Dy­ing Harper re­unites with Mary Tyler Moore Show co-stars

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Michael Cidoni Len­nox

LOS AN­GE­LES — It turns out “The Last Show” wasn’t the last. Just around the cor­ner from the in­ter­sec­tion of Mary Tyler Moore Av­enue and Ne­whart Street at CBS Stu­dio Cen­ter, ac­tress Mary Tyler Moore and some of her former col­leagues gath­ered Thurs­day af­ter­noon for a press con­fer­ence to dis­cuss their first sit­com ap­pear­ance to­gether since “The Last Show,” the ti­tle of the 1977 se­ries fi­nale of the ground­break­ing The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Moore, Cloris Leach­man, Betty White, Ge­or­gia En­gel and the ail­ing Va­lerie Harper re­united this week to tape an episode of White’s hit TV Land com­edy, Hot in Cleve­land.

On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Harper played the free-spir­ited best friend Rhoda Mor­gen­stern op­po­site Moore’s prim Mary Richards.

Harper, 73, won­dered if the group had come to­gether again be­cause of her re­cent di­ag­no­sis with ter­mi­nal brain can­cer.

“Do you guys think this was part of my con­di­tion?” asked Harper.

“Oh, yes. I do,” replied co-star Leach­man, who por­trayed Mary and Rhoda’s snooty apart­ment-build­ing man­ager, Phyl­lis Lind­strom. “They had the idea and they wrote this amaz­ing script,” Leach­man con­tin­ued. “We’re just al­most in tears, we’re so thrilled.”

Harper re­cently told the To­day show that in Jan­uary she was di­ag­nosed with a rare brain can­cer and told she had three months to live. But, on this day, Harper was ro­bust. “I’m kind of symp­tom­less for this par­tic­u­lar con­di­tion, so we’re just go­ing to see,” she ex­plained.

Harper said this re­u­nion has been more about laugh­ter than tears, in spite of her di­ag­no­sis. “And the tears come up, but they’re part of the laugh­ter,” she noted. “Did you ever laugh ’till you cry?”

This group has re­united be­fore, in 2007 to present at the Screen Ac­tors Guild Awards and for a 2008 episode of The Oprah Win­frey Show. But this is the en­sem­ble’s first act­ing job to­gether in some 36 years. Co­in­ci­den­tally, it’s tak­ing place on the same stu­dio lot their Emmy-win­ning se­ries was filmed be­tween 1970 and 1977.

The ac­tresses won’t be play­ing their Mary Tyler Moore Show characters on the Hot in Cleve­land episode, which is sched­uled to air Sept. 4. The sto­ry­line has Elka (White) and Mamie Sue (fre­quent guest star En­gel) re­unit­ing with their long-lost bowl­ing team­mates: Diane (Moore), Peg (Leach­man) and Angie (Harper). While the characters names are dif­fer­ent, each will pro­vide a nod to the roles the ac­tresses played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

“(Rhoda) taught me to thank your lucky stars for a fab­u­lous friend,” Harper noted, re­fer­ring to Mary Richards and point­ing to Moore .

Both the first Mary Tyler Moore Show and the new Hot in Cleve­land episodes are ti­tled “Love is All Around,” and that seemed to be the case at this press con­fer­ence.

“We don’t have to fake it,” Moore said.

TV LAND

From left, Harper, Leach­man, Moore, White and En­gel are re­unit­ing on Hot in Cleve­land.

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