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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Discussion thread


alphanguy74

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The problem with Norman Lear's shows is that they made their point in the first few seasons, and then they became ho-hum after that. People "got it", so to speak. When the social engineering Lear championed became mainstream and no different than breathing, his work had dated stamped all over it. Ever wonder why all of the new shows he created post-1970's flopped (with the exception of "All That Glitters")?? No one could be shocked anymore.

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Didn't All That Glitters flop too? I do tend to agree, though I admit even if I wasn't a fan many of his best 70s creations did get fans because they loved the characters as well. But yeah the messages were I think pretty important for their time, and groundbreaking in a way, and they seemed to make their point--but dated is exactly the right word. Many of them read as badly as those "very special episodes" of Blossom and early 90s sitcoms, even if they were better written. And his style certainly did NOT work in his later attempts (granted maybe he wasn't as strong a writer in general by then).

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Didn't All That Glitters flop too? I do tend to agree, though I admit even if I wasn't a fan many of his best 70s creations did get fans because they loved the characters as well. But yeah the messages were I think pretty important for their time, and groundbreaking in a way, and they seemed to make their point--but dated is exactly the right word. Many of them read as badly as those "very special episodes" of Blossom and early 90s sitcoms, even if they were better written. And his style certainly did NOT work in his later attempts (granted maybe he wasn't as strong a writer in general by then).

My bad. I worded that wrong. Yes, "All That Glitters" was a bomb. Even in the late '70s, a show that was entirely comprised of reversed sex roles was not going to be accepted by the mainstream. Even the "Mr. Mom" fad that lasted a few years in the '80s would always be looked at as a novelty.

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I see it this way:

Norman Lear shows. Too many issues, too strident, saved by some of the performances

Garry Marshall shows. Too loud, too repetitive, saved by some of the performances

MTM shows. Perfect

Edited by CarlD2
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I see it this way:

Norman Lear shows. Too many issues, too strident, saved by some of the performances

Garry Marshall shows. Too loud, too repetitive, saved by some of the performances

MTM shows. Perfect

AITF was great until Mike and Gloria left. The Jeffersons had a very talented cast and it was a funny show, but often became a little silly. (That doorman who always had his hand out was a waste, but Tom and Helen were perfection while the second Lionel just was dull). Maude I don't recall ever being all that funny, even though I watched it sometimes. Not being a fan of Maude to any great extent I didn't bother following Florida to Good Times. Gloria was a total dud of a show, as was AB's Place.

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For some reason I often forget The Jeffersons was a Norman Lear show -- that seemed to lose any of his touches very early on, which was probably for the best (I have heard nothing but scorn for some of their early attempts to be socially conscious, like Helen and Tom's white son).

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For some reason I often forget The Jeffersons was a Norman Lear show -- that seemed to lose any of his touches very early on, which was probably for the best (I have heard nothing but scorn for some of their early attempts to be socially conscious, like Helen and Tom's white son).

Oh I liked him! He has the insult competition with George.

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I see it this way:

Norman Lear shows. Too many issues, too strident, saved by some of the performances

Garry Marshall shows. Too loud, too repetitive, saved by some of the performances

MTM shows. Perfect

Of course, I loved all three sets :lol: If I had to pick a least favorite, it would probably be the Garry Marshall simply because Happy Days grew to become one of the most obnoxious TV shows ever put on the air. I still like it and have fond memories of it, but I don't really miss seeing it in reruns.

Laverne & Shirley is one of my favorites, though. Except for the bizarre episode where Laverne's boyfriend dies in a fire. Or the one where Mrs. Babish's daughter is autistic and falls in love with Lenny.

I could watch the MTM shows all day, but I think they're overrated at times. Chuckles Bites the Dust isn't that funny.

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Reading in the Mary Noble to Mary Hartman book, it's interesting to read some of the initial critical bashing of the show. The New York Times, Time Magazine. One writer claimed they had done an unscientific poll which pointed out that Mary Hartman had a high rate of viewers leaving the show. They said the two faults were the scripting is "not funny" and Louise Lasser is "not funny." Another poll said that the most common complaint was "boring."

Soap Opera Digest did a reader poll to see whether they wanted MH2 in the magazine, and a lot of people wrote in saying "a two year old could come up with a nursery rhyme much better," "How in the world can anyone put such a filthy, vulgar show on the air at 3:30 PM for grown people to be exposed to all the filthy talk Mary Hartman stands for, to say nothing about the children coming home from school. What is our country coming to? This is the reason so many teens are dope addicts, VD carries, and drunks. My goodness, let's clean this filth up. I'm a grandma and this show makes me sick."

Byrna Laub, in Daytime Serial Newsletter, didn't include MH2. Laub said she forced herself to watch the show one night a week, with "total incredulity and not a little repulsion." She said compared to soaps, Mary Hartman is "like stick figures in a first grader's drawing." She felt soap operas had finally gained legitimacy and was afraid MH2 would take them backwards in the public eye, and cause new viewers to be disgusted by soaps. She also felt that Normal Lear had something against women. "First, there was Edith, of All in the Family, who was a thing." Maude was "an insufferable loudmouth who turned out to be crazy and needed help." Then, "the ultimate cheap shot - Mary Hartman, the vacuous nonperson who cares more about the yellow waxy building on her kitchen floor than she does about the mass murder of a neighbor family." That is "the epitome of the Lear myth about women."

