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Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper reprised their roles from the classic “Mary Tyler Moore Show” sitcom in ABC television movie “Mary and Rhoda” on this day in 2000. The project was considered a potential segue into a series revival, but that never happened. Sadly, there was no mention in the movie of the other characters from the “MTM” sitcom.
The logline from Wipekedia: Mary Richards-Cronin returns to New York City after spending four months in Europe (“Italy, mostly,” she tells a cabdriver) following the death of her Congressman husband, Steven Cronin, in a rock-climbing accident. Rhoda Morgenstern-Rousseau also returns to her native New York to make a fresh start as a photographer after having lived in Paris for several years, where she has recently divorced her second husband, Jean-Pierre Rousseau.
After decades of separation, Mary and Rhoda start to look for each other and eventually reunite outside Mary’s apartment building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan (“84th and Central Park West,” Mary tells a cabdriver in an opening scene, though 415 Central Park West, at West 101st Street, was used for the building’s exterior shots). The old friends visit Manhattan together and share the events of their lives over the intervening years; Mary then invites Rhoda, just returned to New York, to stay with her in her duplex apartment.
Mary reveals that following her departure from WJM-TV in Minneapolis as a news producer, she earned a master’s degree in journalism and worked as a studio producer for ABC News in New York, until her daughter, Rose, was 12 and she decided to quit her job (eight years previously) to spend more time at home. Both Mary’s and Rhoda’s daughters are now in college—Mary’s Rose is an English major a NYC and Rhoda’s Meredith is a pre-med student and living in residence at Barnard College — and are trying to build lives of their own, independent of their mothers.
Mary and Rhoda must also each revive their careers, as Rhoda is newly divorced and Mary has learned that her late husband of 20 years spent much of their money on his congressional campaign(s). Both women dread their prospects, as Mary is now 60 and Rhoda is around 58 and lacks confidence in her work as a photographer.
Mary finds a job as a segment producer for WNYT in New York, where she works under the station founder, Jonah Seimeier, who is little more than half Mary’s age, and comes into conflict with the ethics of a vain anchor/field reporter, Cecile Andrews; Rhoda finds work as a fashion photographer’s assistant, where, in addition to “schlepping”, she mothers the young models and begins to take on more responsibility in the studio, as well as to exhibit her own photography independently; Rose suddenly quits school to try her hand at stand-up comedy, with a poor initial reception; and Meredith breaks off from her boyfriend.
Ultimately, all four women learn to conquer challenges in work and relationships, to forge their own identities and stand up for themselves.