The original title card of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Format Soap Opera/Sitcom/Satire
Created by Jerry Adelman
Daniel Gregory Browne
Ann Marcus
Starring Louise Lasser
Greg Mullavey
Mary Kay Place
Country of origin USA
No. of episodes 325
Running time 30 minutes per episode
Original channel Television syndication
Original run January 6, 1976 – May, 10, 1977
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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (sometimes abbreviated as MH2) was a 1976-1978 syndicated prime-time soap opera parody produced by television visionary Norman Lear and directed by Joan Darling. The show was written by sitcom writer Gail Parent and soap writer, the late Ann Marcus, who was best known for her work on Search for Tomorrow.


The series was set in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio, which was the home of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser); a lonely and slightly naïve housewife. She was married to Tom Hartman (Greg Mullavey), who worked, along with his father in-law, George Shumway (Philip Bruns, Tab Hunter) and his best friend, Charlie Haggers (Graham Jarvis) at the town's Auto assembly plant; and they had a daughter, Heather (Claudia Lamb). Also seen frequently was Mary's often daffy mother, Martha Shumway (Dody Goodman); her sister, Cathy (Debralee Scott), who dated constantly; and Mary's best friend, country singer, Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place).

The show's first major stories were about Mary's grandfather, Raymond Larkin (Victor Kilian) who was revealed to have been the Fernwood Flasher, who would often go to schools and hospitals and indecently expose himself. While going to bail her grandfather out, she met Sgt. Dennis Foley of the Fernwood Police Department (Bruce Solomon). He was smitten by her, and she was more than taken with him as well.

The second big story was the mass murder of the Lombardi family (and their two goats and eight chickens) which had been witnessed by Heather, and because of that, she was being held hostage by Davey Jessup (Will Seltzer), the murderer. Mary gave herself up as a hostage in her daughter's stead, and convinced philandering Reverend Standfast (George Furth) to swear on a stack of bibles.

However, there was only so much she could take. She kept hearing that she had "waxy yellow buildup" on her kitchen floor. (She was a firm believer of everything she heard on TV commercials) She was named Housewife of the year and during a blistering interview on the David Susskind Show, where she was viciously savaged by a panel, including a militant feminist, she promptly had a nervous breakdown.

In the sanitarium, she was pleased to see that she was part of a television Neilsen family. One of her sanitarium mates, Wanda Rittenhouse (Marian Mercer), the widow of a former Fernwood city commissioner, would play a more major role later on.

However, in the mid second season, Louise Lasser would leave the show after a much publicized arrest for cocaine possession and burn-out. It was revealed that Mary had left Tom and Heather and ran off with Sgt. Foley. The show changed its title to Forever Fernwood, with most of the cast intact and some new cast added. Shelley Fabares played Tom's new love interest, Eleanor Major, although when the series ended, Tom married Eleanor's sister, Penny (Judith Kahan).

Some of the characters of the show died in very bizarre manners (Coach Fedders, drowning in a bowl of Chicken Soup; Garth Gimble, being stabbed by the star of an aluminum Christmas tree; and Jimmy Joe Jeeter, electrocution when a TV he was watching fell into the bathtub).

The actors...where did they go from here?

Most of the actors profiles would be expanded because of this show. Marian Mercer (Wanda Rittenhouse Jeeter) had reunited with two of her former co-stars in two separate projects. She was reunited with Dabney Coleman (who played her second husband, Merle Jeeter, the larcenous mayor of Fernwood) in the movie Nine to Five, where they were again, husband and wife. Dabney played the movie's antagonist, the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" Franklin Hart, and Marian played his sweet and slightly daffy wife, Missy. Ms. Mercer was also reunited with Louise Lasser (Mary) in the series It's a Living, when Louise was in the series' second season playing waitress Maggie McBurney who was a subordinate of Marian's character, maître 'd Nancy Beebe.

