‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’: Norman Lear Discovered a Drastic Mistake ‘Some Fool’ Made in The Show’s Rerun

by Katie Maloney

Do you remember the show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman? It ran for two seasons and was only rerun once.

The show was a satirical soap opera that aired from January 1976 to July 1977. The show followed Mary Hartman, an Ohio housewife as she navigated both bizarre and sometimes violent incidents. Norman Lear developed the show as a way to examine the effects of consumerism on the American housewife. However, the show only reran episodes once. When Lear married his former wife, Lyn, she asked to see some of the work he had done. When he asked the network to send him the tapes, he discovered a big mistake.

“It was rerun once when Lyn Lear and I were married. She wanted to see some of the things I had done that she had only heard about. So I called Columbia to send me Mary Hartman tapes,” said Lear. “What they sent me was the latest run of the tapes. And what I found, after watching two of them, was they had gone from the second show to the fifth show. Some fool had thought, ‘We’ll give them the best’ ignoring the fact that there was a story to tell. So, it made no sense.”

Although the reruns were unsuccessful due to the mistake, the show has a cult following. In 2004 and 2007, the show ranked #21 and #26 on “TV Guide‘s Top Cult Shows Ever.

A clip from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Why Was The Name Said Twice On Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?

There’s a lot of meaning behind the show. Not only did Lear want to comment on the effects of consumerism on American society, but he also poked fun at conventional soap operas. Both Lear and the producers chose to state Mary’s name twice in the title because they jokingly believed that everything was said twice in soap operas.

Although the show was considered a comedy, many televisions aired the show late at night because they believed it was too controversial for audiences. The show dealt with the same topics that typical soap operas dealt with. However, Mary Hartman didn’t dance around the issue when it came to naming those topics. In each episode, they came right out and named the topic including impotence and sexual perversion. In conclusion, Mary Hartman wasn’t for the faint of heart, but it definitely got viewers thinking. And the show definitely had an impact – so much so that producers are talking about remaking the show.