Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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"Mary Hartman" redirects here. For the women's studies academic, see Mary S. Hartman.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
DVD box 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 soap opera parody 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]


Main cast[edit]

  • Louise Lasser as Mary Hartman (née Shumway), the show's titular character.
  • Greg Mullavey as Tom Hartman, Mary's unfaithful husband and Heather's father.
  • Dody Goodman as Mrs. Martha Shumway (née Larkin), Mary's often daffy mother, known for talking to her plants.
  • Mary Kay Place as Loretta Haggers (née McCandless), Mary's best friend and neighbor, a wanna-be country singer.
  • Graham Jarvis as Charlie "Baby Boy" Haggers, Loretta's much older husband and Tom Hartman's best friend.

Secondary cast[edit]

  • Debralee Scott as Cathy Shumway, Mary's maneater sister.
  • Philip Bruns (and for a few episodes, Tab Hunter) as George Shumway, Martha's husband and Mary and Cathy's father. He worked at an automobile assembly plant along with Tom and Charlie.
  • Victor Kilian as Grandpa Raymond Larkin, Martha's father, who was revealed in the pilot episode to be the "Fernwood Flasher".
  • Claudia Lamb as Heather Hartman, Tom and Mary's troubled daughter, who had, unfortunately, witnessed the massacre of the Lombardi family (including their goats and chickens).
  • Salome Jens as Mae Olinski, Tom's co-worker at the assembly plant (she was the payroll officer), with whom he had an affair.
  • Bruce Solomon as Sgt. Dennis Foley, a Fernwood police officer who liked Mary, with whom she eventually ran off. (See Forever Fernwood, below.)
  • Samantha Harper as Roberta Wolashek, a forlorn social worker who was appointed to help Grandpa Larkin.
  • Martin Mull as wife-beater Garth Gimble who died by being impaled by a star on an aluminum Christmas tree. (Mull also played Garth's twin brother, Barth, a talk show host).
  • Norman Alden as Coach Leroy Fedders, Tom's former high school coach. He died drowning in Mary's chicken soup.
  • Reva Rose as Blanche Fedders, Coach Fedders' constantly protesting and militant wife.
  • Susan Browning as Garth's wife, Pat, the target of his abuse.
  • Sparky Marcus as Jimmy Joe Jeeter, child evangelist, who perished when a TV set he was watching fell into the bathtub electrocuting him.
  • Dabney Coleman as Merle Jeeter, Fernwood's slightly devious mayor and Jimmy Joe's father.
  • Marian Mercer as Wanda Rittenhouse Jeeter, a widow of a city commissioner, and a former sanitarium mate of Mary's who became Jeeter's second wife while also carrying on a bisexual relationship with their maid, Lila.
  • Gloria DeHaven as CB radio aficionado Annie "Tippy-toes" Wylie, a bisexual who also had an affair with Tom Hartman.
  • Orson Bean as Reverend Brim, one of Fernwood's clergymen, mainly in Forever Fernwood.
  • George Furth as Reverend Harold Standfast, who helped Mary through the Davey Jessup hostage crisis. (He had to swear on a stack of Bibles to have Mary released, but only did so after being threatened with the exposure of an extramarital affair he had with Florence Baedecker, the choir mistress of his church).
  • Mary Carver as Christine Standfast, Reverend Standfast's wife, who knew all about her husband's extramarital affair.
  • Rose Gregorio as Florence Baedecker, the choir mistress of Reverend Standfast's church, who was involved in an affair with the reverend, whom she called Bunny.
  • Shelley Fabares as Eleanor Major, a woman who Tom Hartman fell in love with, after Mary left him and Heather for Sgt. Foley.
  • Judith Kahan as Penny Major, Eleanor's sister, who married Tom Hartman in the series finale.
  • Will Seltzer as Davey Jessup, the murderer of the Lombardi family (and their two goats and eight chickens), who held Mary and Sgt. Foley hostage. Before that, he had held Mary's daughter Heather and her best friend, Trudy Weathersby, hostage.
  • Doris Roberts as Dorelda Doremus, a faith healer.
  • Michael Lembeck as Clete Meizenheimer, television news reporter for Fernwood's local television station.
  • Andrew Rubin, Jesus Jarerra, Clete Meizenheimer's co-reporter.
  • Archie Hahn as Harold Clemens, a reporter for the town's newspaper, the Fernwood Courier.
  • Beeson Carroll as Howard McCullough, Mary's dashingly handsome gay neighbor.
  • Lawrence Haddon as Ed McCullough, Howard McCullough's partner.
  • Vivian Blaine as Betty McCullough, Mary's fortune teller neighbor helping her son and his partner hide their true relationship[4]

History and production[edit]

Around 1975, Norman Lear and his entertainment company, Tandem Productions, created a pilot for his new parody, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. 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 1970's. 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 one state of mind and swing to its opposite if triggered. 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 a hallmark of cult-shows for years to come.

In its first episode, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman addressed the Lombardi family of five that had been mass-murdered (including their two goats and eight chickens) by young Davey Jessup, and had been witnessed by Mary's daughter, Heather; and the "Fernwood Flasher", who turned out to be Mary's grandfather, Raymond Larkin. Characters on the show died in several bizarre ways, including bathtub electrocution (Jimmy Joe Jeeter), drowning in chicken soup (Coach Leroy Fedders), and impalement 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, and 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[edit]

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 ran away with a policeman (the aforementioned Sgt. Dennis Foley), with whom she had a lot of contact in the first season. Aside from Lasser, the rest of the cast remained intact. More actors become part of the cast: Shelley Fabares as Eleanor Major, who began dating Tom after Mary left him; Judith Kahan as Eleanor's stuttering sister, Penny Major; Randall Carver as Cathy Shumway's gangster husband, Jeffrey DeVito.[5][6] On the very last episode of the series Penny married Tom Hartman. Forever Fernwood ended in 1978, after only 26 weeks on the air (130 half-hour episodes).


During the summer of 1977, Fernwood 2 Night aired as a combination spin-off/summer replacement for the main series. Set in the same town, it was a faux talk show. It, in turn, spun off America 2-Night.

Cast reunion[edit]

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[edit]

  • The Best of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Volume I. Videocassette. Embassy Home Entertainment.
  • The Best of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Volume II. Videocassette. Embassy Home Entertainment.

DVD releases[edit]

On March 27, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Volume One on DVD in Region 1.[7] 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.[8] The 38-disc set features all 325 episodes of the series (the season one episodes were restored to their full-length broadcast versions) as well as bonus features.


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

References in pop culture[edit]

  • In 1976, the American discogroup Sounds Of Inner City released a single referencing the show, titled "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".
  • During the run of the series and its various spin-offs and sequels, KTTV, which broadcast the series in the Los Angeles market, also broadcast a tongue-in-cheek version of its nightly "Metronews" newscast, titled Metronews, Metronews. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was often abbreviated MH2, so Metronews, Metronews was abbreviated MN2. During the run of Fernwood 2-Night, MN2 became the name of the show, which was retconned to stand for Metronews 2-Night.
  • The name of the show was referenced by the character Stewie Griffin in the animated TV show Family Guy, in the episode "Saving Private Brian".

See also[edit]


External links[edit]