Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (sometimes abbreviated as MH2)
was a 1976-1978 syndicated prime-time soap opera parody produced by Norman
Lear and directed by Joan Darling. The soap was written by sitcom writer
Gail Parent and soap writer Ann Marcus, who was best known for her work on
Search for Tomorrow.
The show's title was repeated twice, because Lear and the writers
believed that everything that was said on a soap opera was said twice.
Lear conceived Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman as satire, but it was
viewed as so controversial that many stations aired it well after their 11
P.M. newscasts. The irony was that while Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
dealt with many of the same topics found in episodes of daytime soap
operas, the topics were called by their names (impotence, sexual
perversion) instead of being referred to in hushed tones and euphemisms;
all the while the cast had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks.
For this reason, the series was even more controversial than it might
otherwise have been. In 1977, the similarly-themed Soap
was released, but it was conceived as more of a conventional sitcom than a
serial, albeit with seriously dramatic elements.
The storyline followed Mary Hartman, played by Louise Lasser, and her
family. Mary Hartman's husband Tom (Greg Mullavey), her mother by Dody
Goodman, and Mary’s best friend and next-door neighbor, Loretta Haggars,
(Mary Kay Place). Other cast members included Debralee Scott, Renee
Taylor, Reva Rose, Martin Mull (as both Garth Gimble and Barth Gimble),
Dabney Coleman, Marian Mercer and Doris Roberts. The series took place in
the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio. In its first episode, MH2 addressed
a family that had been mass-murdered (including the goats and chickens)
and the "Fernwood Flasher", who turned out to be Mary's
When Lasser left the show in 1977, it was rebranded Forever Fernwood
and followed the trials and tribulations of Mary's family and friends
after she ran away with a policeman. The series finally ended in 1978,
along with the talk show parody spin-off Fernwood 2-Night.
Mary Kay Place was nominated for a Grammy
Award for the album Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggers
on which she sang as her MH2 character, Loretta Haggers. One of the songs
Place wrote for the album, "Baby Boy", climbed to the Top 60 on
Billboard's Pop Charts, and #3 on the country charts, in 1976. Place also
won an Emmy for her performance on the show.