|Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman|
2007 DVD release cover
|Developed by||Norman Lear|
Mary Kay Place
|Theme music composer||Barry White|
|Opening theme||Premiere Occasion|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||325|
|Running time||23 minutes|
T.A.T. Communications Company
T.A.T. Communications Company
Sony Pictures Television (current)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||January 5, 1976 –|
July 1, 1977
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is an American satirical soap opera that aired in daily (weekday) syndication from January 1976 to July 1977. The series was produced by Norman Lear, directed by Joan Darling, Jim Drake, Nessa Hyams, and Giovanna Nigro, and starred Louise Lasser. The series writers were Gail Parent and Ann Marcus.
The show's title was the title character's name stated twice, because Lear and the writers believed that dialogue within a soap opera was always said twice.
TV Guide ranked "Chicken Soup" #97 on its list of the 100 Greatest T.V. moments.
- Louise Lasser as Mary Penny Hartman (née Shumway), the show's titular character.
- Greg Mullavey as Tom Hartman, Mary's unfaithful husband and Heather's father.
- Dody Goodman as Mrs. Martha Shumway (née Larkin), Mary's often daffy mother, known for talking to her plants.
- Norman Alden as Coach Leroy Fedders, Tom's former high school coach. He died drowning in Mary's chicken soup.
- Mary Kay Place as Loretta Haggers (née McCandless), Mary's best friend and neighbor, a wanna-be country singer.
- Graham Jarvis as Charlie "Baby Boy" Haggers, Loretta's much older husband and Tom Hartman's best friend.
- Debralee Scott as Cathy Lorraine Shumway, Mary's vampish sister.
- Philip Bruns (and for a few episodes after the show was rebranded as Forever Fernwood, Tab Hunter) as George Shumway, Martha's husband and Mary and Cathy's father. He worked at an automobile assembly plant along with Tom and Charlie.
- Victor Kilian as Grandpa Raymond Larkin, Martha's father, who was revealed in the pilot episode to be the "Fernwood Flasher."
- Claudia Lamb as Heather Hartman, Tom and Mary's troubled daughter, who had, unfortunately, witnessed the massacre of the Lombardi family, including their goats and chickens.
- Samantha Harper as Roberta Wolashek, Grandpa Larkin's young social worker, who falls in love with him.
- Salome Jens as Mae Olinski, Tom's Amazonian co-worker at the assembly plant and the payroll officer, with whom he had an affair.
- Bruce Solomon as Sgt. Dennis Foley, a Fernwood police officer who liked Mary and with whom she eventually ran off. (See Forever Fernwood, below.)
- Martin Mull as wife-beater Garth Gimble, who died by being impaled by a star on an aluminum Christmas tree. Mull later played Garth's twin brother, talk show host Barth Gimble on Fernwood 2 Night and America 2-Night.
- Reva Rose as Blanche Fedders, Coach Fedders' constantly protesting and militant wife.
- Susan Browning as Garth's wife, Pat, the target of his abuse.
- Sparky Marcus as Jimmy Joe Jeeter, child evangelist, who died when a TV set he was watching fell into the bathtub, electrocuting him.
- Dabney Coleman as Merle Jeeter, Fernwood's slightly devious mayor and Jimmy Joe's father.
- Marian Mercer as Wanda Rittenhouse Jeeter, a widow of a city commissioner, and a former sanitarium mate of Mary's, who became Jeeter's second wife while also carrying on a bisexual relationship with their maid, Lila.
- Gloria DeHaven as CB radio aficionado Annie "Tippy-toes" Wylie, a bisexual who also had an affair with Tom Hartman.
- Orson Bean as Reverend Brim, one of Fernwood's clergymen, mainly in Forever Fernwood.
- George Furth as Reverend Harold Standfast, who helped Mary through the Davey Jessup hostage crisis. He had to swear on a stack of Bibles to have Mary released, but only did so after being threatened with the exposure of an extramarital affair he had with Florence Baedecker, the choir mistress of his church.
