SUPPORTING GREAT TELEVISION

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Surreal Life Serial

In Flashbacks on January 6, 2011 at 12:00 am

Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) in the first episode of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” (Screen cap)

On January 6, 1976, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – the soap-opera spoof that paved the way for Twin Peaks, Seinfeld and other surrealist series – debuted.

Norman Lear produced the nightly serial, which starred Louise Lasser as Mary, an Ohio housewife who fretted as much about her husband’s impotence as she did her kitchen floor’s waxy yellow buildup.

The show’s demented humor was too much for the networks, which rejected the pilot, so Lear syndicated the series to individual stations, many of which aired it at 11:30 p.m.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – the title stemmed from Lear’s belief that everything on soaps was said twice – became a ratings phenomenon, beating Johnny Carson in some cities.

Success was brief: The show flamed out in 1977, when an exhausted Lasser quit after an astonishing 325 performances.

See for yourself: The Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Volume 1 DVD contains the show’s first 25 episodes.

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