the repeats together over and over and over, laughing all the way.
Of course I loved Mary – who didn’t? But I didn’t relate to her. Mary was perfect, popular, pretty, poised and, of course, thin. But her show allowed the oddballs around her to flourish while being themselves. I, knowing myself to be a giant oddball, felt at home with her friends, particularly Rhoda – chubby, loud, sometimes grumpy, often sarcastic, Jewish Rhoda. Me.
As time passed Rhoda got skinny and glamorous. I was heartbroken, no longer able to relate to her. I also discovered that the actress who played Rhoda, Valerie Harper, was a naturally beautiful woman, made to look frumpy. NOT me.
Eventually Rhoda landed her own show and a hunky husband. She and I no longer had anything in common.
Then came Rhoda’s sister, Brenda – shlumpy, nasal, Brenda. I LOVED that character. And the actress who played her, Julie Kavner – when you took off HER make-up, she still looked like Brenda. Each week, I waited to spend a half hour with Brenda – no one anywhere reminded me more of me. Perhaps I wasn’t alone in this world.
The show’s cancelation devastated me. Where would I ever find another Brenda Morganstern?
Thank you Mary Tyler Moore for bringing Rhoda and Brenda to a very lonely, shlumpy, sarcastic Jewish girl. May you rest in peace.