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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a short-lived send up of daytime soap operas in the tradition of Soap. Unlike Soap, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman actually ran every day like a real soap opera. The show only lasted two season, running from 1976 to 1977. The title role of Mary Hartman was played by Louise Lasser. Despite its short run, it incubated a number of comedic talents that made respectable if not popular comedy movies in the '80s. The show had Ed Begley Jr, Dabney Coleman, and Martin Mull in its supporting cast. A spin off called Fernwood 2Night introduced the world to Fred Willard and Harry Shearer.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was produced by Norman Lear. Lear was coming off of All in the Family and his new show should have been gold but Lear tried to push the TV envelope further. Story lines revolved around things like drug abuse, wife beating, mass murder, flashing, swinging, and impotence. While All in the Family managed to get away with as much, its humor was more apparent. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman humor was more subtle. Casual viewers and typical brain dead TV execs were never sure if Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was in fact parody.

Another thing that might have crippled Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman's acceptance was the show also made fun of the TV commercials that would support it. The Mary Hartman character was a brain dead housewife that not only believed everything she saw in TV commercials but would base her life around the information they provided. Despite having a father who was a notorious town flasher and a daughter kidnapped by a mass murderer, she was most concerned over waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor.

None of the three networks at that time (ABC, NBC, CBS) would touch it. This was decades before secondary networks appeared on the dial, like FOX, UPN, and WB who have been more willing to broadcast controversial shows to gain younger viewers and set themselves apart from the stodgy old guard networks. Lear managed to get a number of independent stations around the nation to sign the show, who typically ran it after the 11:00 pm nightly news.

When it hit the airwaves in 1976, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman instantly became the most talked about show that season. It was The Osbournes of its age. However, this was also before David Letterman radically altered people's bedtimes, and an 11:30 pm time slot did not provide the viewership needed to support a daily sitcom being broadcast on a handful of indie stations. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman folded after two seasons (however, being a daily show, they made over 300 episodes).

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