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DVD Review Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series DVD Review

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Richard Gallagher, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
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    XenForo Template Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series DVD Review

    First things first - the Shout! Factory box set of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series appears to have rectified all of the problems which plagued the 2007 set of the show's first 25 episodes, several of which turned out to be edited. The new set contains all 325 episodes (only two of which have been edited due to music clearance issues), the equivalent of roughly 13 years of programming for a weekly television series. Think about that for a moment - 325 original episodes were aired over an 18-month period. The set also includes ten episodes of Fernwood 2 Night, the spinoff talk show spoof which aired from July through September in 1977.

    Posted Image


    Studio: Sony

    Distributed By: Shout! Factory

    Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono)

    Subtitles: None

    Rating: Not Rated

    Run Time: 135 Hr. (approximately)

    Package Includes: Other

    DVD Keep Cases in Slipcase

    Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 12/03/2013

    MSRP: $249.95




    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    The recipe: Mix pop culture & satire, stir slowly & serve straight. - Norman LearWaxy yellow buildup, the Fernwood Flasher, a mass murder (including goats and chickens), a car crash with a busload of nuns – these are just a few of the iconic images of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Norman Lear’s satirical take on soap operas which made its television debut on January 6, 1976.Lear developed the series in 1974, but after the networks rejected it as too controversial he put it into syndicated release. The show aired on local television stations in late-night time slots and was an immediate sensation. It aired five nights a week, and fans became addicted to the increasingly desperate life of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser), a “typical” housewife in the fictitious town of Fernwood, Ohio.Mary is married to Tom Hartman (Greg Mullavey), an assembly-line worker at the local automobile plant. Tom has lost interest in Mary (physically, at least), and Mary cannot figure out where she has gone wrong. Grandpa Larkin (Victor Kilian), Mary’s maternal grandfather, has been arrested for indecent exposure, an event which introduces Mary to police Sergeant Foley (Bruce Solomon), who would like to give Mary the attention she is not getting from Tom. The Lombardi family (including the Lombardi’s goats and chickens) has been wiped out by a mass murderer, and Mary’s younger daughter Heather (Claudia Lamb) may know who the murderer is. Mary’s best friend, Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place) is an aspiring country singer whose husband Charlie (Graham Jarvis) is working overtime at the plant so he can pay for the demo record which Loretta plans to record in Nashville. Also on hand are Mary’s parents, George and Martha Shumway (Phil Bruns and Dody Goodman), and Mary’s uninhibited sister, Cathy (Debralee Scott). As the series progressed there were notable additions to the cast, including Salome Jens, Dabney Coleman, Martin Mull, and Ed Begley Jr.For the benefit of those who are unaware of the problems with the original release, it was apparent that there were issues with Episodes 22, 24 and 25. Episode 22 was missing the final scene where Charlie and Loretta Haggers are on their way to Nashville. Their car breaks down due to a radiator leak and they meet up with two hillbillies. The entire scene was missing. Instead, it was replaced with a kitchen scene from episode 23, and that scene remained in episode 23. Episode 24 was missing a scene where Charlie and Loretta are talking in the car after they get back on the road. Sony never provided an explanation for the edited episodes, but earlier this year HTF member Mark Tay figured it out:I finally figured out the strange edits on three episodes of the DVD set from Sony. To understand what happened we have to start back at the very, very beginning… Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman premiered on January 5th 1976 (at least on stations which were early adopters of this syndicated soap opera spoof). It ran weekdays (i.e. five episodes per week) with continuous new episodes through Friday, July 2nd 1976. At which point, having been on the air for 26 weeks and tallying up 130 unique episodes, it reached the end of “season one.” It was now time for cast and crew to take a well deserved break. Producer Norman Lear announced that videotaping of season two would begin in early August 1976, with the season two premiere occurring on Monday October 4th 1976. Unfortunately for rabid fans of the show, this left a gap of 13 weeks from the end of season one until the premiere of season two. Obviously re-runs from season one would be broadcast during the gap, however with a slight twist. An editor took the best (or most important) sequences from the original 130 episodes and created a new digest version of season one, condensed down to only 65 episodes. This digest version of season one allowed new fans of the show, to catch up on all that had transpired previously, and created a very nice build up as well as smooth transition right into season two. In 2007 Sony released the first volume of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman on DVD. Their intent was to include the first 25 episodes of season one, complete and unedited. However, three episodes on the DVD set were mistakenly substituted with digest versions from 1976. This unfortunate mix up occurs on what should have been episodes 22, 24 and 25. Owners of the DVD set can rest assured that the remaining episodes are all complete as originally aired. One can easily distinguish original early episodes by their end credits which crawl up the screen. The end credits on the digest versions fade in and out.The first thing I did upon opening the complete series set was to look at episodes 22, 23, 24 and 25. The missing scenes have been restored and the duplicated kitchen scene appears only in episode 23. Since the original version of this review was published we have learned from knowledgeable HTF members that two episodes - #174 and #204 - had to be cut because of music clearance issues. That is unfortunate but apparently unavoidable.I was a big fan of this show back in the day, and it holds up very well. Although it is very funny at times, there is no laugh track and no studio audience. Norman Lear had a great deal of respect for the intelligence of his audience, and he expected that viewers would get the joke without any prodding from him. The show has the look and feel of a real soap opera, albeit one taken to extremes for satirical purposes. It is a television classic, and the complete series is a welcome addition to DVD.


