Valerie Harper’s Favorite TV Moment: Groundbreaking Gay Scene From “Mary Tyler Moore”

Like you, we were heartbroken to hear about Valerie Harper’s terminal brain-cancer diagnosis. In a special episode of The Doctors today, the vibrant actress-activist discusses her illness and shares memories from her storied career.

In the snippet above, Harper recalls a legendary scene from The Mary Tyler Moore show with co-star Cloris Leachman, in which Rhoda has the distinct pleasure of telling Phyllis that her brother Ben is gay.

Below, the original clip, from the January 1973 episode “My Brother’s Keeper.”

The Doctors airs Monday, March 11. Check for airtime. 

Photo/Video: CBS Television Distribution / Stage 29 Productions, LLC.


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  • Captain proton

    for those of us outside the US, install a browser add-on called “Media Hint” to watch Hulu

  • Caleb in SC

    Damn, I love that woman. Her spirit is incredible!

  • the other Greg

    I was a bullied kid in Jan. 1973 and remember being thrilled by this episode. They presented Ben as an ordinary guy, which gave me a lot of hope for the future. What we’d call now the “IGB” message.

    News media depictions of gay men back then were entirely negative! They mostly implied that gay men all lived in San Francisco, promiscuously running around naked whenever possible, and worse. While I thought this sounded kind of fun, sort of, I wasn’t sure I was up to it (lol). Plus there were the glitter rock stars of the time, who I liked but who weren’t exactly easy to relate to.

    Ann Landers’ advice column – which, like Dan Savage, I read for her occasional benign references to gayness – and sitcoms like MTM and All In the Family showed gays as regular people.

  • dvlaries

    Harper left the Moore show the only way that viewers would have tolerated it, by still playing her Rhoda character, taking her from Minneapolis back to New York, with still occasional cross-pollination with the founding series. We’d already met Nancy Walker a few times as Ida Morganstern before the spin-off was made, easing the transition.

    For those of us who counted both series as appointment television in our young adulthood, last week’s bulletin was crushing.


    I went and watched the episode on Hulu. Even though I agree that it was groundbreaking, his “gayness” is not a focus on the episode. It was mentioned, yes, but it was not used in a way to fight against homophobia. I guess that back then, the best anyone could do was an acknowledgement…

  • hyhybt To me, that they neither treated it as a negative nor pulled the “very special episode” business seems just about perfect, and especially unlikely at the time.

  • LadyL

    I remember the episode and remember also being tickled (pink) by the “he’s gay” mention. Here in Chi-Town, MeTV is planning a salute to Valerie’s wonderful Rhoda Morgenstern. Hope they include that episode!
    I loved Rhoda’s wisecracks and general feistiness. She was the perfect antidote to MTM’s Mary Richards, whose unfailing niceness too often positioned her as an eager-to-please doormat.

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