The Good

This is an interesting show that melds the world of soap operas with sitcoms.

The Bad

No Extra features. Without a laugh track this show could confuse some people.

In melding soap operas and sitcoms, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Vol. 1 is one of the more interesting shows to ever make it on TV. Created and produced by Norman Lear (All in the Family:) this show focused on Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) and the troubles she faced as chaos ensued around her. A killer is on the loose, people are being kidnapped and all Mary can think about is the "waxy yellow buildup" on her kitchen floor. Like a soap opera this show carried out it's storylines from episode to episode, so one can view the 25 shows that make up this set as something akin to a very big movie.

We begin with finding out that a flasher and some mass murderers are on the loose. This is Episode 1 and it doesn't get any saner after that. Later on we see Mary trying to save her marriage to Tom (Greg Mullavy), her best friend Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place) wants to make it in Nashville in the worst way, and her Grandfather has problems of his own. Amidst this there are fears of infidelity and the kind of soap opera-like camera moves that help bring across the ideas of this show.

While at times I thought Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Vol. 1 was a little too cerebral for it's own good, what amazed me was how easy it was too get into this show. It starts off and because it's different (especially if you're used to watching regular sitcoms), it is almost unnerving. Once you settle in and follow the stories, this show ends up being a very rewarding experience.

Features

No Extras came with this release. It would have been nice to know the origins of this show and how Norman Lear came up with it.

Video

1.33:1 - Full Screen. This show looked good but it did have some of that 1970s sludge that sometimes occurs. The picture was sharp when things were still, but anytime there were sudden movements the lighting scheme seemed to create an odd pattern on the screen. Also, the camera movements whether it was a panning shot of the room, or zooming in on a character, really seemed to call attention to itself. However, the picture did hold up throughout this whole show and it seems like Sony even cleaned up these episodes a bit.

Audio

Dolby Digital. Close Captioned. The audio on these discs was good but ultimately forgettable. I was able to hear what the characters were saying quite well, and I didn't even have to turn up the audio on my TV that loud. In fact, when this show first began it was so quiet, I actually began adjusting the audio and looking at the cables on my DVD player to make sure that I had everything connected right. There's nothing here that will take your sound system out for a spin, but I don't think that that audience is going to be interested in this four disc set.

Package

An animated image of Mary Hartman graces this yellow and orange cover that almost screams 1970s. The back has this same color scheme only it mixes in pink and blue. There are some pictures from the show, a well written (yet somewhat confusing) description, and some technical specs. The three discs are stored in two cases one that is pink and another one that is blue. On both of this discs we see Mary thinking, "I know, I must have been born under an unlucky star." The back of these covers lists out all the episodes and also gives a description of each one.

Final Word

This show took me totally by surprise. I put it on and I was expecting a Normal Lear show that dealt with the popular social issues of the day. Then it starts and it's almost silent as Mary stares around her apartment taking in the events going on around her. I kept waiting for this show to get going, and then I realized that it was going; this was the show. I don't watch a lot of soap operas so I didn't really know how to take it. About 15 minutes in I got settled into this story, but it still kept changing on me. As I watched other episodes, I realized that since I have never really watched soap operas I had no point of reference. This is how they are (or how Norman Lear thinks they are), the stories are one awful event on top of another awful event and the way the characters react is where the comedy lies.

I think the audience that goes for Arrested Development and those kinds of shows, would really enjoy Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Vol. 1. However, a lot of my friends are so anti anything that's the tree, and not the apple from which it comes, they would probably miss the point that without this show, a show like Arrested Development wouldn't even exist.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was released .