Please note that I've already done a post on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman back in July 2009, so I'll spare you the introduction. Suffice it to say, it was a soap opera parody that pushed the envelope beyond measure. It was a parody, yet stood on its own with intriguing characters, great acting, and an element of the bizarre that can only be equated with Twin Peaks.
This post is simply 10 reasons to love the show. I could easily list a hundred, but I think you'll get my point. Hopefully, this will have a domino effect and result in the release of all 400 plus episodes (as it stands, there's only a tiny portion of season one on DVD). While this may not be practical to release on disc, as Netflix did with Dark Shadows, I'd like to see them do the same with this series and make it available for streaming. Dare to dream.
1. Reality in all its Grittiness.
Please note that reality shows as we know them are about as "real" as a wedge of thermoplastic coated polystyrene. Mary Hartman showed the glistening sweat, the unplucked hairs, the farmers tans, etc. There was nothing softened or airbrushed in Mary Hartman.
2. Miniskirts Galore.
Indeed, this post could pass for a Miniskirt Monday post easily. Every female character wears a mini all the time, even though the show was recorded in 1976 - well after the miniskirt had fallen out of style. Quite an accomplishment.
3. The Dark Side of Infidelity
Mary's husband Tom cheats with his coworker, Mae. Not only does it tear their marriage apart, but Tom comes down with a sexually transmitted disease.
4. Groovy Sets
When it comes to funky variety of 70s decor, there's none better. Your average sitcom had one, maybe two, sound stages. So, while you could soak in the splendor of the Romano's pad in One Day at a Time, there wasn't likely to be any further optical wonders to behold. Not so, Mary Hartman.
5. Mary Kay Place
Pop culture is littered with actresses striving to portray the white trash bimbo, but it's almost never done correctly. Mary Kay Place is the on par with Danny McBride in making the trailer park citizen interesting and sympathetic without being purely a one-dimensional stereotype.
The sitcom has to pack an entire story into twenty minutes, which is often a good thing. But there's a lot to be said for maybe exploring a situation beyond the handful of minutes. For instance, Mary's hostage situation with mass murderer, Davey Jessup, went on for around ten episodes!
7. Mary's Undergarments
At the risk of sounding like a pervert, I feel I need to mention that Louise Lasser's underclothing makes an appearance nearly every episode. I'm pretty sure this was due to the fact that there were 455 episodes, and no time for careful editing. However, it was frequent enough to make one wonder if some degree of planning was involved. Either way, it's a plus.
8. Awkwardness to the Extreme
Long before Ricky Gervais made being uncomfortable comedic, there was Mary Hartman. Directors Joan Darling and Jim Drake took a page out of Andy Kaufman's playbook and let long painful scenes languish in their own awkwardness. Not having a laugh track made things all the more excruciating.
9. Product Placement
I'm sure it was a parody of when soap operas endorsed their sponsors without commercials, but rather through not-so-subtle product placement. Whatever the reason, it's still really fun to spot the omnipresent brand names throughout the show. For retrophiles like myself, this is a godsend.
10. Unconventional Stories
It's hard to say what is unconventional for a show that is literally in a class by itself. It's a drama, a sitcom, and soap opera rolled into one. But however you slice it, the stories were still unusual, covering everything from a grandfather who likes to expose himself to a daughter who has menstrual cramps - there was always something odd around the corner. Personal favorites: when Mary has a mental break down on live television
and is subsequently institutionalized...also, when Charlie hits a station-wagon full of nuns.