They also said that one daytime executive refused to put MH2 on because he worried it was a spoof of housewives and that "[his] women" viewers would be offended.

In spite of all this the majority who wrote into Digest about the show were positive. One said the show was their 11 PM lift and fit their sense of humor. Another said she watched with her husband and they loved the show and Louise Lasser. A teenager wrote in to ask about Sgt. Foley, saying she and her girl friend love him and see him as breathtaking when he smiles.

After all this the NYT critic praised the show, especially the episode of the Coach's funeral (I wish I could see this -- Loretta sings "That Old Black Magic" as the Coach's not all that grief-stricken wife said it was his favorite song).

Ann Marcus and Norman Lear both said that the show was part comedy and part soap. Bryna Laub disagreed, saying that "If you dress 22 NFL players in tutus and tights, place them in the Rose Bowl and have them perform arabesques from goalpost to goalpost while tossing footballs from hand to hand, it might indeed be a ballet, depending on the choreography of the footwork, but it's not a football game!"

She also said that people who watched were doing so because it was a fad and that they are "the pseudointellectuals who are really the sheep among us." She said those people avoid real soaps because they've been told soaps are cheap and they are afraid of the emotions soaps will bring out in them. (I actually kind of think she has a point there -- a lot of people over the years have avoided traditional soaps yet got into a more "hip" show with a soap format). Laub said nothing about the show was believable.

Some did feel, writing into Digest, that the show was real. One said it was "one of the most true to life and believable stories on television. Most of the time I can identify with a lot of the scenes in the show, because they reflect a true day to day life of a normal middle class family of today." They said those who don't think it's real are those who don't like to believe life isn't a bowl of ice cream, and those people should watch it to learn about real life. A male teacher wrote in to praise the show as a "real and accurate commentary on American life." One reader wrote in saying their only complaint was that Heather didn't carry herself well, and that Mary and Heather need to stop wearing braids, they make Louise Lasser look "ridiculous." Another reader also didn't like the pigtails.

The book says that the show also, mostly through comments from director Joan Darling, intended to talk about how the media shows life in America, that she wanted people to listen to scenes where the radio talks about famine and many casualties, then watch the news later and be uncomfortable. It was also supposed to be about commercialization and how this takes over a life, products and brands. And Mary was supposed to be a victim of her life. Lasser said Mary was "not aware of space and time" and is "a survivor who misses being a tragic heroine because she is not aware of her plight." Marcus said she was "trapped in her environment" and knows something is missing in her life. But this also began to get some backlash, the idea of Mary being too much of a victim. When a writer for the show was trying to tell a reporter on the set that Mary "like millions of others," is, "a casualty floating in an almost Kafkaesque sea of consumer indirection," Marcus cut him off, saying, "That's pure bullshit. That's not Mary at all." After that she began to say in interviews that Mary was a strong woman, a survivor. The book also mentions that a minister saw MH2 as a "theological model of the Judeo-Christian system - doing good, beginning to hope for and work for solutions<" and says that Mary herself is a good Christian role model who believes good will win out over evil.

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Edith Bunker was most certainly not a "thing." She was, perhaps, the most humane character Norman Lear ever created, and one which Jean Stapleton beautifully brought to life; and if Ms. Laub had climbed down from her stridently feminist soapbox for a moment, she would've seen that, too.

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Edith Bunker was most certainly not a "thing." She was, perhaps, the most humane character Norman Lear ever created, and one which Jean Stapleton beautifully brought to life; and if Ms. Laub had climbed down from her stridently feminist soapbox for a moment, she would've seen that, too.

I concur about Jean Stapleton and Bryna Laub. But, MH2 was not a parody. It was a satire, and in America, satire is what closes on Saturday. I believe Americans have less of an affinity for satire than any other nation. MH2 is one of the most misunderstood programs in television history. I recall Laub constantly bemoaning critics who criticized daytime soaps after watching a handful of episodes, yet she committed the same sin against MH2. Perhaps if she had watched every episode with an open mind, no preconceived notions about the characters or stories, she would have at least understood why those of us who "got it" enjoyed it so much.

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MH2 was brilliant in my mind, although Louise Lasser's mannerisms used to annoy me, I think it had something to do with her cocaine addiction. I am not a huge fan of Lear shows, but this was a well thought out satire, it had a soap format, but the satire was about life. I can see why people dismissed the show, because it is hard to see things for what they are when you are in the eye of the storm. I also think Lear didn't slap people in the face as much with MH2 as he did with his other shows. Parody is obvious and exaggerated, satire is more subtle.

Though I will say The Carol Burnett Show nailed in its parody of MH2, still makes me laugh

Second part

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