NBC Will Air Documentary Chronicling Valerie Harper's Life Following Cancer Diagnosis

By Andrew Gans
19 Jun 2013

NBC News has greenlit an hour-long documentary chronicling Valerie Harper's life since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.



Hosted by Meredith Vieira and produced by NBC News' Peacock Productions, this first-person account, according to a press statement, will capture "Harper’s raw, emotional and hopeful journey as she goes through experimental treatments and lives each day to the fullest with her husband Tony Cacciotti and their daughter Christina."

A recurrence of Harper's 2009 lung cancer, the disease spread into the membrane surrounding her brain, and the stage and screen star was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis March 6, 2013.

Harper has allowed camera crews access into her life to help tell her story. From the revelation that she had an incurable disease, to doctor’s visits, second and third opinions, surgeries and reunions with family and friends, the documentary takes an intimate look inside Harper’s reality.

An NBC air date will be announced at a later time.

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Harper's memoir, "I, Rhoda," was released earlier this year by Gallery Books.

The hardcover tome traces Harper's career from Broadway chorus dancer to her breakout role as Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." That situation comedy, according to Harper, "reflected the way more and more real women were living in the 1970s. It was refreshing and invigorating and addressed the changing attitude towards women in the workplace that had been rippling across the country."

Harper spent nine years as Rhoda Morgenstern; although the first season of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was not a ratings success, Harper took home the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress. After that first season, the show was solidly in the top 10 for years, and Harper won two more Best Supporting Actress awards. From that success came the spin-off show, "Rhoda," and a Best Actress Emmy.

In her memoir, Harper, according to press notes, "candidly writes about the pressures of starring in her own sitcom — including how Rhoda's on-screen divorce rocked the television landscape and how in her subsequent series, 'Valerie,' she was wrongfully fired from her own show."

"I, Rhoda" also explores "the time after the show's cancellation. Valerie was involved in the feminist movement and worked on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (where her volunteer tutor was none-other than Gloria Allred). She also worked on The Hunger Project, an organization that had her visiting Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia."

The book also discusses Harper's recent Broadway outing, portraying Tallulah Bankhead in Looped. During preparation for the show's New York premiere, the actress was diagnosed with lung cancer, a revelation that she discusses for the first time in her memoir.