- Mary Carver as Christine Standfast, Reverend Standfast's wife, who knew all about her husband's extramarital affair.
- Shelley Fabares as Eleanor Major, a woman who Tom Hartman fell in love with after Mary had left him and Heather for Sgt. Foley.
- Judith Kahan as Penny Major, Eleanor's sister, who married Tom Hartman in the series finale.
- Will Seltzer as Davey Jessup, the murderer of the Lombardi family, their two goats and eight chickens, who held Mary and Sgt. Foley hostage. Before that, he had also held Mary's daughter Heather and her best friend, Trudy Weathersby, hostage.
- Doris Roberts as Dorelda Doremus, a faith healer.
- Michael Lembeck as Clete Meizenheimer, television news reporter for Fernwood's local television station.
- Archie Hahn as Harold Clemens, a reporter for the town's newspaper, the Fernwood Courier.
- Vivian Blaine as Betty McCullough, Mary's fortune teller neighbor who was helping her son and his partner hide their true relationship.
- Sid Haig as Texas, a production worker at the automobile plant in Fernwood.
- Ed Begley Jr. as Steve, a deaf man who dated Cathy.
History and production
In December 1974, Norman Lear and his entertainment company, Tandem Productions, created a pilot for his new serial, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a satire of the impact of American consumerism. The pilot, consisting of two episodes and shot on a $100,000 (equal to $518,421 today) budget, was not picked up by the networks. Lear then pursued a syndication strategy by hiring a sales agent to sell the show at the 1976 National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) market in San Francisco.
Needing a solution, Lear’s business contacts introduced him to James W. Packer Jr. and his company, Mission Argyle Productions. Packer devised a unique sales idea: invite the general managers from TV stations across America to Lear’s house in Los Angeles, where they would dine with him, hear his vision for the show, and begin the syndication dealmaking the following day. The next day KING-TV of Seattle became the first station to procure syndication rights to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
The theme song, "Premiere Occasion", was selected from the stock music library Southern Library of Recorded Music. It was written by British composer Robert Charles Kingston under the pseudonym Barry White and copyrighted in 1965, a full decade before Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman first aired, lending the illusion of a soap opera that already had a long history. Incidental music for the series was mostly written by Earle Hagen.
As country and western singer-songwriter Loretta Haggers, Mary Kay Place sang a number of songs over the course of the series. Place wrote some of those songs herself, including "Baby Boy" and "Vitamin L", both of which were released as singles by Columbia Records in 1976. "Baby Boy" was a minor hit for Loretta Haggers in the series, which she played to a nationwide audience live on the set of Dinah! in one episode, as well as a minor hit for Place, spending 13 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaking at #60. Place also released a full album of Loretta Haggers's music, titled Tonite! At the Capri Lounge Loretta Haggers.
Several songs have been written about Mary Hartman, many of them incorporating elements of the theme song. All-woman rock group The Deadly Nightshade's disco-flavored "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (Theme)" reached #79 on the Hot 100, and at least four other Mary Hartman-related disco songs were released by Vincent Montana Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Floyd Cramer, and The Marketts during the show's run.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman follows the titular character through increasingly complex and compounding life-events and scenarios often reflective of the changing social fabric of America in the 1970s. Some of the character's key traits, unusual, but prescient for the times, include her initially numbed-out response to conflicts both external and emotional, her indecisiveness, and her potential to suddenly snap out of one state of mind and swing to its opposite. Moral quandaries frequently seem on the verge of vanishing into apathy, until she is reminded of her love for her family and the need to keep them together.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman's twisting, interwoven, elaborate plots and tongue-in-cheek melodrama lovingly lampooned the soap opera format in ways that set the stage for cult shows featuring plot labyrinths, like Soap and Twin Peaks.
