In the 70's, producer Norman Lear could do no wrong: Lear came up with a remarkable series of smash hits, including: "All in the Family", "The Jeffersons", "Sanford and Son", "Good Times", "Maude", "All in the Family" and "One Day at a Time". "Mary Hartman, Mary hartman" was another Lear production, and one of the more controversial. When Lear offered it to networks, none of them were willing to go anywhere near it, so the producer decided to take it to syndication, where it gained a following - as well as an uproar from those who objected to the show's content (which, not surprisingly, now seems pretty tame.)
The series follows Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser), Tom Hartman (Greg Mullavey), Mary's mother and father (Phil Bruns and Dody Goodman), and Mary’s best friend and neighbor, Loretta Haggers, (Mary Kay Place), as well as other supporting players. The series, a spoof of soap operas, took place in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio and presented a portrait of average people trying to deal with problems in the bedroom (Tom and Mary's physical relationship has come to a halt), plans of stardom (Loretta has dreams of being a country singer) and waxy buildup on the floor. Outside, there's a mass murderer on the loose and the "Fernwood Flasher", who Mary very well may know the identity of.
While the series does seem rather dated today (both in terms of look and - understandably - in content, as what was understandably controversial doesn't seem nearly as much today), there's still a lot that works quite well, such as the performances (Lasser's deadpan delivery as Hartman is often hilarious) and Lear's handling of the material - not only did syndication give the show more freedom, but it's a rare series from the era that does not offer a laugh track to underline the gags. Additionally, the syndicated run allowed the series to air 5 nights a week and while Lasser left due to exhaustion in 1977, the series continued via 2 spin-offs: Fernwood 2Night (then renamed America 2Night) (1977-1978) and Forever Fernwood (1977-1978).
This first volume of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" contains the first 25 episodes of the series.
VIDEO: "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. While originally filmed on video, the series has held up fairly well since its original broadcast run. Sharpness and detail are not remarkable, but considering the age of the series and the filming technique, the show's sharpness and detail are consistently satisfactory. Some slight wear and fluttering colors are seen on occasion, but the show otherwise remained in good shape.
SOUND: The mono soundtrack also fared well, given the age of the series. While the audio remained rather flat, clarity was fine and no distortion was heard.
Final Thoughts: "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" doesn't seem as controversial as it likely did when it first aired, but the show still entertains thanks to a terrific ensemble cast lead by Lasser. The DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality, but no extras. Recommended.