Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series
DVD | Box Set
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All 325 Episodes + Bonus Features on 38 Discs
Louise Lasser delivers a masterful performance in the title role of Norman Lears sublimely twisted soap opera, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: at once a parody of the format and a twisted satire of Americas media/consumer culture.
In the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio, suburban housewife Mary Hartman seeks the kind of domestic perfection promised by Readers Digest and TV commercials. Instead she finds herself suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune: mass murders, low-flying airplanes and waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor. Marys world is populated by a cast of misfits and oddballs: an impotent husband (Greg Mullavey), a sullen 12-year-old daughter (Claudia Lamb), bizarre parents (Dody Goodman and Philip Bruns), a man-eating younger sister (Debralee Scott), a country-singing best friend and her devoted husband (Mary Kay Place and Graham Jarvis), Fernwoods devious mayor (Dabney Coleman) and identical twins Barth and Garth Gimble (Martin Mull).
Far too controversial for any network at the time, the incomparable Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is finally given its due with this celebratory and definitive DVD collection.
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When MH2 is working, it's funny, fascinating, and addictive (and I'm not a soap opera fan). When it's not working, it's tiresome, boring, forced, and even depressing (we are watching MH have a long mental breakdown, after all - and it seems too realistic/unsettling at times. At times, the show doesn't seem to know where it wants to go and what it should be. Should it be a serious soap opera? A parody? Social criticism? At other times, it hits a sustained groove of clever and note-perfect satire - as if the "Simpsons" met "Days of our Lives."
352 episodes is an awful lot of MH2. I'll watch them all; I knew this was going to be a huge investment - and I didn't expect every episode to be essential viewing. Having missed 3/4 of the show when it first was aired, I wanted to fill in that void. Is it worth it? Yes, but it's uneven. I don't regret my purchase but I was tempted to fast forward through some episodes. Overall, I give it an 82 out of 100.
This boxed collection is for die-hard fans and those who were intrigued enough by the first released set of episodes that they wanted to get their hands on the complete series. Shout Factory has done a good job of transferring - just keep in mind that these were filmed on videotape not HD film.
UPDATE 3/31/16: I stopped watching this after episode 180. Why? It was too much of a downer. I think the writers thought that focusing on serious problems was a sign of sophistication. It can also be a sign of a sadistic streak if you like tormenting and humiliating your characters. Stopped being amusing. And ended up feeling like spending time with an acquaintance whose life is always on the skids and in chaos.