by guest blogger, BroKen
When I was a teenager I was a fan of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I even followed her friend Rhoda Morgenstern when she moved to New York from Minneapolis to start her own show called, well, Rhoda. Rhoda, played by Valerie Harper, was always looking for a man. In New York she found him.
Joe, played by David Groh, was divorced with a ten year old son, but he and Rhoda hit it off. Before the first season was over, Rhoda and Joe got married. I'm told that the episode of the wedding was one of the highest rated television shows of its time. Apparently, I wasn't alone in following Rhoda's adventure.
Joe, having experienced the pain of divorce, is reluctant to enter into another marriage. But Rhoda is looking for a commitment. Joe suggests that they can move in together. That sets up a sit-com discussion of the relative merits of marriage and shacking up.
There was a lot of hype around the show and especially the wedding. I remember seeing Valerie Harper in an interview describing a bit of how the decision to marry was to take place on her show. She explained that the script had Joe suggesting that they move in together but Rhoda is reluctant to do so. Joe pleads, “Come on, Rhoda. It's no big deal.” And Rhoda responds, according to Ms. Harper, “Joe, if it's no big deal, then I don't want it!”
That struck this teenager as a pretty wise response. Marriage is a big deal. I knew it then. I know it even better now. Two people becoming one flesh, raising children and making a life together, is a big deal that requires a big commitment. Shacking up is a temporary arrangement of convenience; no strings attached, no real commitment. Since love is a commitment; no commitment, no love. And Love is a big deal.
I remember the interview because I was shocked when I saw the actual episode she described. I was anticipating hearing Rhoda school Joe on commitment and love. But she never said that line on the air. Instead, Rhoda actually moves in with Joe and then whines.... “Joe, I want married!” There is no explanation. No wisdom. Just quid pro quo. “I did what you wanted. Now, you'd better do what I want.” So, Joe reluctantly agrees and they plan their wedding.
It isn't surprising that the show didn't survive in people's hearts and minds or even very long on TV. It isn't surprising that the marriage of Rhoda and Joe didn't survive either. They were separated and divorced in the third season of the show. I think most of us had stopped watching long before then.
I don't know why the editors cut the wisdom originally given Rhoda. Maybe they thought it would be funnier. Foolishness is sometimes comical. More often though, it is just sad. Seeking love without commitment is as foolish as drinking from an empty glass. It's not funny at all.