    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    These shows were recorded on videotape, with all of its inherent limitations, but the images here are quite satisfactory. The picture is a bit on the soft side at times, but that likely is how it originally looked. Contrast appears to be stronger than what we saw in the 2007 release. In general the colors appear to be accurate and even vivid, although some of the flesh tones seem to me to be slightly oversaturated. Given the source material, however, that is a minor quibble and I would have to say that overall Sony has done a nice job with this.Depending upon your monitor, you may notice some slight videotape underscan at the top and left side of the first two episodes. I also see this on the same episodes in the 2007 DVD set. I have not been able to look at all 325 episodes, but I spot checked many of them and did not observe this issue anywhere else in the set.



    Audio Rating: 3/5

    The audio is nothing special, but there is nothing to complain about, either. The mono sound is clear and intelligible, which is pretty much all that you can ask of a 38-year-old television show.There are no subtitles.


    Special Features Rating: 4/5

    There are two bonus discs which contain the extras.First is "Inside the Funhouse Mirror," a featurette in which executive producer Norman Lear and stars Louise Lasser and Mary Kay Place discuss the making of the show. Lasser confesses that she didn't really begin to understand her character until she had made two episodes. The featurette is interspersed with scenes from the show. It has a copyright date of 2008 and presumably was made by Sony in anticipation of future DVD releases of the show."On the Verge Of..." has Lear and Lasser recalling the famous "nervous breakdown" episode which was the conclusion of the first season. This featurette was made at the same time as "Inside the Funhouse Mirror."The two featurettes are followed by ten complete episodes of Fernwood 2 Night, the spinoff spoof of TV talk shows starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard. Louise Lasser, citing exhaustion from making so many shows, left Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in 1977 and was replaced by Fernwood 2 Night for the months of July, August and September. Martin Mull stars as Barth Gimble, the host of show, and Fred Willard plays his clueless sidekick, Jerry Hubbard. The show's accordion-driven band is called Happy Kyne and his Mirthmakers, and the bandleader is played by real-life film and television composer Frank De Vol. The assortment of episodes includes one from July, and the remainder are from August and September. Perhaps this is a harbinger of a complete series set.The 325 episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman are spread over 36 discs, six discs per flipper keep case. The extras are on two discs which are contained in a slimcase. There also is a 40-page illustrated booklet with essays by Normal Lear and television critic Tom Shales, and it also contains a complete episode guide. The cases and booklet fit securely into a sturdy cardboard slipcase.


