Norman Lear's "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"
November 16, 2012 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman appeared in 1976... and it exists as a sort of island of experimentation, its ripples of influence not fully engaged with until several decades later... . Predictably rejected by the networks, this Norman Lear production ran in first-run syndication, five nights a week, usually after the late-night news. ... Louise Lasser (once Woody Allen’s muse) stars as a put-upon pre-feminist housewife who repeats the secular liturgy of American consumerism in an attempt to stave off a nervous breakdown.*
posted by Egg Shen (61 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a child, this show confused and frightened me. I just remember this woman who looked like my sister's Holly Hobbie doll, but with that strange voice and always the cigarettes.
posted by orme at 5:53 PM on November 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


That show was amazing, simply some of the best American TV ever.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:57 PM on November 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I loved that show... watched it faithfully to the end. I'd always wanted to watch it again. Nice to see its on youtube, but god, what a time sink it would be.
posted by DarkForest at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I watched this show obsessively when it was on. And I have always loved the theme music.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Summary of Season 1 episode 1 linked above:
Loretta delivers word that a neighborhood family was murdered; Mary and Tom have a disagreement about making love; Charlie announces he almost has enough money to get Loretta's record demo made; The Fernwood Flasher is finally captured.

Is this real? WTF is this? I watched the first 2 minutes of that and it felt like a nightmare. Someone tell me what is going on.
posted by bleep at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My god! That's a young Mary Kay Place!

Love this. Here's the Wikipedia for the uninitiated.

An American soap opera parody...
posted by vitabellosi at 6:08 PM on November 16, 2012


Is this real? WTF is this?

A little (Tripod) context.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:09 PM on November 16, 2012


I think my mom went as Mary Hartman Mary Hartman for Halloween one year. She looked like Raggedy Ann to me -- because of the red yarn braids she wore.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:09 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman when it was on... and found the whole series on DVD a couple of years ago... it's still good.
posted by HuronBob at 6:16 PM on November 16, 2012


I first saw Martin Mull and Billy Crystal on "Mary Hartman." I still remember this.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:18 PM on November 16, 2012


The Original Absolutely Fabulous Sketch

It's related, Darling.
posted by Mblue at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2012


Billy Crystal was on Soap - which came later.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2012


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman spawned Fernwood 2Nite and subsequently America 2Nite. The people who release the entire series on DVD someday can name their price and I will pay it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:21 PM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


The Carol Burnett version.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:23 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mary, her waxy yellow build-up, Dennis Foley . . . ah, those were the days. Sing it with me: "Baby boy, baby boy, sweet Charlie, you're my big ol' baby boy!"
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:25 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will watch anything with Mary Kay Place in it.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how alien-looking the show is to my jaded 21st century brain. I never watched it as a kid, but I sat through hours and hours of The Edge of Night and Ryan's Hope and good god Guiding Light, so the visual style ought to be familiar.

Anyway thanks for posting this - what an awesome treat.
posted by Angharad at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2012


Mary Kay Place's character was later used as a model for Shelly Marie Tambo in Northern Exposure...
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was a classic.
posted by caddis at 6:51 PM on November 16, 2012


I'd spend a ton for Fernwood 2 Nite too. Never knew it was a Mary Hartman spinoff.

"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." - Tom Waits on Fernwood 2 Nite.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:54 PM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh man, Sis & I were hooked on MHMH. Watched every night. Laughed our asses off, it was so weird. 'Course a little weed didn't hurt. Portland's KPTV, then independent, ran it at 11PM against the local news. Worked for us!

I tried watching it again recently on Netflix and didn't get past eight or so episodes. But if you haven't seen it go for it.

Norman Lears' follow-up was "All That Glitters". 65 episodes in 13 weeks before being cancelled. Make of it what you will.
posted by wallabear at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dody Goodman is (was) my grandmother's cousin, and they grew up together in Ohio. My mom & grandmother watched this obsessively in first run. Many years later my mom noted to me that it was made all the more surreal for her because my Grandmother & Ms Goodman looked and spoke almost exactly alike.
posted by anastasiav at 7:18 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fernwood 2 Nite

I remember when Julie Kavner, the zaftig Sarah Silverman of the 70s, was on pitching her fast food chain Falalfel On A Stick. Or the time on Mary Hartman when there was a hostage taking at a bank robbery and, at one point, a shirtless, pantsless policeman, with a badge pinned to front of his BVDs, was sent in with a stack of pizzas on a handtruck. Those were the days.
posted by y2karl at 7:34 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have just seen the first episode. That was strange. I think I've found a new show to watch.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those were the days.

