Memories of Valerie Harper – fun ones, funny ones – will reach digital TV over the next few days.
The reruns are from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda,” Both shows seemed to share the upbeat approach of Harper, who died Friday (Aug. 30) at 80.
“I had a very positive mom,” she said in 2014, adding: “I’ve always thought that life is here to have fun and to meet people …. But this really brings you up short, when you hear that you have limited time.”
The “this” involved two diagnoses – in 2009, lung cancer; in 2013, a rare condition that allows cancer cells to spread into the membrane around the brain. After the second one, she said, doctors put her life expectancy as short as three months; she would live another six-and-a-half years.
Now her reruns are being shown on sub-channels, available by digital antenna:
— Friday: GetTV has the “Hot in Cleveland” episode that re-united Betty White with her “Mary Tyler Moore Show” colleagues. That’s 7:30 p.m. ET.
— Sunday: MeTV has a three-hour block – four “Mary Tyler Moore” episodes at 5 p.m. ET, then the two-part “Rhoda” wedding a 7 and 7:30.
— Sept. 9-13: Decades TV has “Mary Tyler Moore” at 2 and 2:30 p.m. ET and “Rhoda” at 3.
Decades (www.decades.com) only reaches about half the country, but Get (www.get.tv) reaches 78 per cent and Me (www.metv.com) is 96 percent; those two work via digital antenna, cable or Dish satellite.
Those shows, from 1970-78, made Harper an instant star. “The character of Rhoda (shown here) took the country by storm,” Gavin MacLeod wrote in “This Is Your Captain Speaking” (W Publishing, 2013). She received Emmy nominations for each of the eight years, winning four times.
Rhoda was Mary’s chubby friend at first, but Harper soon asked permission to lose weight. She and MacLeod would bring a scale to an upscale restaurant, to weigh their food. In 1987, Harper (divorced from actor Richard Schaal) married her personal trainer, Tony Cacciotti, now her widower.
Food was also important in another way, White wrote in “Here We Go Again” (Scribner, 1995): “Valerie, along with Dennis Weaver, established LIFE – Love is Feeding Everyone.”
The group continued for 16 years, feeding as many as 187,000 people a week via food that restaurants or stores might otherwise have discarded.
Harper was also active in many other groups, especially the Screen Acors Guild. She joined its board in 2000, ran unsuccessfully for its president in 2001 and joined its foundation board in 2007.
Her TV career slowed after she was fired from “Valerie” in 1987. (She would sue and win $1.2 million.) But she remained busy, despite the cancer crises.
Even after the second one, Harper was on “Dancing With the Stars,” did some guest and cartoon-voice roles and was in “The Town That Came A-Courtin’,” a cable movie.
Ronda Rich, the “A-Courtin’” author, told the Television Critics Association in 2014 that Harper worked vigorously, despite the illness. “It was 1:30 in the morning and Valerie Harper is sending all of us home and she’s staying to work.”
Harper viewed the crises philosophically. “It’s incurable and it’s terminal, but aren’t we all? (I’m) saying, ‘Don’t be afraid of death. Live your live …. Don’t waste the time.”