Veteran comedian Martin Mull played two characters on the series, abusive husband Garth Gimble, and his twin brother, Barth Gimble, a talk show host. Mull as Barth, was also featured on America 2Nite as well as its predecessor, Fernwood 2Nite. Susan Browning (Pat) would later be known as one of the Chorus Nuns in the Sister Act movies.

Doris Roberts (Dorelda Doremus) and Debralee Scott (Cathy Shumway) would be reunited in 1979 (after Doris' stint on Soap where she played Corinne Tate's mother in law from Hell,Flo Flotsky) to play Theresa and Marie Falco, the mother and sister, respectively, of Donna Pescow on the two-season sitcom, Angie.

Michael Lembeck (Clete Meizenheimer) would later join the cast of the sitcom One Day at a Time also a Norman Lear creation, as Max Horvath, a airline flight attendant who was the on-screen husband of Mackenzie Phillips.

Gloria DeHaven (Annie Wylie) would later join the cast of the soap opera, Ryan's Hope, playing Bess Shelby, the mother of heroine Jill Coleridge (Nancy Addison Altman). Also joining a real life soap opera would be Dody Goodman (Martha Shumway) who would play the dippy Aunt Mavis on the short lived soap opera, Texas.

Claudia Lamb, who played Tom and Mary's troubled daughter, Heather (she was the one who witnessed the murder of the Lombardi family and their goats and chickens), would later become a radio talk show host. Her shows were more moderate to liberal in nature. She still works as a radio journalist.

Mary Kay Place would parlay her success as a musician with an album of country songs that she sang as her MH2 character, Loretta Haggers. She would later return to being a television writer. One of the show's most incredible casting switches was with George Shumway, who fell into a vat and came out, played by actor Tab Hunter, to the delight of Martha. After a short time, George was again played by Bruns.

On the Donny and Marie variety show in the 1970s, there was a comedy sketch called "Marie Heartburn, Marie Heartburn", which featured Marie Osmond (as the titular Marie Heartburn) getting herself into the same kind of absurd situations that Mary Hartman got herself into. It was a parody of MH2, which itself was a parody.


  • LOUISE LASSER -- Mary Shumway Hartman
  • GREG MULLAVEY -- Tom Hartman
  • MARY KAY PLACE -- Loretta McCandless Haggers
  • GRAHAM JARVIS -- Charlie Haggers
  • DEBRALEE SCOTT -- Cathy Shumway
  • DODY GOODMAN -- Martha Larkin Shumway
  • VICTOR KILIAN -- Raymond Larkin "The Fernwood Flasher"
  • PHILIP BRUNS -- George Shumway #1
  • TAB HUNTER -- George Shumway #2
  • CLAUDIA LAMB -- Heather Hartman
  • DABNEY COLEMAN -- Merle Jeeter
  • MARIAN MERCER -- Wanda Rittenhouse Jeeter
  • SPARKY MARCUS -- Jimmy Joe Jeeter
  • BRUCE SOLOMON -- Sgt. Dennis Foley
  • NORMAN ALDEN -- Coach Leroy Fedders
  • REVA ROSE -- Blanche Fedders
  • WILL SELTZER -- Davey Jessup
  • GEORGE FURTH --Reverend Standfast
  • MARY CARVER -- Christine Standfast
  • ROSE GREGARIO -- Florence Baedecker
  • MARTIN MULL -- Garth Gimble/Barth Gimble
  • SUSAN BROWNING -- Pat Gimble
  • SALOME JENS -- Mae Olinski
  • GLORIA DEHAVEN -- Annie "Tippytoes" Wylie
  • SAMANTHA HARPER -- Roberta Wolashek
  • SHELLEY FABARES -- Eleanor Major
  • JUDITH KAHAN -- Penny Major Hartman
  • MICHAEL LEMBECK -- Clete Meizenheimer
  • ANDREW RUBIN -- Jesus Jarrera
  • DORIS ROBERTS -- Dorelda Doremus