Louise Lasser delivers a masterful performance in the title role of Norman Lear's sublimely twisted soap opera, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman -- at once a parody of the format and a twisted satire of American media/consumer culture.
In the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio, suburban housewife Mary Hartman seeks the kind of domestic perfection promised by Reader's Digest and TV commercials. Instead she finds herself suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- mass murders, low-flying airplanes, and waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor.
Loretta delivers word that a neighborhood family was murdered; Mary and Tom have a disagreement about making love; Charlie announces he almost has enough money to get Loretta's record demo made; The Fernwood Flasher is finally captured.
Mary brings her grandfather home from the police station; Kathy falls for a blue-eyed Armenian bartender; a reporter interviews Loretta about the murders; and Mary feels ashamed when Tom rejects her sexual advances (or lack thereof).
Mary is interviewed by a reporter; Young Heather Hartman displays suspicious behavior when asked about the recent murders; Grampa Larkin is arrested again.
Grampa Larkin appears in court; Tom and Mary's drought in the bedroom continues.
Word begins to spread that Heather knows more about the Lombardi murders than she's telling; Cathy gets fired; Mary receives a threatening phone call about Heather.
Grampa Larkin visits a psychiatric social worker; Mary gets some sex books; a strange man follows Heather home from school.
Mary turns to the police after Heather confesses that she saw the killer; Loretta is arrested for picketing; Charlie stumbles on Mary's sex ed books.
Tom is furious with Mary after finding her sex books; Grampa Larkin's social worker admits that she's in love with him; Heather's story makes the evening news.
Immediately after recording her demo, Loretta begins suffering from fainting spells; Mary becomes jealous of one of Tom's coworkers; Heather escapes police protection.
Charlie tries talking sense into Tom, but Tom feels something is missing in his life. Cathy prepares for her date with Chuck. Charlie and Loretta go to the Doctor's office. Raymond goes to see Roberta and meets Fanny. Tom chats up Mae at the bar.
Tom and Heather both go missing on the same night, and so Mary can only hope that Heather is safe and that Tom was kidnapped by the mass murderer. She'd rather worry about a kidnapping than what she is really worried about.
Loretta considers not going to Nashville since Heather is missing. Mary finds out the truth about Tom. Loretta gets some good news. Cathy admits she's in love with Steve. Tom tries to finish things with Mae. Mary and Martha have a fight, while Heather returns home with disturbing news.
Cathy brings Steve over to meet her parents. Fanny is too much for Raymond. The mass murderer is revealed and Heather, Trudy, and Mary's lives are in danger.
Mary's held hostage in an abandoned Chinese laundry, while the police and reporters surround the place. Tom attempts to save Mary and to apologize.
Mary tries to calm the mass murderer, while he continues to ask for demands: a car and $100,000.
The mass murderer will only give up when he gets a stack of bibles and an oath from the Reverend that the police won't follow him for 24 hours.
Sgt. Foley tries to save Mary, but to no avail. Mae and Tom try to save Mary, themselves.
The ordeal is over and everyone is relieved that Mary is safe.
Mary deals with the aftermath of her ordeal. Charlie looks after Loretta, while Mary is furious with Tom.
Mary feels that her marriage is over. Tom seeks advice from Coach Fedders, while Mary gets sociable with Sgt. Foley.
Mary visits Sgt. Foley's apartment; Charlie and Loretta pack for Nashville; Heather knows something's up, while Raymond and Roberta go on a date.
Mary returns home with one shoe and no groceries. Tom wants to know where she's been. Loretta and Charlie are off to Nashville.
Loretta and Charlie have car trouble. Tom wants to talk to Mary about their marriage. Blanche and Leroy are upset with their runaway daughter. Mary is called to testify against the mass murderer.
Tragedy strikes the Haggers in the form of a stationwagon full of nuns. Mary does her best to comfort Charlie. Neither Tom nor Mary can get any sleep.
Mae has bad news for both Tom and Mary, while Loretta is in intensive care.
Tom has something to discuss with Mary. Tom moves in with Charlie. Loretta is sinking fast.
Tom moves in to the Haggars' house after Mary kicks him out. George plans to run for office in the next union election. Mary gives Loretta a Milky Way before surgery and visits the library where she asks for books on social diseases. Cathy gets a job in a massage parlor. Charlie receives bad news about Loretta.
Dr. Hastings informs Charlie that Loretta's surgery didn't get the results they hoped for. Martha is upset about Cathy's new job in the massage parlor. Charlie learns that his insurance company has refused to pay Loretta's hospital bill. Mary, Tom, and Mae all find themselves seeking treatment in Dr. Miller's office.
Mary gives Tom to Mae, insisting she doesn't want him to go to waste. Cathy's job at the massage parlor gets off to a bad start, as her first customer reveals his interest in meter maid uniforms and rubber hoses. When Cathy tells her parents what happened at work, George grabs a bat and leaves to vows to kill Mr. Babbitaglia, the massage parlor owner.
At the plant, Tom is counseled by the employee psychologist Bob Gilroy, who walks out in disgust over Tom's revelation of giving Mary a venereal disease. Charlie learns that the doctors botched Loretta's surgery. Roberta is now selling door-to-door cosmetics. George arrives at the massage parlor and is mistakenly arrested as a customer.
Tom rescues Heather from a liver dinner. Loretta attempts a valiant stand. Sergeant Foley visits Mary, who threatens to call the police.
Martha is on the floor. Cathy and Steve try to help. Meet the all new, all now Roberta Walashak.
