This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Please visit the Classic TV Blog Association's website to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go here to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.
However, Groh’s contentment with the change in the series was short-lived. In a March 1977 interview with the Associated Press he was asked if the divorce story was a mistake. Groh replied, “Without a doubt. They’re tampering with something the public went for.” He even received letters from fans of the series who wanted to see the couple reconcile, because the separation was a “big downer.” Groh was told he was being written out because if appeared in an episode, the ratings would go down.
Rhoda had ranked in the 6th and 7th place in the Nielsen's for the first two seasons, but fell to #32 during the third season. While it bounced back a bit in the next season, the show was cancelled mid-way through their fifth year because of the horrible ratings. Losing Joe was an obvious mistake. Of course, Rhoda, the series and the character, was successful and continues to resonate with audiences because of Valerie Harper’s chaotic but pitch-perfect portrayal of the self-deprecating beauty who always felt like she landed in second place. I could watch Rhoda eat a sandwich for an hour and feel entertained (granted, her relationship with food only adds to my viewing pleasure). But the series also featured a bevvy of delightful supporting characters, Joe being one of my favorites. It doesn’t hurt that I have a pretty big crush on the actor, who embodies everything I love about 1970s machismo (also, he reminds me of my husband, whose look is also comprised of 70s finest). But aside from drooling every time he appeared on screen, David Groh made Joe charming, even when he was frustrating.
Me-TV Promo for Rhoda:
The couple met in the very first episode, and sparks immediately flew. In one of the promos for Me-TV, Rhoda tells Joe she’s from Minneapolis and he playfully replies, “Oh yeah, I could tell from the accent.” This sets up the fun, if impulsive, courtship the couple would enjoy. Joe was all to often the straight guy, but his deadpan delivery made for some chuckle worthy moments, such as the one I just mentioned.
Joe owned the New York Wrecking Company, and often collected pieces of the buildings he tore down. He gave Billy Glass (Jack Gilford) a piece of the men’s room from the original Madison Square Garden, and once gave Rhoda bingo balls from a church he demolished. I found that small character trait to correspond perfectly with Rhoda's visual flair. They both seemed to be attracted to stuff and things (for lack of a better phrase). He lived modestly until he married Rhoda and they rented out a gorgeous apartment in Brenda’s building. He was divorced and had a young son, and his failed marriage made him antsy when it came to popping the question.
Rhoda and Joe were married in the eighth episode, which was aptly titled Rhoda's Wedding (OAD: 10/28/74) This episode was, at the time, the second most watched moment on television (surpassed only by the birth of Ricky Jr. on I Love Lucy). It was an incredible episode, probably best remembered for Rhoda running through the streets of New York in her wedding dress because Phyllis had forgotten to pick her up! The joke was repeated when Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) also neglected to pick up Mother Dexter for her wedding on Phyllis’own series.
One of the most progressive aspects of their marriage was that they were complete equals. Both were business owners (Rhoda started Windows by Rhoda at the end of season one), and the couple shared different problems but worked them out in a surprisingly mature, and sometimes perhaps in a little un-Rhoda-like fashion. Well, not so much in Mucho Macho (OAD: 9/25/1975) when the couple squared off in an adorable nerf-club match. Underneath the talks about how to make the marriage work, there were always doses of passion and humor, which of course, is totally Rhoda!
The tables are turned in Strained Interlude (OAD: 1/20/75) when Rhoda’s old boyfriend asks her to meet him for a date. Joe asks Rhoda if she would be uncomfortable if he met up with someone from his past and she reminds him that she is indeed uncomfortable every time he sees Marian. In this episode, both Rhoda and Joe work through these issues, and Joe is able to begin letting go of his jealousy. Rhoda, of course, continues to struggle with her insecurities and delivers a knockout monologue about the woman Joe might be with in the episode A Night with the Girls (OAD: 12/1/75). It turns out Joe was running late because of a flat tire. Oh Rhoda! We love you because we understand you.
Yet, underneath all that vulnerability was a pretty strong marriage. In the episode The Party (OAD: 10/6/1975), the couple host a gathering. The set-up is very realistic – a bunch of people who have little in common end up at a party where nothing seems to go right. Each couple is revealed to be suffering from their own issues, but Rhoda and Joe have this chemistry that you can practically peel off the walls! The episode takes a shocking turn when Susan (Beverly Sanders), Rhoda’s old high school chum, reveals that she thinks her husband has turned her into a baby making machine. Conversely, Rhoda and Joe show off their unbridled passion for each other during a group-encounter session. To me, this is an episode that really defines Rhoda and Joe’s marriage. It feels solid and secure and sexy as hell!
However, the seeds had already been planted in the second season opener, Everything I Have is Yours, Almost (OAD: 1/27/75), where Joe reveals he has been seeking professional help because he has a hard time dealing openly with his emotions. This issue will arise in the sad separation episode from season three, simply titled The Separation (OAD 9/20/76). Joe admits that something doesn't feel right (a recurring theme throughout his run on the show) and wants to live separately. Groh only appeared in eight more episodes and the couple quietly divorced, leaving Rhoda to spend the next couple of years shooting zingers at the many new cast additions.
All these years later, and I still can’t get over the fact that Joe and Rhoda didn’t make it. In terms of reflecting the culture of the 1970s, it would be hard to deny divorce rates weren’t rising, and the series captured that. Certainly, Joe and Rhoda had a fast, whirlwind romance before jumping into marriage. But it just doesn’t sit right. In my Rhoda-luvin’ eyes, I see her romance with Joe as lovely, real and wonderful to watch. As daring as television was in the 1970s, I personally think it would have been more radical to have them work through their issues and get back together. Maybe I’m just a romantic at heart, or maybe I just see a lot of myself in Rhoda (and some of my husband in Joe) and I am blinded by their chemistry. I recently watched the Mary and Rhoda reunion movie and remember my heart breaking a little when I found out that Rhoda had a baby with another husband. Ah, what could have been.
After Rhoda, Groh starred a comedy series in 1978 with Joan Hackett called Another Day. The show was short-lived however, and Groh admits that he received mail from bitter fans who wondered why he left Rhoda! Afterwards, he continued to work steadily as a character actor. My second favorite role of his would have to be his scary turn as D.L. Brock on General Hospital from 1983 - 85. I remember thinking, "That's Joe?!?"
Promo for Another Day:
I haven't seen the full run of Rhoda in a very long time, but I remember enjoying the series after Joe left, although it took some adjustment. I'm thrilled that Me-TV is running Rhoda, so I can relive all the happiness and heartbreak again. Maybe Joe got tired of saying it, but every time Rhoda graces the screen I am tempted to say, "Hi, babe."
Rhoda Trivia: Did you know that when Rhoda and Joe moved into Brenda's building in 9-E is Available (OAD: 11/11/74), they were renting from the guy who would go on to chase Harper around the desert in the creepy made for TV movie Night Terror?
I hosted a Valerie Harper Blogathon a couple of months ago. If you are interested in reading more about Harper or Rhoda please click here.