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Harper gives ABC deadline to film "Mary-Rhoda' reunion

While plans are still in the works at ABC to produce a movie reuniting old TV chums Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern, time is getting tight.

Valerie Harper, who played best friend Rhoda to Mary Tyler Moore's character on the 1970s vintage CBS series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and who would co-star with Moore in the planned prime-time movie, said she's available for shooting only until November.

"They'd better move quick on this movie or they're gonna lose me for this year," Harper said.

The reunion movie would cast Harper and Moore as women in their mid-50s who have remained friends and who each have college-age daughters. ABC has pegged the movie as a prime-time feature to air during next February's sweeps.

ABC said the network expects to have a script in hand within two weeks. And it's hoping to begin shooting in September.

Harper said she's still interested in the project, as is Moore. "Mary came up with the idea of reviving the characters with daughters, and I guess it's an idea whose time has come," said Harper.

Last year, ABC talked about launching an entirely new Mary Tyler Moore spin-off series with basically the same plot line now being discussed for the movie. Harper speculated that the network probably considered a reunion movie a less costly alternative to a full-fledged series.

In November, Harper will revive her portrayal of Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck in the one-woman play All Under Heaven, which she co-authored. It ran last November at New York's Century Theater.

_ Times wires