Mary Hartman Mary Hartman - What the hell was this show all about?

I was eating a Fig Newton this afternoon and in munching the teeny tiny little fig seeds between my teeth, suddenly had a recovered memory flashback of this show. I vaguely remember a bewildered looking woman with pig tails wandering aimlessly through a bizarre soap opera landscape like Pippi Longstocking on Prozac.

What the hell was this show all about?


It was about Mary Hartman, one assumes.

If memory serves me right, it was some sort of parody of soap operas.

I think it was more a satire. Parodies tend to be funny.

Mary Hartman was quite funny, though in a low-key, deadpan way. Since it ran five days a week, they didn’t go for the belly laughs in every scene (though there were plenty). Most of the humor came from the sendup of soap opera cliches, convoluted plots, and from the banality of the characters.

My favorite was Loretta’s appearance on Dinah Shore. Loretta was an aspiring country singer of minimal talent (played by the maximal talented Mary Kay Place), and this was going to be her big break. Then, as she’s gushing on the air about how weel Dinah’s staff treated him, she commented how a certain member of the staff was so nice, even though “he was one of the people who killed Our Lord.” There was an immediate cut to “the opinions expressed are not those of Dinah Shore, or of anyone remotely connected with the show.”

The show lost steam (as was invitable trying to keep up the pace they had set), but in the beginning, it was a hoot.

Let’s all go out to International House of Pancakes now.

The cable channel TV Land is re-running MHMH currently. They show 2 episodes on Friday nights and 2 episodes on Saturday nights. Tonight’s episodes were #11 & #12.

I was hooked on this show when it originally aired, so I started watching it again just for the blast from the past, but surprisingly (to me), I’ve gotten hooked on it again! The show is funny, though not in a belly-laugh kind of way, but at the same time it took on some very strange and serious topics, such as the unknown serial killer who’s just killed some goats and chickens - oh, and 5 people too ("…killed the Lombardis, their three kids, two goats, and eight chickens." Mary, who’s something of a blank slate, says “What kind of madman would kill two goats and eight chickens?”), and he’s kidnapped Mary’s daughter but he lets her go home for a while, as long as she agrees to come back, which she intends to do).

If my memory serves, it just keeps getting weirder and weirder. I’m loving how politically incorrect it is (for instance, Mary smokes; Loretta goes to the doctor and he smokes) - they could never make a show like this nowadays.

It’s weird, and loopy and loony, and I certainly don’t blame people who can’t stand it, but I’m having fun watching it again.

I think my favorite thing about MHMH is that it led directly to Fernwood 2Nite (later America 2Nite), a parody of TV talk shows that starred Martin Mull as host Barth Gimble and Fred Willard as sidekick Jerry Hubbard and featured Frank De Vol (composer of music for My Three Sons, Family Affair, The Brady Bunch, and over sixty movies, including Kiss Me Deadly, Pillow Talk, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, The Glass Bottomed Boat, The Dirty Dozen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Longest Yard) as band leader Happy Kyne, as well as Dabney Coleman, Jim Varney, Robin Williams, and Paul Reubens, not to mention appearances by Tom Waits, Harry Shearer, Charlton Heston, and Cindy Williams, playing themselves as guests on the show. Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees directed. Without question, Fernwood 2Nite was one of the funniest American TV series ever, and it’s a shame it’s not better known today.

I read that the episode of “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman) was pulled by Lorne Michaels from the rerun list and will never be seen other than by those alive and home on that Saturday night in 1976.

Lasser reportedly had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the show.

I don’t think it was a nervous breakdown; reports were that she had ingested some “harmful materials” as Dick Tracy would have put it. Whatever the cause, she was incoherant and rambling on the air.

My favorite memories of Mary Hartman are the funny deaths: the football coach, facing scandal and hopped-up on booze and pills, drowns when he passes out face-down in a bowl of Mary’s chicken soup; Garth Gimble accidentally dies with a Christmas tree ornament stuffed in his mouth, and a little decorative tree sticking out of his back, surmounted (if I recall) by a little rotating musical angel…

I want to hear more about the SNL episode! What’s the dish?

