|Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman|
|Developed by||Norman Lear|
|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)
|Original release||January 5, 1976 –|
July 1, 1977
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is an American satirical soap opera that aired in daily weeknight syndication from January 1976 to July 1977. The series follows the titular Mary Hartman, an Ohio housewife attempting to cope with various bizarre and violent incidents occurring around her. The series was produced by Norman Lear, directed by Joan Darling, Jim Drake, Nessa Hyams, and Giovanna Nigro, and starred Louise Lasser, Greg Mullavey, Dody Goodman, Norman Alden, Mary Kay Place, Graham Jarvis, Debralee Scott, and Victor Kilian. The series writers were Gail Parent and Ann Marcus.
Developed by Lear with the intention of examining the effects of consumerism on the American housewife, the series premiered in January 1976, and was filmed at KTLA Studios in Los Angeles. The show's title, featuring the title character's name stated twice, is a reference to Lear's observation that dialogue within soap operas tended to be repeated.
In 2004 and 2007, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was ranked #21 and #26 on "TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever."
TV Guide ranked the death of Coach Leroy Fedders, who drowns in a bowl of Mary's chicken soup in the first season, #97 on its list of the 100 Greatest T.V. Moments of All Time.
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 both external and emotional conflicts, 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. The show's elaborate plots and tongue-in-cheek melodrama lampooned the soap opera format much as Soap and Twin Peaks would later do.
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 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 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 $549,460 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. The mostly independent stations that picked up the show began referring to themselves as the Mary Hartman Network.
KING-TV of Seattle became the first station to procure syndication rights to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was filmed at KTLA Studios in Los Angeles, California.
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.
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, California for a seminar, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Reunion, Reunion. The panel was moderated by Steven A. Bell and recorded for the museum archives.
In 2004 and 2007, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was ranked #21 and 26 on "TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever."
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.
In February 2021, it was reported that a reboot of the series was in development by Sony Pictures Television with Emily Hampshire as writer and starring role, Jacob Tierney as co-writer, and Lear and Brent Miller as executive producers. In July 2021, it was announced that TBS had given a series order. In April 2022, it was announced the series was scrapped alongside all scripted programming on TBS.
The show got parodied several times during its run from a Bob Hope's Bicentennial Star Spangled Spectacular television special on July 4, 1976, with Hope performing a skit "Mary Hartford, Mary Hartford" (in reference to Hartford, Connecticut) set during the American Revolution with Debbie Reynolds as Mary Hartford; on the Donny & Marie, a series of skits entitled "Marie Heartburn, Marie Heartburn" were performed with Marie Osmond playing the titular role along with Donny Osmond and special guests  and on The Carol Burnett Show with Harvey Korman, portraying Lear as Norman Blear, introducing the series for children entitled "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary" by using nursery rhyme characters with Burnett in the lead role and Tim Conway as her eccentric grandfather, Wee Willie Winkie, running around "flashing" people in his panda nightgown, in reference to the Fernwood Flasher.
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 1 episodes were restored to their full-length broadcast versions and other bonus features, such as interviews with Norman Lear, Louise Lasser, and Mary Kay Place were included.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was syndicated on local stations briefly in 1982 and later broadcast on Lifetime Television in 1994 and TV Land in 2002.