Set in fictional Fernwood, Ohio, this deliriously demented serial focused on the beleaguered heroine Mary Hartman, an average American housewife. In the first year, Mary suffered the ... See full summary »
Set in fictional Fernwood, Ohio, this deliriously demented serial focused on the beleaguered heroine Mary Hartman, an average American housewife. In the first year, Mary suffered the travails of mass murder, adultery, venereal disease, homosexuality, religious cults, and UFO sightings, before she finally succumbed to a nervous breakdown on a syndicated talk show. Written by
Mark Faulkner <email@example.com>
Then Nixon aide Ben Stein wrote an impassioned letter in support of the show early in the first season, when its future was strongly in doubt; his piece is considered at least one of the reasons it continued airing. See more »
[Mary realizes she went to elementary school with the man who has kidnapped her]
Remember me, Mary Shumway? Mary Shumway?
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I was an original fan of the show, being about 16 or 17 in its first year. It was a cult hit for sure. My friends loved it. The jocks either hated it or hadn't heard of it. The cheerleaders I think were scared of it.
Since then I've seen several attempts to bring it back on TV as a rerun. But like others have said on here, the ratings for the reruns are low and they cancel it after a month or so. I think there are several reasons for this. One, is that the show really changed as it got past its second month. I remember an article of the time that said that they ran out of their first year's worth of material after the first month. Now I know that the first month or so have some classic stuff in them - the couch dying in the chicken soup, etc., but they hadn't really found the pace of the show in the early weeks. So, while they have some classic stuff and some inking as to what's coming, the first month or so isn't really that good. So, in reruns, the new audience gets bored and it gets canceled. So yes, in reruns we get the classic "chickens and goats", grandpa Shumway being a flasher, but we don't get Sgt. Foley's heart attack and Mary and him finally getting it on in the hospital, grandpa's affair with Roberta, her joining STET, the sex surrogate for Tom, Loretta's aborted trip to California, Garth Gimble, etc. What's great about this site it it's reminded me of how much I've forgot about.
Something else that I remember about the show is that, well, not all the episodes were that funny. I think at the time we accepted that they had to come up with two and a half hours of TV a week and that not all of it would be great. I remember many episodes where there was only one real laugh. It may have been a great laugh, but today's audience isn't as patient as we were. The other thing is think of what the competition was for Mary Hartman. It ran at 11:00 PM and was up against the local news in an era of three broadcast channels and twelve cable channels. In my house, the only serious competition were re-runs of the Honeymooners on WPIX from New York.
The other thing that makes this tough on reruns is that Mary Hartman was so much a part of the 70's. What's hard to explain to people who weren't there, is how weird the 70's were. The whole country was in this very odd mood, partly giddy, partly freaked out, partly numb. I don't know if I can explain how Mary Hartman fit in to that, but it did and maybe not enough time has passed where it won't seem dated. The other thing is that the show had a whole parallel life running at the same time in the live soap opera of Louise Lasser's sudden fame. Her personal trajectory towards a nervous breakdown tracked Mary Hartman's. Do I need to remind everyone of her bizarre interviews in Rolling Stone, her bust for cocaine, and her appearance as the host on SNL, in which she also had a nervous breakdown. Years later it came out that this was not faked, that she was ready to refuse to appear on the show minutes before curtain time, and only agreed to appear once Chevy Chase convinced her that if she didn't go on, he'd go on in her place wearing a wig.
This show in its first run had a drama to it that is hard to recreate in reruns. Not only did it track Louise Lasser's breakdown, it also traced America's breakdown too.
I miss the show. It meant a lot to me, and it's sad that it's only a memory.
BTW, does anyone remember what is one of my favorite moments, when Mary's rival for her husband Tom's affection, Mae has tried to kill herself with sleeping pills? And she turns to Mary for support, who plies her with coffee, and the towering Mae flops all over smaller Mary before they both slump on to the floor and Mary ends up drinking the coffee. It's been over thirty years and I still remember that after only one viewing.
Or when Loretta came over to bring Mary Jell-O with Cracker Jacks suspended in it?
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