'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman - Volume 1'
(Greg Mullavy, Debralee Scott, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1976) 2007 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: Set in fictional Fernwood, Ohio, this deliriously demented serial focused on the beleaguered heroine Mary Hartman, an average American housewife. In the first year, Mary suffered the travails of mass murder, adultery, venereal disease, homosexuality, religious cults, and UFO sightings, before she finally succumbed to a nervous breakdown on a syndicated talk show.
DVD Verdict: When this show first premiered in January 1976 it gave Saturday Night Live a run for its money in being one of the most daring and inventive shows that had been aired. Louise Lasser's deadpan delivery as the often put-upon, under-appreciated Mary was delightful, and the show had a very talented supporting cast. Besides doing a great job of satirizing the problems of life in the 70's, it was a deft parody of soap operas in general, such as when Martin Mull returned as Barth Gimble, the twin brother of Garth Gimble, who had just died.
Dabney Coleman was also great as the mayor, a true cynic who was much more interested in staying mayor than actually accomplishing anything. This show also gave birth to that great satire of the talk shows, Fernwood Tonight. Life probably wasn't too far from art in this case, since the first season ended with Mary in a mental institution, and I think putting out a new episode every night, just like an actual soap opera, took its toll on the whole cast, and Louise Lasser in particular.
If you happen to remember the episode of Saturday Night Live that Louise Lasser hosted during that time, you know what I mean - the stress really showed. People looked forward to each new episode - just like a real soap opera - and there were 130 episodes in the first season alone. Thus, although I am grateful that we have the first 25 episodes, that doesn't even get us through the first one-fifth of the first season, so I hope more releases of this show are pending. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) and comes with no Special Features.