ISWYDT.
posted by wallabear at 7:54 PM on November 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks for this post! I was able to see a handful of curated episodes on TV Land several years ago along with a Norman Lear doc and fell in love with this show. I bought the DVD set of the first 25 episodes, and would absolutely kill to have the other 300 episodes be released. This program needs to be watched by more people, and the fact that the only place you can see episodes 26-325 now is at the Museum Of TV + Radio is a shame. MTM shows are the best!
posted by theartandsound at 8:08 PM on November 16, 2012


We watched this religiously. My father used to say "It's a documentary!" because we lived in a small town where all kinds of ridiculous things were always happening.

And then "Fernwood 2Nite", lord, that was funny. Fred Willard and Frank DeVol slayed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:11 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


i was 15 at the time and i had a crush on Dody Goodman

I am SO SORRY that you had to hear that.

*runs away*
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:23 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you really think Julie Kavner was zaftig?
posted by cabingirl at 8:23 PM on November 16, 2012


Is this how the next generation will discuss Community? Watched the first few minutes ... Now after reading the above comments and viewing the Wikipedia page, will have to view a few more.
posted by slothhog at 9:16 PM on November 16, 2012


This was on in late night syndication when I was a kid (mid-'80s). My parents and their friends laughed at it; I literally did not understand any of the jokes and felt like I was watching some kind of bizarre nightmare show. The sound of the opening ("Mary Hartman...Mary Hartman") signaled to my young brain that I needed to go to bed.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:32 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


My parents watched it religiously. Which in retrospect seems kinda avant garde for those two, as they probably followed it up with an episode of the A Team, but whatever. I was never allowed in the room while it was on, but like noted above when I caught snippets it was confusing and scary and weird.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:35 PM on November 16, 2012


Julie Kavner was zaftig early in her career, though she's much slimmer/rangier now. She had a lovely round face and was quite bosomy, as these "Rhoda" photos show.

I had a huge crush on her! Still do. The voice just knocks me out, even as Marge.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:52 PM on November 16, 2012


Dear Children of the 70's,

We (your parents) apologize for the trauma induced by our watching Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Please understand that our obsession with this show was triggered by a number of factors which include, but are not limited to, our own parents obsession with linoleum and the waxing thereof, crossover sexual obsession with country music stars, our fear that our own parents and/or grandparents may, in fact, actually BE sexually devient, and our furtive and unspoken attraction to Louise Lasser.

We had survived the 60's and had become our parents, it terrified us, we needed to believe that there was still some deviance left in our lives. We needed to know that we were not going to, forever drive AMC Gremlins and learn that sex was a memory, not a future.

Mary Hartman (Mary Hartman) left us with the hope that our future would not become some Asimovian Back to the Future nightmare that would find us driving Woody station wagons like our parents did as we transported ourselves to PTA meetings and church socials. We were frightened, we needed to know that the world contained strange, obscure and politically extreme experiences. Living in Fernwood, if only vicariously, was our hope, our dream.

We're sorry. But, our well being was really more important that your childish need to watch nothing other than the Brady Bunch and other such nonsense. Get over it!

Signed, your parents.
posted by HuronBob at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


my god this show influenced me. i was 9 when it first started airing. my sister and i would sneak out of bed at night to watch it. it was on 5 fucking nights a week. we somehow never found it nightmarish but rather super hilarious. dense and dark and no laugh track. i so loved Debralee Scott.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


We had four channels until UHF came in. Then channel 52 arrived with this and one or two other things.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:35 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for posting. I was obsessed with this show during a particularly depressing relationship which just wouldn't end. It was surreal the first time around and I look forward to the same this time.
posted by Isadorady at 11:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there any peanut butter?!
posted by mazola at 11:50 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Used to watch this during my first pregnancy when the ex was on the road and I couldn't sleep. Loved it.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:58 AM on November 17, 2012


But, our well being was really more important

Spoken like a boomer. Well done.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:13 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


My God, I loved MH,MH! Short-lived, but so good. I still have this image in my mind of this bored, alienated housewife sitting in her kitchen, tossing potholders (with magnets) at her refrigerator.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:07 AM on November 17, 2012


Such a crush I had on Bruce Solomon as Sgt. Foley!
posted by La Cieca at 4:53 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ron Thanagar: i was 15 at the time and i had a crush on Dody Goodman

When I was growing up my folks didn't have Playboys, didn't have Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), didn't even have National Geographic magazines. In my house, if you wanted to see pictures of boobies there was only place to look:
Women, Women, Women! by Dody Goodman
You're welcome and/or I'm so sorry.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman spawned Fernwood 2 Nite and subsequently America 2Nite.


Who would have thought this would be the start of two of the most enduring, well-regarded acting careers of our time? (Or my life-long crush on Fred Willard!)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:45 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were a number of TV shows that were verboten in our strict, right wing, middle class WASP household. However, Mary Hartman, oddly enough, was not on the black list. It was late, so I didn't always stay up to watch it, and at my age didn't really get it. But it was delightful to find this weird nugget of subversion at the end of the day.
posted by Xoebe at 6:04 AM on November 17, 2012


MHMH and Fernwood 2nite: brilliant. Only the old SNL approached this kind of satire. It drew you in with its understated humor, and let ideas rattle around in your head like BBs in a boxcar until you got too dizzy to .... wait, maybe that part was the pakalolo.