    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Fans of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman will be thrilled to see the show look so good on DVD, and they will be even happier to know that all but the aforementioned two episodes appear to be complete. For those who have never seen the show, be aware of the fact that this is not a typical sitcom, nor is it a typical soap opera. Much of the humor is deadpan and satirical, and it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, it is a show that is well worth viewing, if only to see a superb ensemble cast at work and to learn what all the fuss was about.


    Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher


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  2. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
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    An update: there are reports that episodes 174 and 204 may be missing a few minutes of footage. I will time those two episodes and see if I can confirm that something is missing. It has been suggested that there may have been music clearance issues, but that is unconfirmed at this point.
     
  3. zoetmb

    zoetmb Well-Known Member

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    I saw this show in its original run. Didn't Louise Lasser permanently leave the series after Season 1? Or if not at the end of season 1, sometime after? Wasn't the majority of the episodes without her? IMDB only lists her for 30 episodes, although she must have been in more than that.
     
  4. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
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    IMDB doesn't have a clue about this series. IMDB doesn't show any cast member appearing in more than 31 episodes. If you look up individual episodes on IMDB you will see that they have no cast listings for most of the episodes.

    The episode guide indicates that Lasser appears in almost every episode until the last two weeks of Season 2.
     
  5. MaxMorrow

    MaxMorrow Well-Known Member

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    You're likely thinking of Forever Fernwood, which was the continuation/spin-off of MH2 after Lasser left.
     
  6. bigshot

    bigshot Well-Known Member

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    I just want Fernwood/America 2night.
     
  7. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
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    I have confirmed that episodes 174 and 204 are edited versions. Each episode runs for about 17 minutes and neither episode has the scrolling closing credits.

    However, I have it on good authority from people who are familiar with the facts that both episodes were edited because of music clearance issues. Apparently both episodes had music which Sony could not clear, so I can't kill Shout! for that. One very knowledgable member has previewed at least 300 episodes and no other edited episodes have been found.

    The review has been updated to include this information.
     
  8. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
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    Just received my set today. I ordered it from Shout! on Thursday and paid $166 delivered with their holiday sale. Not too shabby! Can't wait to dive into it tonight!
     
  9. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    Nice buy John - I'm interested in this but I have to get it for a price I can justify. Maybe I'll get lucky and find it at Costco or something...
     
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  10. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
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    I know. I haven't seen it since it aired originally, so I hope I still enjoy it as much as I did then. Even still, I really wouldn't have paid much more than I did.
     
  11. Cowboy

    Cowboy Well-Known Member

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    An excellent detailed review on the show.I am gonna get the set when I find
    a good sale.Right now,have many unopened tv shows/movies to watch.
     
  12. Richard Gallagher

    Richard Gallagher Well-Known Member
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    Trivia note: L.C. Downey, the actress who plays Muriel Haggars, is better-known as Elsie Downey, and she is the mother of Robert Downey Jr.
     
  13. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Well-Known Member

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    For those still milking that Vol 1 waiting on a sale along with me, the wait is over. $99.99 on amazon right now. Just close your eyes, load, click ORDER and the hurt is over. That's how it went for me.
     
  14. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    Thanks James, you just cost me a Benjamin :P
     
  15. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
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    In celebration, Loretta Haggers is singing her hits over to the Capri Lounge (inside the bowling alley) tonight...



    Including her ode to Fernwood (Streets of this Town):

     
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  16. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Well-Known Member

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    I cost you a Benjamin... but those animals...! who would kill those animals... and the PEOPLE!
     
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  17. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Well-Known Member

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    Presumeably the music clearance stuff relates to one or two artists; anybody know who the holdouts are?
     
  18. JohnMor

    JohnMor Premium
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    The people, of course.
     
  19. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Well-Known Member

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    That line just killed me. Just screams I'm Unique, you must buy my whole series now and disguard this little volume 1
     
  20. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    My problem is that I felt like this is something I should flip for, but I did have the vol 1 release and I didn't fall in love with it. I love norman lear, dry and bizarre humor and I am a HUGE soap opera fan.So at least at this price I can give it a real honest shot and if I don't like it still, I can re-sell it to break even.
     

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