Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Song of the Day: 'Who Is It?' by Carlton the Doorman (aka Lorenzo Music)

Although we still haven't been able to see every episode from its seven-year run together, Damian finally saw the brilliant finale of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," so felt emotionally equipped to begin watching "Rhoda." (What's up with neither Hulu nor Netflix having the complete series run of either of these classic shows?) In trying to explain to my guy just how HUGE Valerie Harper's spinoff started out -- more than 53 million Americans tuned in to watch Rhoda marry Joe, which at the time was the second-highest rated sitcom episode to date, surpassed only by Lucy Ricardo giving birth to Little Ricky -- I stumbled upon some other indicators, ones so mortifying I'm glad I don't recall. Apparently Lorenzo Music, the celebrated sitcom writer and co-creator of "The Bob Newhart Show," "Taxi" and "Rhoda," who played Carlton the doorman, not only released a single ("Who Is It?"), but also filmed an animated spinoff  called "Carlton Your Doorman," which you can watch below. 

It didn't get picked up -- and didn't feature Ruth Gordon as his mom this time -- but Music did go on to provide the voice of Garfield, which is ironic given how poorly Carlton treated his cat (Ringo) in the pilot for his eponymous show. (I'm still reeling.) The show aired as a "CBS Special Presentation" on May 21, 1980 -- a year and a half after Rhoda went off the air -- and has (shockingly) never been rebroadcast! (Lorenzo Music died in 2001 at 64.)

"Who is it?"

And speaking of little-known "Rhoda" details: Just learned that David Lloyd -- of "Chuckles Bites the Dust" fame -- had written a script for the series called "Your Old Friend Phyllis" that would have reunited the Minneapolis frenemies after Mrs. Lindstrom gets stranded in NYC sans wallet. The idea was for the fourth season, which was right after "Phyllis" ended its run after two seasons, but ultimately never came to be for reasons that are not clear. (I always loved "Phyllis" but realized having your breakout stars being an octogenarian and a nonagenarian(!) wasn't a recipe for a long-running show. Would it kill Hulu to get those two seasons?)  

Read the script for "Your Old Friend Phyllis" HERE.


macguffin Fifty four said...

I believe I have bootlegs (recorded off of TV, if I recall correctly) of all Rhoda episodes and most Phyllis episodes, so if there's an episode you'd like to see but can't find let me know.

Shawn Cullen said...

I liked "Phyllis" and tried to enjoy "Rhoda" but Rhoda just sort of ran out of steam for me. The sister's character was grating and, in memory at least, the show seemed claustrophobic, like they rarely left the apartment. I don't think I watched it much after Rhoda got married.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that Rhoda script is fantastic! I know those characters so well, I could see it all in my head as I read, as if it had actually been filmed. That was a treat--thanks for sharing!

FOV said...

As a fan, I always wondered what happened to the "steam" Shawn Cullen mentions above. The show started out so well, but all her different jobs and story lines for secondary characters became a bit much (at one point it almost seems like they are considering spinning off Brenda, who was a great supporting character when used appropriately). Would I much rather watch any single episode of "Rhoda" over almost any sitcom on today? Yes (and also any episode of "Friends"). But it seems like the writers knew where they were going up to the wedding, and then something happened. Valerie Harper's autobiography doesn't go too much into this, as I recall, blaming more changing times and social mores than bad scripts or story lines (but she doesn't seem to have a catty bone in her body, nor a "poor me" attitude).

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

Yeah, what "happened" to "Rhoda" has been analyzed a lot over the years. Valerie Harper's memoir was decidedly upbeat, but she did mention that writing for a married couple was difficult for the time -- saying "Mad About You" had the leeway to do it right -- although I'm not sure she's 100% right. (Don't we always say you could never do "All in the Family" and "Maude" on network TV NOW???) They definitely rushed the wedding episode and felt they had nowhere to go. Some of the separation episodes were incredible and moving, but I actually enjoyed her post-Joe life more than most.

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