TITLE: RHODA - SEASON THREE
DVD Release Date: July 6, 2010 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Packaging Type: Slim cases w/ outer box.
Running Time: approx. 600 minutes
Subtitles and Captioning: None; Closed-Captioned.
Special Features: None
Rhoda returns with the third hysterical season on DVD! With her marriage to Joe coming to an end, Rhoda Morganstern (Valerie Harper) once again finds herself single and her life filled with hilarious dating adventures. Complete with spontaneous trips around the world, dates with vibrant lounge singers, and mistaken arrests, this 24-episode third season is a reminder of why Rhoda remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
Normally in sitcoms, the plot development held responsible for viewers losing interest in the series is when a character gets married. Series based around the lives of single people typically lose steam after the show’s lead character(s) settle down. Rhoda was different -- audiences were perfectly happy with Rhoda getting married to Joe. There was only one problem: the writers couldn’t come up with anything for a married Rhoda. The end result? Separation, and by the beginning of the fourth season, she gets a divorce. The ratings would fall out of the top 30 for this, the third season, and would plummet farther over the final two years before ending after the fifth season.
But was the separation plot arc really that bad? Not entirely. The early episodes, in particular, which dealt with the final stages of the marriage, the decision to separate, and the initial aftermath therein aren’t actually that bad. The problem was that the show’s character development slowed to a grind after the initial separation, with many episodes seemingly becoming “Rhoda Goes on Date with Nightmarish Date X” or alternately “Rhoda Gets Involved in Random Wacky Hijink Y to Avoid Thinking About Doomed Marriage.” Joe would still make appearances throughout the year, before ultimately fading into the ether. While I’ve always been a fan of virtually the entire extended tree of shows that originated back with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the divorce-era Rhoda episodes always seemed a little lacking somehow.
With regards to people you may recognize from their extra-curriculars: The current voice of Francine Smith on American Dad, Wendy Schaal, can be found in “Together Again for the First Time” as well as “Who I Saw Today.” Wendy was Valerie Harper’s step-daughter through her first marriage; I think you’re smart enough to work out the details on how this early appearance came to be. Continuing the string of appearances from shows I like, Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Boston Legal, Benson) appears in the episode “Two Little Words -- Marriage Counselor” as well as in the episode “Rhoda: The Ultimatum.” The episode “Meet the Levys” would see both the Drummond household’s replacement for Mrs. Garrett (Nedra Volz) on Diff’rent Strokes as well as (Everybody Loves Raymond) Ray Barone’s overbearing mother Doris Roberts, making appearances. Valerie Harper’s then-husband Richard Schaal appeared in the episode “Man of the Year” as Joe’s brother, thus completing the full circle of nepotism. Jerry Stiller, longtime TV icon, husband of Anne Meara (herself a recurring performer on the show), and father to Ben Stiller, appears in “A Touch of Classy.” Tim Reid (WKRP in Cincinnati, Sister Sister) appears in “Guess Who I Saw Today.” The aforementioned “Rhoda: The Ultimatum” would see a cross-over by Mary Tyler Moore herself as her usual Mary Richards character. Finally, David Ogden Stiers, only months away from his iconic role of Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H, here plays a doctor in the episode “Nose Job.”
The Separation: 25:34
Together Again for the First Time: 24:29
No Big Deal: 24:14
I Won’t Dance: 24:21
H-e-e-e-r-e’s Johnny: 24:26
Two Little Words - Marriage Counselor: 24:13
An Elephant Never Forgets: 24:11
Rhoda Questions Her Life and Flies to Paris: 24:28
Meet the Levys: 24:11
Man of the Year: 24:28
You Deserve a Break Today: 24:25
A Touch of Classy: 24:10
Guess Who I Saw Today: 24:11
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve: 25:08
Love for Sale: 24:58
A Night in the Emergency Room: 25:10
Somebody Has to Say They’re Sorry: 24:52
The Ultimatum: 25:10
Rhoda’s Mystery Man: 25:10
Nick Lobo, Superstar: 25:!2
Nose Job: 24:58
The Second Time Around: 24:24
Pajama Party Bingo: 25:09
To Vegas With Love: 23:57
Yay, slim cases! They’re functional, efficient, and reliable. They’re the old standby favorite -- they may not be en vogue now by several major studios, but I know I certainly prefer them to what’s come since. Give me a nice pair or trio of stable slim cases any day over those larger and thicker clear plastic contraptions that are prone to easy breakage.
Artwork is consistent with the visual design style of the show -- large photo of Rhoda on the front cover, with the name Rhoda appearing slanted several times in the background. At the bottom is the skyline of the city in silhouette. The Rhoda text appears in red/orange on the outer box, while it’s yellow/gold on the first slim case and purple/lavender on the second. Artwork for all four discs is the same red/orange color scheme on the main cover. Rear cover of the outer box is orange with another New York skyline silhouette, a couple of small pictures, and text. Rear covers of the slim cases feature episode titles and airdates broken down by disc, with a series of progressively stronger yellow (case 1) or purple (case 2) silhouettes of Rhoda in the background.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The third season’s variation of the main theme plays in the background of the main menu. The main menu’s design is almost an identical variation of the artwork seen on the slim cases and outer box, with only slight differences in the background colors and photos of Rhoda used. The colors used on each disc’s menu change per disc -- disc 1 is yellow, disc 2 is purple, disc 3 is red, and disc 4 is green. There’s also some sort of subtle animation design in the background. From the main menu you can choose either Play All or Episodes. Episodes takes you to a of episode titles. On disc one, the yellow used creates a problem. The combination of colors and fonts really works against them here -- normally Shout! Factory menus are EXTREMELY well-done, so I’m a bit surprised to see a poor choice like this, even if the issue is relegated to a single disc. In one admittedly-nice decision, there are audio transitions and animations even on sub-menus, with the audio cues not always the same -- creating a small piece of unexpected variety.
Video and Audio Quality:
For the issues that do exist on the main menu, one thing is for sure: The video and audio quality are remarkable. It’s easily one of the most visually impressive DVD sets I’ve seen from the era. There IS still the occasional bit of noise, grain, and flicker but compared to most other series from the era it looks GREAT. Audio is your usually basic default ‘70s sitcom audio track. It’s not the most impressive piece of audio I’ve ever heard but for the era it’s certainly respectable. There’s a very limited number of chapter stops -- one after the opening titles, one at the near-midpoint of the episode.
Not a special feature to be found on this set, which given the high production quality of most of Shout! Factory’s other sets, is a bit surprising.
As much as I do consider myself a fan of the show, I’m also the first to admit that by the half-way point in the show’s run, in my opinion, its best days were behind it. There’s something about the divorce that just sours the show -- it never feels the same again.
On the plus side, the DVD is being released in the first place. I can sit here and state that the later years of the show aren’t my own personal cup of tea, but it IS the cup of tea of a good many people, and for you I say enjoy! I can’t recommend this particular season to the casual fan (start with one of the prior two seasons, or even think of going back to early-Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes) but if you’re a fan of the show by all means pick up this set.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 07/06/10
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