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Long before Twin Peaks, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman turned the soap opera inside out. Produced by Norman Lear (All in the Family), the syndicated serial centers around gingham-clad housewife Mary Hartman (Woody Allen regular Louise Lasser). The saga begins with Mary agonizing over her floor's waxy yellow buildup when neighbor Loretta Haggers (Emmy winner Mary Kay Place) bursts in to announce that a mass murderer is on the loose in Fernwood. That isn't Mary's only problem. The magic has gone out of her marriage to Tom (Greg Mullavey) and her grandfather is revealed as the Fernwood Flasher. And that's just the pilot.
At first glance, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman resembles a daytime soap with consecutive airings (five nights a week), frame-filling close-ups, and syrupy score, but everything is off-kilter. When Mary isn't looking at other characters as if they're speaking in tongues, she appears to be on the verge of laughter or tears--maybe both at once. She's the ultimate desperate housewife. Aside from Grandpa Larkin (Victor Kilian), regulars include Marys preteen daughter Heather (Claudia Lamb), younger sister Cathy (Debralee Scott), and parents, Martha (Dody Goodman) and George Shumway (Philip Bruns). In addition, there's Sgt. Foley (Bruce Solomon), who has the hots for our sexually unsatisfied heroine, and Loretta's hubbie, Charlie (Graham Jarvis), who works with Tom and George at the plant. Mrs. Haggers, an aspiring country singer, loves her Baby Boy "more than a hundred billion frozen Milky Ways." The first set of this groundbreaking series features 25 episodes. Between 1976-1978, a whopping 325 were produced, some as Forever Fernwood when Lasser left in 1977, reportedly due to exhaustion. That year, the series also spun off talk-show satire Fernwood 2Nite, which would soon develop a cult following of its own. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (click for larger image)
Legendary TV producer Norman Lear developed this outrageous soap-opera spoof staring Louise Lasser as a pigtailed, gingham-frocked housewife beset by a bewildering array of crises. The three-disc set features the first 25 episodes of the groundbreaking series hailed by critics as "hilarious" (TV Guide), "mind-blowing" (Newsweek) and "televisions zaniest show!" (Readers Digest)
Mass murders, kidnappings and a flasher may be troubling the residents of Fernwood, Ohio. But housewife Mary Hartman (Lasser) has a much more serious problem; waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor. And while her husband Tom (Greg Mullavey) struggles in the bedroom and her best friend, country singer Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place), struggles to make it big in Nashville, Mary teeters closer to the edge, desperate to save her marriage, keep her family together and give her kitchen floor a proper shine!
When this show first premiered in January 1976 it gave Saturday Night Live a run for its money in being one of the most daring and inventive shows that had been aired. Louise Lasser's deadpan delivery as the often put-upon, under-appreciated Mary was delightful, and the show had a very talented supporting cast. Besides doing a great job of satirizing the problems of life in the 70's, it was a deft parody of soap operas in general, such as when Martin Mull returned as Barth Gimble, the twin brother of Garth Gimble, who had just died. Dabney Coleman was also great as the mayor, a true cynic who was much more interested in staying mayor than actually accomplishing anything. This show also gave birth to that great satire of the talk shows, Fernwood Tonight. Life probably wasn't too far from art in this case, since the first season ended with Mary in a mental institution, and I think putting out a new episode every night, just like an actual soap opera, took its toll on the whole cast, and Louise Lasser in particular. If you happen to remember the episode of Saturday Night Live that Louise Lasser hosted during that time, you know what I mean - the stress really showed. People looked forward to each new episode - just like a real soap opera - and there were 130 episodes in the first season alone. Thus, although I am grateful that we have the first 25 episodes, that doesn't even get us through the first one-fifth of the first season, so I hope more releases of this show are pending.
First, I never realized the enormous influence MH2 had on the Simpsons... I realized the trademark Normal Lear mix of social/pop culture satire and great writing, but there are even charactors from MH2 that seem to have made their way to that show as well....!
Anyway, I know I'm not the only person who's been waiting for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman to either make its way back to TV reruns or DVD... and the only who was ANGRY how long overdue it was, but now, finally its HERE... though I remembered it as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, to be honest, I didn't remember just HOW great it was, otherwise the wait would have been harder...
