March 11, 2013 at 8:10 AM ET
Valerie Harper has had a star-studded, five-decade Hollywood career, winning Emmys and a Golden Globe, acting on Broadway, starring in "Valerie"/"The Hogan Family," and even popping up on "Desperate Housewives." But we're not going to lie -- to us, and to millions of viewers, she'll always be Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary's best pal on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and then returning to New York and marrying on the spinoff "Rhoda." Here are five reasons we loved that character so.
1. Rhoda and Mary forever
How is this not the best female friendship ever depicted on TV? They fought at first, as New Yorker Rhoda's brashness clashed with Mary's Minnesota Nice. But in the end, no pals were better, no sidekick more entertaining. In an third-season episode where Rhoda plans to move back to New York (but changes her mind), Mary buys and returns three farewell gifts before confessing she can't find anything that's an appropriate farewell to her best friend. The room awwws, except for blustery newscaster Ted Baxter, who snorts "What a cheapo!"
2. Rhoda and chocolate
Back before the dieting woman was a cliche played out in "Cathy" cartoons, Rhoda handled her supposed weight problem (she always looked fine to us, if not as stick-thin as Mare) with aplomb. You've heard this line said a million times and seen it on greeting cards and magnets that are supposed to be funny, but it was Rhoda who said of a piece of chocolate, "I don't know why I should even bother to eat this. I should just apply it directly to my hips." Rhoda also informed Mary that "cottage cheese solves nothing, chocolate can do it all."
3. Rhoda and men
Rhoda and Mary fought the good fight in the dating world until Rhoda left for her own show and married Joe. But when they were single, they were an unstoppable pair. When landlady Phyllis once snotted at them, "I just thought I'd see what you swingin' singles do for fun," it was Rhoda who retorted with, "Same as you -- sit around and wonder what it would be like to have a happy marriage."
4. 'Rhoda' opening credits
There's just something so Rhoda about seeing her booking it across town in her flowing wedding gown and veil, hiking up her skirt and swinging her tan purse over her shoulder. But the entire opening credit sequence is great, up to and including the childish "la la la LA la" theme song. They don't make TV openings like they used to.
5. Mary and Rhoda, reunited
Mary Tyler Moore made a guest appearance on a "Rhoda" episode where Rhoda and Joe had planned a weekend in Cape Cod. Rhoda was too kind to tell her Minneapolis friend that she couldn't stay and visit despite hubby Joe's wishes. Their fight resulted in a great scene where Rhoda went out on the balcony and screamed out her fury in silence, in a great pantomine scene that showed off Harper's acting skills. Sorry, Joe. You were always going to lose to Mary anyway.