America 2-Night, Fernwood 2-Night, Forever Fernwood and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

America 2-Night (1978)
Fernwood 2-Night (1977)
Forever Fernwood (1977-1978)
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1975-1977)
Type: Spin Offs, Spin Offs, Spin Offs

   When I started this area, I made the decision to list the shows involved in each crossover or spin off alphabetically at the top of each page. Usually there are just two of them and which comes first doesn't make a huge difference. In this case though there are four shows and going alphabetically means that they shows are actually listed absolutely backwards from the way they premiered. Suddenly the alphabetical thing looks real stupid.

   Now why are there four shows listed on this page? Well that would be because what is really going on here is a case of one show spinning off another show and then both of those shows getting a name change while remaining basically the same show.

   Bah! This just gets more and more annoying. And ironically, a lot of people thought the show that was the starting point for all these shows - Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman - was really annoying. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a parody of soap operas. Given that soaps deal with pretty racy material usually and only get away with it because of the serious tone, treating the same subjects humorously didn't exactly go down real well with everyone, the TV networks included. Producer Norman Lear ended up syndicating it because no network wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole. And unlike its contemporary soap opera parody SOAP on ABC, Mary Hartman was on every weeknight as opposed to just once a week.

   Mary Hartman was... well... a boob. Not real quick on the uptake if you get my meaning - 'cause Mary wouldn't. And like I said, the show dealt with the stuff all soaps do: sex, affairs, kidnappings, death... all in the small town of Fernwood, Ohio. In 1977, the show got a new name when Louise Lasser who played Mary Hartman left the show. Hard to do a show named Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman without Mary Hartman after all. Its bad enough when the departing character's name is in the title once, let alone twice! With Lasser leaving, the name of the show switched over to Forever Fernwood. Hardly an attention grabber. It sounds like the name of a really boring soap. At the end of the season it was forever finished.

   Now backing up a bit in the summer of 1977 the Mary Hartman spin off Fernwood 2-Night premiered. It was a summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Just like Mary Hartman spoofed soaps, Fernwood 2-Night spoofed talk shows. And it spoofed them just as harshly and with just as much public criticism. The idea was that some Fernwood locals had started their own late night talk show. Martin Mull starred as host Barth Gimble, the identical twin to Garth Gimble who Mull had played on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and who had been killed off. Fred Willard played his sidekick, an ingratiating suck up right in line with real life talk show second bananas. Their guests went freakishly off kilter from what you would expect of talk show guests, often seemingly normal until the interview really got going. This show was out to push buttons and stir up some controversy.

   After its summer run, the show returned in 1978 now titled USA 2-Night. Barth and Jerry had moved to a town in California hoping that being nearer to Hollywood they could get some stars on their show. The show was of course still just not right. I have to wonder if the title change at all involved Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman changing its title to Forever Fernwood the same year. Maybe they were trying to avoid confusion between the shows or perhaps they were trying to distance America 2-Night from the ratings poor Forever Fernwood.

   "Wanna watch Fernwood 2-Night?"

   "That Fernwood show? The one that's Mary Hartman without Mary Hartman. No way dude. That show is so over."

   Even if that was the logic it didn't matter. Neither show made it passed 1978.

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