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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is a great American tragicomedy
I first began watching MH2 in the eighth grade on the advise of my friend Todd. We would laugh hysterically each morning in homeroom at the strange absurdity of it all. Though we weren't getting all of it at that age, we understood a lot of their references and learned a lot in the process. And suffice it to say that when "Soap" came on the air a couple of years later, we could only see it as a network ripoff of a show they didn't have the guts to take on before the waters were tested (and by the way, I'm not knocking "Soap" which was a good show. It's just that MH2, for all its absurdities, was riskier and more truly satirical, and...it didn't have a laugh track). One of the most special traits of MH2 was that it tended to focus on small town America's working class and the places they congregate such as the bowling alley or the factory break room. Though serials like All My Children and One Life To Live had revolutionized the soap genre in the 70s by focusing on more "topical" characters, it was still unusual for a soap (or a satire of one) to focus empathetically on the denizens of the other side of the tracks, sometimes referred to as dirty white trash (Roseanne would later revolutionize sitcoms in a similar manner). This was certainly part of MH2's charm. I grew to love Mary Hartman's kitchen (and other Fernwood locales) as if they were an extension of my own town and home. Too bad the show couldn't have lasted longer than it did. Let me finish by saying this...about 5 or 6 years ago Lifetime network began reruns of this show and I was in my glory. For some strange reason, they stopped very soon into it and never resumed. But, I was fortunate enough to have viewed, for the first time in 20 years, the first episodes in which Mary is held captive by the guy who "killed the whole Lombardy family, two goats and six chickens" and, from the vantage point of my 30s, I was finally able to really "get it"; Mary Hartman is one of the great emblems of the distress of the mid-20th century American woman. Her hair in childish pigtails while wearing those little girl dresses, Mary was an example of the overly-consumered, growth-stunted American housewife trying to function while in a semi-daze. Her confrontations with adultery, contemporary feminism, and countless other social issues (often found within her own family) while trying to be the perfect little housewife and mother makes her eventual nervous breakdown more than just another crazy plot twist. In actuality, it was an inevitable progression. Compare her and her friends and neighbors to Carol Burnett's Eunice and other 70s television characters like Edith Bunker and you'd have a rather fascinating college course, I think. Perhaps I need to put one together! So, for those of you who have a similar fondness for this groundbreaking, offbeat series and to those who have never seen it, here's to bringing Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman back in reruns. Fernwood deserves to be revisited! P.S. If you want to see Louise "Mary Hartman" Lasser in a recent role, rent "Happiness". Beware, though,
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