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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series'

Dennis King Published: December 2, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series”

Long before the trashy doings of “Desperate Housewives,” the maddening ennui of bland suburban American homemaking found a satirical heroine in “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” Now, Norman Lear’s Emmy-winning TV soap opera of the ’70s will be available in its entirety for the first time when “The Complete Series” is released on DVD Tuesday.

The show, which aired in daily syndication from January 1976 to May 1977, was produced by the prolific impresario Lear (creator of “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son,” among others) and featured the deadpan Louise Lasser in the title role as the perpetually befuddled housewife and Tulsa native Mary Kay Place as an aspiring country singer and Mary’s best friend.

Set in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio, the show trafficked in wicked parodies of many widely recognized, highly dramatic soap opera conventions. In the first season alone, the pig-tailed Mary, supposedly “an average American housewife,” suffers the tribulations of adultery, religious cults, mass murder, venereal disease, homosexuality and UFO sightings before she finally suffers a nervous breakdown on a locally syndicated talk show.

At the height of its popularity (the show earned primetime Emmy Awards for programming and for Place) the show was a cultural phenomenon, winning cover stories on national magazines, including TV Guide, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and People.

Except for the 2007 release of the first 25 episodes, the majority of the series has not been available on DVD in U.S. markets. “The Complete Series” offers all 325 episodes on 38 discs.

“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series” is not rated and is being released by Shout! Factory.

- Dennis King


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