Mary and Rhoda
When WJM fired her, Mary Richards moved from the Twin Cities to New York, where she got a job with ABC, married a congressman, had a child, and lost touch with her dearest friend, Rhoda Morgenstern. But after the passage of twenty or so years, she finds herself once again a single girl wondering how she’ll make it on her own. Her husband has passed away, and when she arrives back home from an overseas getaway, Mary enters an empty penthouse, save for the big M, which still remains from her Minneapolis days. Her daughter, now grown, has moved out on her own, taking not just the towels, but the towel racks as well. What will she do?
Rhoda, once again divorced from an adulterous husband, has returned to New York to visit her pre-med daughter. Soon, the two senior buddies get reacquainted and discover that they are each nearly broke and having to face the work market at a time where many their age are nearing retirement. In this two-hour comedy drama they move in together, search for jobs and attempt to understand their daughters’ need to be on their own. First airs on ABC, 2/7/00 8-10 pm (ET/PT).
I hate laugh tracks. They degrade the performers and insult the audience. But if ever a sitcom-turned-TV-movie needed a laugh track, “Mary and Rhoda” is the one. Well, at least for the first few awkward moments, where the writers seem to be struggling to find something for us to laugh at. Then, suddenly, Mary’s character takes on three-dimensional qualities as she deals with loneliness and her daughter’s free-spirited lifestyle. Quickly, it becomes more than a slapdash reunion show – unlike many others of late that have either attempted to pay homage to or simply exploited the memory of past TV favs. This one’s a gentle reminder of just how much comic pleasure these two ladies have given us, and how desperately the major networks are searching for that illusive spark that now and again happens between sitcom characters. The film touches on engrossing issues, including the poignancy of a gang shooting Mary is covering as a news producer. And when Mary returns to the work force, having been away to raise her daughter and support her politician husband, she soon discovers that things have changed. Among those changes: the youthful – make that shallow – dominance of corporate management. The film comically exposes age-ism as both Mary and her erstwhile friend are continuously made to feel like sacks of dirt because they had the temerity to reach the age of sixty. Not that the script ever aspires to be too profound. It’s lightweight fluff, to be sure, but always charming, with a lesson or two thrown in for good measure. As for Mary Richards, well, she still turns the world on with her smile.