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Old 02-13-2019, 10:38 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 15, 2017
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 67
Default MeTV Request: "The Fernwood Hour"

Dear Weigel Broadcasting, Inc.,

I have a proposal for the MeTV Television Network: to make a deal with Sony Pictures Domestic Television Distribution for MeTV to air a daily programming block weeknights at 10 P.M. ET starting on June 3, 2019 titled "The Fernwood Hour," consisting of the 2-year runs of the hit '70s satirical sitcoms "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" and its spin-off show, "Fernwood 2-Night."

Created by Norman Lear, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" was initially pitched to the CBS Television Network as a half-hour satirical sitcom spoof of soap operas to air weekday mornings on CBS; however, after CBS passed over on the project (as did rival networks NBC and ABC, respectively), Norman decided to Syndicate "MH2" himself via Filmways Television (now part of MGM Domestic Television).

Many independent stations aired the series in first-run Syndication weeknights at 11 P.M. ET after the late Local News Broadcasts--in regards to "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," with very successful results.

As the title character of Mary Hartman, Louise Lasser (then married to film director Woody Allen) represented a "typical American housewife" living in the fictional small town of Fernwood, Ohio (named after Fernwood Drive in Los Angeles, where the series taped at Metromedia Square); however, much to the dismay of her Impotent husband Tom (Greg Mullavy), Mary carried on an affair with local cop Dennis Foley (Bruce Solomon), whom she met after bailing out Fernwood Flasher Raymond Larkin (Victor Kilian, who in 1979 at age 88 would be, in real life, Beaten to Death, with Victor's Murder remaining unsolved 40 years later as of this writing), her Grandfather.

Other characters seen sporadically in the series' debut season included Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place), an aspiring Country Singer married to Tom's colleague, Charlie (Graham Jarvis), at the plant where both men worked; Fernwood Mayor Merle Jeeter (Dabney Coleman), whose child Evangelist son Jimmy Joe (Sparky Marcus) was fatally Electrocuted in the Bathtub; and Garth Gimble (Martin Mull), a wife-beater who midway through the first season killed himself on an aluminum Christmas tree in his Closet.

As with the REAL Soap Operas it parodied, "MH2" was videotaped, but NOT in front of a Studio Audience. Why? So Norman Lear, the show's creator, would confuse the home audience into thinking they were watching a real soap opera and NOT a sitcom spoofs of soap operas not unlike the future "Soap."

Its success, however, came at a price for Louise Lasser, as in early 1977, after a disastrous appearance as host that week of "Saturday Night Live" on NBC, Louise had a real-life Nervous Breakdown that led her to resign from "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." In the first season Finale airing that July, 1977, Mary left Tom and her family for her romance with Sergeant Foley.

Meanwhile, in October 1977, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" began its 2nd season that October 3 under a new title: "Forever Fernwood," with Greg Mullavy as Tom Hartman serving as the new lead character, dating Eleanor Major (Shelley Fabares, futurely of the '80s sitcom "Coach" and formerly of the '50s "Donna Reed Show"), while the rest of the cast remained intact.

Joining "MH2" in the 2nd season was Fred Willard as Loretta Haggers's manager, Jerry Hubbard, but despite the cast changes, Norman Lear voluntarily pulled the plug on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" in early 1978, with the series becoming "Forever Finished, Forever Finished" on April 7, 1978.

In between both seasons of "MH2," during the Summer of 1977, Norman Lear quickly created the sitcom "Fernwood 2-Night," a satirical sitcom spoof of late-night talk shows, casting Martin Mull as Barth Gimble (Garth's identical twin brother returning to his hometown from Miami after Garth's suicide) and Fred Willard as Jerry Hubbard, respectively the host and sidekick/announcer on the fictional late-night talk show also called "Fernwood 2-Night."

Joining Barth and Jerry on "F2N" was real-life Film/TV Composer Frank DeVol as the show-within-a-show's bandleader, Happy Kyne (despite having written a number of TV theme songs in real life e.g. the themes for "The Brady Bunch," "My Three Sons" and "Family Affair" to name but a few, Frank DeVol DID NOT write the "F2N" theme in real life; that honor went to Bobby Knight).

Many of the "F2N" guests on the show-within-a-show videotaped in front of a Live Studio Audience at Metromedia Square in Los Angeles, California were fictional Fernwood residents in its debut season, among them Bill Kirchenbauer (futurely of "Growing Pains" and its spin-off "Just the Ten of Us") as lounge singer Tony Roletti, Jim Varney (futurely of the "Ernest" series of films who died at age 50 in February 2000) as local Mechanic Virgil Sims, and Barrie Youngfellow (futurely of the '80s sitcom "It's a Living") as Linda Barry, the owner of the Fernwood Nudist Colony (though despite being her character being a Nudist, Barrie Youngfellow's character remained clothed throughout).

In April 1978, shortly after "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" forever ended, forever ended, Norman Lear brought "Fernwood 2-Night" back on the air, changing the setting from Fernwood, Ohio to the fictional small town of Alta Coma, California, "the Unfinished Furniture Capital of the World," subsequently re-naming the series "America 2-Night," with the show-within-a-show having been picked up to go national by the fictional UBS Television Network.

The 2nd "F2N" season featured many Movie and TV Stars appearing as themselves over the course of the Spring and early Summer--among them Charlton Heston, Sherman Hemsley, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Rita Moreno and, in the series finale airing in July 1978, Martin Mull and Fred Willard as themselves, an episode made after Norman Lear voluntarily ended the series.

In the years since its 1978 end, reruns of "Fernwood 2-Night" aired on Nickelodeon from April 2, 1990 - April 2, 1993, as well as sister network TV Land from 2002-2003 as part of its short-lived "TV Land Kitschen" block.

Simultaneously, reruns of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" made THEIR cable debut on the Lifetime Television Network in the early '90s, with the said reruns later airing on E! Entertainment Television before airing along with its spin-off as part of the aforementioned "TV Land Kitschen" block; unseen on TV in nearly 20 years, it's my very humble of suggestion that MeTV begin airing the weeknight "Fernwood Hour" programming block on June 3, 2019, airing weeknights at 10 P.M. ET, exclusively, and only, on MeTV.

Steve Arino
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