Starting with the first episodes (complete with the overhead mic slipping into the frame) the show is on a heavy roll... There's no laugh track, and no time killing... Jam packed with great script delivered by a crack ensemble. In fact, the writing is SO brilliant you get broadsided by the humor sometimes and find yourself gigling without even realizing why... then if you go back a half a minute and watch it again you're like... "oh my god ! ! !" (am I the only person who reacts like this?) The strange, soap opera spoof, non-sequitor double entendre lines, TV commercial derived dialogue and strange scenerios all delivered in the dry quirky uniquely MH2 style makes this a must have/must see/must repeatedly see view... and Mary Hartman's unforgetable young, unhappy, valium dazed housewife is so great... (and actually reminds me of my mother's friends and neighbors... back then going to shrinks and getting your tranqs to deal with the stresses of middle class American life was really in!Read more ›
2/17/07 Amazon does it again. While listing the "stars" of this show, it fails to mention Louise Lasser (who Made the character of Mary Hartman), Dody Goodman (Mary's "long-suffering" mother), and Mary Kay Place (lovable neighbor Loretta Haggers). Sheesh! What's up with that? Hopefully Amazon will correct this major oversight soon. Certainly this isn't the first time that Amazon has listed television shows without the main star included - looks like the help need to pay a visit to Google.
Mary Hartman, for many, was a great guilty pleasure. People who scoffed at soap operas in the 1970s sat down and watched each night while Mary, early on, dealt with such issues as the waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor or her grandfather being arrested for exposing himself. Neighbor Loretta's funniest moments included her day stint appearance on The Dinah Shore Show cooking her sweet potato pie and making a crack that almost ended her career (Loretta's, not Mary's) , which included Dinah playing herself. Then there was the rivalry between Mary and her sister Cathy for the attentions of the police officer Dennis Foley. The show was also played "straight" and not for laughs, which added to the campiness and watchability of the show. Season One (probably the most famous season) ended with Mary melting down on the David Susskind Show. Season One also helped to spawn, briefly, the singing career of Mary Kay Place both as Loretta and under her own name.
I sincerely hope that the powers-that-be can arrange for the 1976 hilarious spoof of Mary Hartman from The Carol Burnett Show to be put on as a future extra. It was called "Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Mary Mary Quite Contrary" and had Carol as Mary, Vicki Lawrence as Loretta, Jim Nabors as Charlie, and Tim Conway as grandfather who liked to play peek-a-boo.
TVDVDJunkie is correct--Episodes #22 and #24 are not the originals. I have compared the DVD episodes to my videotapes, both from the 1980 CBS late night run and the 2002 TVLand run, and there are two 3 minute sequences missing involving the Haggars' run-in with the hillbillies. There were three sequences in total: (1) the initial hillbilly encounter at gunpoint at the end of Episode 22 which has been deleted, (2) the primary scene where the hillbillies suggest a song to Loretta in Episode 23, which survives intact, and (3) the lead-out scene in Episode 24 where Charlie and Loretta are alone in the car discussing what almost happened with the hillbillies, just before their car accident with the nuns, which discussion scene has been deleted. Both deleted sequences run about 3 minutes. I checked every episode on the third disc... Episodes 19 through 25 and this is the extent of the damage....just six minutes. Everything else survived.
How could this have happened? I think it was carelessness, rather than deliberate. This is my theory. Many of you are too young to remember that during the summer hiatus of 1976 (July 5, 1976 to October 1, 1976), the stations participating in the MH syndication aired "The Best of" Mary Hartman. These were 65 compressed, edited versions of the original first 130 episodes that aired January 5, 1976 to July 2, 1976. Rather than choosing the best 65 episodes, the producers actually reedited all of the episodes in order to maintain a story flow and allow new viewers of the reruns to understand the show. About 50 percent of the scenes had to be deleted to fit 130 episodes of material into 65 rerun episodes, so they eliminated extraneous tangents to stories, as well as some "B" stories, to just highlight the central plots of the show.Read more ›
so right you are- if shows like mary hartman, baretta etc. are worthless due high costs then unload your rights to companies that are willing to take on and print whole sereis and let us your onetime consumers for these programs buy from someone else sense it is all not working ouy for the... Read More
I'm not certain, but if I recall the very first episode featured Loretta going to Mary's talking about a mass murder. I did hear that volume 1 will be the first 25 episodes. This series and Maude were some of the best television ever produced. Any thoughts?
Martin Mull was great on "MH, MH." Garth had a twin brother (Barth?) and I recall him dying in some bizarre fashion. Also great on the show was Dabney Coleman, who played the town mayor. I distinctly remember an episode where he rode into Mary's kitchen on a tricycle.