In its first episode, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman introduced the Lombardi family of five, all of whom, along with their two goats and eight chickens, had been murdered by young Davey Jessup, an event witnessed by both Mary's daughter, Heather, and the "Fernwood Flasher", who turned out to be Mary's grandfather, Raymond Larkin. Other characters on the show also died in several unusual, even bizarre ways, including by being electrocuted in the bathtub (Jimmy Joe Jeeter), by drowning in chicken soup (Coach Leroy Fedders), and by being impaled on a pink bottle brush artificial Christmas tree (Garth Gimble).
Mary Hartman had a nationally televised nervous breakdown on The David Susskind Show at the end of the first season. Mary then found herself in a psychiatric ward, where she was delighted to be part of their selected Nielsen ratings "family". One of her sanitarium mates, widowed Wanda Rittenhouse (Marian Mercer), would become more prominent later on when she married Merle Jeeter, the mayor of Fernwood.
In 1976, Lasser was arrested at a Los Angeles charity boutique, and police found $6 worth (or 88 milligrams) of cocaine in her purse. Authorities were called after Lasser's American Express card was denied and she refused to leave without possession of a $150 dollhouse. Lasser was initially apprehended for two unpaid traffic tickets (one for jaywalking), but the officers then found the cocaine in her handbag, and she claimed the drug had been given to her several months earlier by a fan. Lasser was ordered to six months in counseling, which was easily satisfied as she was already seeing an analyst. A fictionalized version of Lasser's refusal to leave a store without a dollhouse was incorporated into Mary Hartman's first season.
In 1976, Ted Morgan assessed in The New York Times: "The dreams and nightmares of the American people are reflected darkly through the glass of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman....No longer merely a television program, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman has become a cultural event, in the same league as those other sociological signposts that culture watchers...are always on the lookout for to help us explain ourselves."
Of the series' influence on pop culture, Claire Barliant also writes: "For some, the 1970s...was a descent into chaos, a dissolution of self, but also a kind of awakening....The Seventies' nervous breakdown coincides with women's lib and a strengthening gay rights movement....MH2 is relevant today because it entertains but still shocks, because the social commentary and satire and bravery of the show are as fresh as ever."
In 2000, Lasser appeared on a panel with her former MH2 cast and crew members at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. The seminar, entitled Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Reunion, Reunion, was moderated by Steven A. Bell and taped for the museum archives.
When Lasser left the show in 1977, it was re-branded Forever Fernwood and followed the trials and tribulations of Mary's family and friends after she had run away with a policeman, the aforementioned Sgt. Dennis Foley, with whom she had had a lot of contact during the first season. Aside from Lasser, the rest of the cast remained intact even while additional actors became part of the cast: Shelley Fabares as Eleanor Major, who began dating Tom after Mary had left him; Judith Kahan as Eleanor's stuttering sister, Penny Major; and Randall Carver as Cathy Shumway's gangster husband, Jeffrey DeVito. On the very last episode of the series Penny married Tom Hartman. Forever Fernwood ended in 1978, after 26 weeks on the air (130 half-hour episodes).
During the summer of 1977, Fernwood 2 Night, a local talk show satire and parody starring Martin Mull as Barth Gimble, was broadcast as a spin-off/summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. It went "nationwide" as America 2-Night in the spring of 1978.
- The Best of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Volume I. Videocassette. Embassy Home Entertainment.
- The Best of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Volume II. Videocassette. Embassy Home Entertainment.
On March 27, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman - Volume One on DVD in Region 1. The three-disc boxset features the first 25 episodes of Season 1, dealing with the Fernwood Flasher and Lombardi massacre storylines. Many of the episodes were the heavily edited syndication versions, edited to fit more commercials in the broadcasts, due to expensive costing issues, when about to remaster and transferring the original broadcast versions.
On August 28, 2013, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series and released Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 on December 3, 2013. The 38-disc set features all 325 episodes of the series. The season one episodes were restored to their full-length broadcast versions and other bonus features were included.
- America 2-Night (1978)
- Fernwood 2 Night (1977)
- All That Glitters (1977)
- The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts (1980)
- Soap (1977)
- 1976 in American television
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