Didn’t see that one, but Lasser was (or recently had been) married to Woody Allen. Who wouldn’t ingest “harmful materials?”:wink:

Ah, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman—we used to schedule our classes around that show in college. I’ve seen a few reruns recently, and it has not aged well (but then, again, neither have I).

My favorite memory was when a Japanese soldier was found who’d been in hiding since WWII. Mary’s mother (played by the great Dody Goodman) was appalled: “Why, he missed the Vietnam War! He missed Watergate! [dawning horror] Why, he missed Nancy Sinatra’s entire career!

I remember this show going on the air when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I loved it even then! I taped the episodes from Sat. night and watched them. The show is even better now that I’m older and able to understand it a tad better. I still remember that song that Lorretta sang, presumably for a protest at the local elementary school. It went “Oh no, we won’t go, those weak binders gotta go!”

I’ve got a book that covered behind the scenes at SNL up until the first cast that had Eddie Murphy. The book discussed Lasser’s epsode and IIRC she was very temperamental and hard to work with. She almost didn’t do her opening monologue. Chevy Chase was going to wear a wig and go in her place until she stepped in at the last second.

She wanted “creative control” of the whole show and wound up being a huge pain in the ass to everybody. If I can find the book, I’ll put up more info.

I saw that SNL epsiode, first-run. All I remember is that sometime during the show, she sat down on the proscenium and did a rambling monologue, talking about her recent drug bust. Knowing the crew at SNL, that might even have been largely scripted.

Thanks, Knowed Out. This is the book I must have read. It was years ago, and I no longer have it.

I saw an episode on Saturday night, and I thought it was kinds funny. I like the satire in it, which is why I watched it.

This is an excerpt from Saturday Night by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad. The story first talks about Lasser’s success on MHMH and how she was unable to handle the pressure of sudden fame.
…She’d been arrested for possession of cocaine in Los Angeles not long before she came to New York for the show. When she arrived she was self-obsessed to the point of “solipsism” (Chevy’s description); many on the show believed she was nearing a nervous breakdown. She rambled on incoherently in meetings, crawled around the hallways on her hands and knees, refused to do pieces that had been written for her, and insisted on doing her own strange ideas. She demanded that two films be shot; one in which she had a conversation with a dog, the other in which she say in a diner and babbled a meaningless monologue. Michael O’Donoghue, who finally walked off the show that week in disgust, described Lasser’s state of mind as “clinically berserk.” “She was a nice woman going through a few problems,” he said, “but I wanted to force her to eat her goddamn pigtails at gunpoint.”

On Saturday night, twenty minutes before the show began, Lasser decided she wasn’t going on and shut herself in the dressing room. Most people on the show were then happy to hear it. The cast members, as they would for Kris Kristofferson a week later, started dividing up her parts. Chevy planned to play some of her roles wearing a Mary Hartman wig. Bill Murray, who was not yet a member of the cast, happened to be in the studio that night, and he prepared himself to take Chevy’s part in these sketches.

Lorne, so anrgy he was swearing he’d kick her teeth in, was negotiating with Lasser through production assistants, who were running back and forth between his ninth-floor office and her dressing room on the eighth floor. Because of all the publicity surrounding the show, Lorne was not as sanguine about Lasser’s failing to appear as the others were, and he used the threat of scandal with her manager: “If she doesn’t go on,” he said, “America will want to know why.”

Lasser did go on, although it would probably have been a better show if she hadn’t. She appeared alongside a cast member only once, in a takeoff on Ingmar Bergman’s films in which she and Chevy stared soundlessly into each other’s eyes. Equally soundless was the the audience’s reactions to her films. … The worst came last, during Lasser’s closing monologue. She sat onstage, cross-legged, and launched into a sadly self-indulgent ramble about herself. It began with her musing that she was putting on her shoes in front of twenty-two million people. One line that made sense referred to the wages of stardom and recent bust in Los Angeles. “They made me rich, famous, and a known criminal,” she said.

Then the story talks about what a horrible show Milton Berle hosted, and ends with this:

There may be some poetic justice in the fact that Milton Berle will stand in perpetuity alongside Louise Lasser in the ranks of Saturday Night hosts whose shows Lorne never allowed to be seen in reruns.