My SO at the time was a tall woman with waist-length copper hair, which she wore in two long braids. You couldn't say MH MH or Pippy Longstockings around her without having her flash warning signs with her eyes.
posted by mule98J at 6:53 AM on November 17, 2012


And then "Fernwood 2Nite", lord, that was funny. Fred Willard and Frank DeVol slayed.

I thought Happy Kyne was funny at the time. A few years later I randomly picked up his Bacchanal!, and eventually figured out that his music was actually pretty cool.
posted by ovvl at 7:13 AM on November 17, 2012


Hearing Mary Kay Place address her husband as "baby boy" was such a sexual experience for me that, when making this post, I was surprised to realize that I was only 9 years old at the time.

Watching the show now, I can sort of see the moments that were intended to be funny. I can even imagine people tuned to its particular wavelength actually laughing at them. But either I'm not on that wavelength - or my childhood memories of bewilderment and anxiety are too indelible - because it remains a nightmarish artifact.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:27 AM on November 17, 2012


I was among those 70's kids who found it terrifying at the time, and ran upstairs to hide when I heard the theme music -- but now I think it's one of the most brilliant shows ever created (though of course a touch of that prickly terror still remains, deep inside...). This eleven-minute clip of Mary Hartman falling into a complete meltdown on a talk show is one of the most powerful, moving, funny moments in television history. Well, if you ask me.

(...and I'm only halfway through the first season, but I wonder if Claire Danes' work in "Homeland" isn't sort of in a similar category as what Louise Lasser is doing here -- that is, a kind of condensation of the anxieties of her age?)
posted by ariel_caliban at 8:08 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


All That Glitters was mesmerizing, and would probably hold up better than MHMH. I'd give anything if it were available on DVD.

Interesting thought about Claire Danes and Louise Lasser.
posted by merrill at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have most of the show on DVD, so contact me via message about getting copies.
posted by The Sprout Queen at 10:00 AM on November 17, 2012


MHMH and Fernwood 2nite: brilliant. Only the old SNL approached this kind of satire.

Hmmm, well, consider...
Ed Grimley, Count Floyd, Lola Heatherton, Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurock of the Farm Film Report, Sammy Maudlin, Guy Caballero, Bobby Bittman, Yosh Shmenge and Stan Shmenge, Lin Ye Tang, the Five Neat Guys, the brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie, Tex and Edna Boil, Agnus Crock, Dusty Towne, Gerry Todd, Johnny LaRue, Mel Slirrup, Floyd Robertson and Earl Camembert of the SCTV News, William B. Williams and Edith Prickley in her leopard skin pillbox hat
--I would argue that SCTV surpassed them both.

Who can forget CCCPTV ?

See also
posted by y2karl at 10:44 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spoken like a boomer. Well done.

Poor poopy, just 'cause we beat you to drugs, sex and rock'n roll...

-- but remember, you still have your tattoos and smartphones! Go, ahead and tweet someone about that! That shows us up!
posted by y2karl at 10:59 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a child, this show confused and frightened me.

Me, too! That damned "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman!" shrieking at the beginning of the show always made me think it was a horror movie. When I finally watched it recently as an adult, it made me realize I never would have gotten it even if I'd not been scared of the show's titles.

Perhaps we're the scarred children of the Mary Hartman generation...
posted by kuppajava at 11:05 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


All That Glitters was mesmerizing, and would probably hold up better than MHMH. I'd give anything if it were available on DVD.

did MH MH and All That Glitters air in back to back time slots? i can't seem to mention one without referencing the other and have never been sure why they're so linked in my memory.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2012


And now I'm 11 episodes in. This show is simultaneously hilarious, terrifying, and sad; I'm very glad to be watching it.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:40 PM on November 17, 2012


I remember being out with my parents and rushing home because it was going to be on. I, too, was confused and somewhat scared by it. I still am.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2012


This was when we lived in Finland, I should add. So as confused as I was... what did the Finns think?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:55 PM on November 17, 2012


What kind of a mad man would shoot two goats and eight chickens?

And the people. Yeah, the people.


I was just old enough to find some of it hilariously funny, and some of it weirder than shit.

I will probably have the same reaction today.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:18 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I... can't stop watching. This is brilliant.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:39 AM on November 19, 2012


Ooooooooooh man, shit gets REAL good around episode 14/15.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:49 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It only goes up to episode 25? Now that is some BULLshit. Have a Happy Thanksgiving my ass!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:54 PM on November 20, 2012


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