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Old 02-16-2019, 05:47 PM   #1
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Default MH2 on CBS

Hello Everyone,

I have a curious question for you guys: as many of you know, before Syndicating the show himself, Norman Lear's sitcom creation "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" was rejected by all 3 major TV networks before making its debut on TV in 1976, during the U.S. Bicentennial, after the New Year came that year.

Norman initially made a Pilot Presentation for the CBS Television Network, which financed the Pilot, BUT CBS passed over on the Project, as did both NBC and ABC as well, before Norman syndicated the show himself via Filmways Television.

My question is this: had CBS said Y-E-S to "MH2" instead of rejecting the series outright, how long do you believe it would have lasted, e.g. would the show have had a longer life-span instead of its 2-year run (its 2nd season, "Forever Fernwood," aired for 6 months after Louise Lasser left the show in 1977) or would it have been a ratings flop for CBS and ended after 13 weeks?

If I had been CBS Network President, I'd have aired "MH2" for at least 13 weeks from January 3, 1976 - March 27, 1976 on Saturday nights at 9 P.M. ET on CBS after "The Jeffersons," and depending on ratings and how it did after the 13-week run, I'd renew it for an additional 26 episodes for the Fall 1976 TV season, and depending on the success of its rookie season, if I were Norman Lear, I'd have "Fernwood 2-Night" air Saturday nights at 9:30 P.M. ET after "MH2" Summer Reruns on CBS from July 2, 1977 - September 25, 1977.

Depending on "F2N" Summer Ratings, during Spring and Summer '78, from April 8, 1978 - September 30, 1978, I'd be airing 26 new "F2N" episodes to air Saturday nights at 9:30 P.M. ET on CBS after the 2nd "MH2" Rerun Season.

Not to say I'm sure this would have worked for CBS in the '70s, but TBH I think it probably would have.

Any thoughts or opinions on this post is greatly appreciative.

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Old 02-16-2019, 11:10 PM   #2
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I rarely reply to posts anymore, due to many going off-topic or trolls, but you as when i did post in the past wrote an intriguing well thought out essay. I truly appreciated your writings and of course subject matter as an original and still fan of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

You asked for thoughts so here are mine as opinions, I do want to say that in a very strange twist of fate, after several years when the series ended, CBS aired latenight reruns after the local news, it didn't last long. MH, MH never did well in syndicated reruns after the fact with several attempts made.

Though you believe in your opinion, in which I totally respect, mine is MH, MH had to air 5 nights a week, first run syndication was relatively new then, don't forget this was a satirical take on the daytime soap operas, so if MH aired only weekly it would have dramatically failed in my opinion.

Your knowledge of the time seems to be from the time, but in case you are not writing in retrospect, MH took off like fire in latenight syndication, making louise lasser and cast daily office water cooler talk. Louise made the cover of newsweek, back then a tv show making the cover of a serious magazine was a rarity, the same happened with "Luke & Laura" of "General Hospital" fame which brought still to this day ABC daytime their highest ratings for their two day wedding event. Every office stopped working that day but back to MH.

Though MH did technically last a short time, consider the amount of episodes produced 5 nights a week, in weekly network airings that would be nearly a 10 season run.

Now to the Brilliant fill in series both "Fernwood 2Nite/America 2Nite" which both aired for 13 weeks. Someone recently posted regarding hoping the series would come to dvd, i wish it would, of course the next post just called the show garbage.

Mary Hartman and its spin-offs (except for Forever Fernwood) were beyond before their time, with FF suffering without Louise Lasser, whos' departure was partly based on her real physical exhaustion, which was cleverly written in with Mary having a nervous breakdown in the series. With the exception of FF MH & Fernwood/America were self cancelled but still created an industry of totally forgotten copycat series.........anyone remember "L.A.T.E.R." "The Life And Times Of Eddie Roberts"? 13 weeks gone forever.

I digress the talents the series brought with the cast of Mary Hartman was sheer brillance! If one didn't like the series, they didn't get the premise, it was PARODY!

Kicking it up a further notch was the brilliant Martin Mull & Fred Willard with their parody talkshow, first in Fernwood, then making fun of syndication turning national but from a California based Mall with real top notch celebrity guests each night playing along long, way before Gary Shandling. Plus the series introduced us to Gary Coleman playing obnoxious brat while sitting on Mulls' lap.

Martin Mull and Fred Willard became a team making fun of "The Tonight Show" formats along with the also brilliant and rarely actor Frank DeVol as "Happy Kyne" with his band "The Mirth Makers". DeVol was the composer of countless classic TV themes etched in our heads forever, but he played the straight-laced bandleader to perfection.

Mull was already a accomplished singer & musician with 7 albums, a PBS Soundstage & HBO special, a regular guest host on "the tonight show", moved on many times with Willard on "Roseanne". Martin Mull also a painter, is a brilliant professional that never fully got his due in my opinion. His life is worth exploring in a documentary. His CBS sitcom "Domestic Life" lasted less than ten episodes due to horrible scripts and not using Mulls dry sense of humor.

For those who don't agree with my opinion, great I respect your right, I as said only wrote it for the original poster, and he can disagree happily with respect because he wrote an intelligent post to start the thread, I will respond to him, but if the next post in thread is one sentence just to get some post number count up, count me out.

Well done in your topic and writings!

Guess we are the only ones interested in this thread, I wanted to add I reread your very factual post and realized the networks passed on MH as a daytime 5 day a week series originally, I believe again because first since MH was a parody of the soaps, the networks wouldnt want a series airing that made fun in essential of their heavy daytime drama lineup, something similar happened with the NBC david letterman morning show,tho it made it to air, it was too quick witted for daytime and the rest is tv latenight history for both letterman and mary hartman.
Living near "Ozzie Nelson Drive".....

Last edited by TeeVeeCloset; 02-18-2019 at 09:12 AM. Reason: wanted to add
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Old 02-27-2019, 01:40 PM   #3
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That's right TeeVeeCloset, it's my opinion that Fernwood 2-Night, America 2-Night, whatever it's called, is garbage. Terrible show.

As far as Forever Fernwood is concerned, it isn't quite as good as Mary Hartman's brilliant 1st season (episodes 1-130) but it's much better than Mary Hartman's lackluster 2nd season (episodes 131-325). The problem with Mary Hartman's 2nd season is that the writing went to crap and as a result the series became even more bizarre and focused more on shock value instead of quality writing/story telling.

Forever Fernwood tried to be the type of show that Mary Hartman was in it's 1st season, but since Louise Lasser wasn't involved, the majority of viewers didn't tune in and the ratings were low.

Going back to Mary Hartman, the series originally aired five nights a week Monday thru Friday, and I don't think CBS would have agreed to do that. They could have aired the show Monday thru Friday in a daytime slot, but I don't think it would have drawn good ratings in the daytime. So the series was better off being aired night time in first run syndication. The problem with that was, being first run syndication, the episodes run only 22 1/2 minutes each when otherwise they would be 25 minutes or 25 1/2 minutes. Sometimes when I watch an episode on the DVD, I start getting into it and then it's over too quickly. 22 1/2 minutes for these episodes is too short. An additional 2 1/2 or 3 minutes each episode would make a big difference and be much better.

Last edited by retroTVfan4ever; 02-27-2019 at 07:23 PM.
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