Growing up, Julia Louis-Dreyfus adored Mary Tyler Moore, but in her dreams she wanted to be someone else. ''I watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show all the time and fantasized that I was Rhoda,'' says the Emmy-winning star of CBS' New Adventures of Old Christine. ''I wanted to be Mary's best friend.'' To Louis-Dreyfus, Moore embodied a strong 1970s career woman who wasn't perfect far from it. ''Her being able to play humiliation as well as she did was very appealing,'' says the actress, 45, no stranger to self-mockery (see: Elaine's god-awful dancing on Seinfeld) . But Louis-Dreyfus' love of all things MTM actually began earlier, with The Dick Van Dyke Show. Watching the classic sitcom was like attending a master class in comedic acting: She recalls a favorite episode in which Moore's Laura Petrie opens an inflatable raft indoors and tries to control its rapid expansion, with hilarious results. ''She was very capable physically and was able to use that even between lines,'' says Louis-Dreyfus, crediting Moore's ''impeccable'' timing as ''a language that just got under my skin.'' No wonder Louis-Dreyfus teared up a bit as she embraced her idol at EW's photo shoot (previously, the two had met only briefly at awards shows). ''We fell right into my favorite kind of relationship, which is caustic but loving,'' says Moore, 69, who counts herself a fan of Seinfeld and Christine. ''She is to me like Carol Burnett a real clown. She can do it all.'' Rhoda Morgenstern would be green with envy.