George says no to Cathy and Steve, but his words fall on deaf ears. Charlie and Loretta swap exciting news. The Shumway house is a battleground. Tom cooks his way back into Mary's heart.
Loretta and Charlie wheel their way home. Grandpa helps Roberta, who insults her way into a sale. Tom and Mary learn the wonders of Dorelda Doremus! Then the truth.
Loretta invites the Hartmans to her healing. Charlie looks for miracles of his own.
Luther Moon, Fernwood's garbage man, sifts through the trash and recalls the major events from the last 35 episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, told through flashbacks.
Mary makes a discovery about Heather. The Hartmans make a parental decision. Tom and Mary get high for the Lord.
Dorelda Doremus' "healing" falls flat. George faces up to facts and says yes to Cathy and Steve. Tom and Mary reach new highs in bed.
Tom and Mary owe Heather an explanation. Loretta is still looking up. The Friendly Loan Company drops in on the Haggers. Mae drops in on the Hartmans.
Tragedy makes strange bedfellows. Mae spends the night with Tom and Mary. Steve has something to show Cathy. Martha finds Mae in Tom's bed.
Mary keeps Mae from suicide, for the sake of her bathroom. Charlie and Loretta get a not so friendly letter. Mary and Mae have a nice woman to husband's-former-mistress talk.
Mary finds a match made in heaven, in her own kitchen. Roberta hopes Grandpa can forget. Mary finds new meaning in her life.
Loretta starts to regain feeling in her feet, while Mae considers leaving Fernwood. Mary makes Coach Fedders some chicken soup for his cold, with disastrous results.
Mary's chicken soup makes the evening news. The time has come for Steve to gesture goodbye. Mary's guilt gets Leroy a Cadillac.
George gets a "visitor" and then a "surprise." The Hartmans get a call from Tom's ex's ex. George returns home in a panic.
Mary plays hostess to a funeral and eulogizes the late Leroy Fedders. Tom and Mary make plans for the hypothetical. Tom has a surprise for Mae.
Mae's reunion is a big headache for Tom and it's all Mary's fault. Loretta and Charlie get some not so friendly news. Loretta makes a spectacular comeback, in more ways than one
Charlie and Loretta face eviction at the hands of the Friendly Loan Co. Steve appears on the Johnny Tilson Show, where it's apparent that he's romancing starlet Kate Walters. Martha faints after seeing George's blackmail photos.
Mary tells Tom that it'll be 23 years before their sexual desires are synchronized again. Tom is angered by Mary's need for "something else" that she can't explain. Mary seeks answers to happiness from Grandpa Larkin who surmises she doesn't quite fit in anywhere. Mary hides under the kitchen sink. Cathy worries that she's losing Steve. Loretta has inspiration for a new song, Ballad of a Legless Woman. Mary cries and shares a lunch meat sandwich with Grandpa.
Dr. Fermin tells Loretta that she's in spontaneous remission. Charlie devises a plan to come up with money to stall eviction by selling raffle tickets for a color TV he and Loretta don't have. Martha refuses to believe George's claim that he was framed by union officials in Milwaukee. Loretta and Mary decide that Mary's "thing" is communication. Tiny catches Charlie selling raffle tickets and orders him out. When Tom intervenes, Tiny tells him to shut up or he's fired, prompting Charlie to deck Tiny who falls to the floor unconscious.
Now that Mary knows her thing is communication, she has to decide what to do with it. Tom doesn't communicate well when he tells Loretta and Mary what happened between Charlie and Tiny at the plant. Mary wishes Tom could convert the energy of anger into something sexy. George is happy he and Martha made up at 2:15 a.m. Cathy fears she's no longer good enough for Steve, and George threatens to punch his heart out. Loretta's engineer Clyde Muncie visits with news that his brother in Chicago wants to release Loretta's song as a single.
Steve reassures Cathy that starlet Kate Walters was just for publicity. Tom has to explain to Heather that he broke the rules when he's sent home from the plant over the incident between Charlie and Tiny. George isn't sympathetic to Tom's situation. At the library, Mrs. Delorean introduces Mary to sex therapist Mona McKenzie from the Lackawanda Institute
Cathy tells George and Martha that she and Steve are going to Hollywood to be married, just as Kate Walters arrives at Steve's apartment. Tom has it out with George and decides to run against him in the union election. Mary explains her problems to Mona McKenzie. Mary lies to Cathy that Mona is an old friend from high school who transferred away. Cathy discovers Steve in bed with Kate.
Mary, Martha, and Loretta plan Cathy's impromptu bridal shower while she's throwing her engagement ring back at Steve. A distraught Cathy arrives home, announces Steve's infidelity, and renounces men. Dennis drops by the Hartman kitchen and tells Mary that he still wants her and will wait for her, but when Cathy arrives, Dennis asks her to dinner.
Mary secretly phones Mona but can't talk. After her date with Dennis, Cathy's over Steve. Loretta has a new tune about Cathy's relationship with Steve called How Can You Say You Don't Love Me When You Never Could Talk At All? Clyde calls the Haggers with news that a royalty check is in the mail. Tom and George spar over union ideals at the plant. After hearing Baby Boy on the radio, Tiny offers to help Charlie get re-hired. Tom accuses Mary of meddling, and she accuses him of using sex to intimidate her into being a good girl. Mona phones Mary to arrange a meeting about sex therapy.
Mary is too busy preparing food products without food to care about Cathy's relationship with Dennis. Loretta receives a phone call from another Mrs. Haggers. Mona arrives at the Hartman house to carry out Mary's plan. Loretta confronts Charlie about his past.