Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

"Mary Hartman" redirects here. For the women's studies academic, see Mary S. Hartman.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

2007 DVD release cover
Created by
Developed by Norman Lear
Starring Louise Lasser
Greg Mullavey
Mary Kay Place
Graham Jarvis
Debralee Scott
Dody Goodman
Philip Bruns
Claudia Lamb
Victor Kilian
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 325
Running time 23 minutes
Production company(s) Filmways Television
T.A.T. Communications Company
Distributor Filmways (1976-1977)
Columbia TriStar Domestic Television (2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-present)
Original network Syndicated
Original release January 5, 1976 (1976-01-05) – May 10, 1977 (1977-05-10)

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is an American satirical soap opera that aired in daily (weekday) syndication from January 1976 to May 1977. The series was produced by Norman Lear, directed by Joan Darling and Jim Drake, and starred Louise Lasser. The series writers were Gail Parent and Ann Marcus.[1]

The show's title was the eponymous character's name stated twice, because Lear and the writers believed that dialogue within a soap opera was always said twice.

In 2004 and 2007, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was ranked #21 and #26 on "TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever."[2][3]

In 2009, TV Guide ranked "Chicken Soup" #97 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.[4]


Main cast

Supporting cast

History and production

Around 1975, 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, 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. Instinctively, Lear feared complications of selling a radical new show in a hotel room.

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 TV station to procure syndication rights to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, cementing the show’s place in TV history.


The series took place in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio. There is in fact a real Fernwood, Ohio, located in Jefferson County, but the series derived its name from Fernwood Avenue, which runs behind the KTLA/Sunset Bronson Studios where the show was taped.


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 characters' 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 shows featuring plot-labyrinths as an artform like Soap and Twin Peaks, in this sense pioneering for cult-shows for years to come.

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.

Forever Fernwood

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.[6][7] 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, aired as a spin-off/summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. It went "nationwide" as America 2-Night in 1978.

Cast reunion

In 2000, several of the original cast appeared on a panel for a Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman retrospective at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills, CA. The panel discussion was taped for the museum's archives.


VHS releases

DVD releases

On March 27, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Volume One on DVD in Region 1.[8] 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.

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.[9] 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.


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was syndicated on local stations briefly in 1982, and enjoyed some short-lived air time on Lifetime Television in 1994.

See also


  1. Barliant, Claire (October 10, 2010). "From a Waxy Yellow Buildup to a Nervous Breakdown: The Fleeting Existence of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman". East of Borneo. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  2. "TV Guide's 25 Top Cult Shows – TannerWorld Junction". TannerWorld Junction. May 26, 2004. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009.
  3. "TV Guide Names the Top Cult Shows Ever – Today's News: Our Take". TV Guide. June 29, 2007.
  4. "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time". TV Guide. June 15, 2009. pp. 34–49.
  5. IMBD
  6. "Forever Fernwood TV Show: News, Videos, Full Episodes and More". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  7. "Forever Fernwood TV Show: News, Videos, Full Episodes and More". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  8. "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman DVD news: Sony Announces Volume 1". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  9. "'The Complete Series' Press Release: Extras Include 'Fernwood 2 Night'!". (Press release).
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