1 9 7 6 – 1 9 7 8 (USA)
325 x 30 minute episodes
This comedy soap opera spoof was developed by Norman Lear (of All In The Family fame) and designed for syndication, beginning in January 1976.
The series was set in the (mythical) town of Fernwood, Ohio – a peaceful little community until the mass murderer of Fernwood claimed the lives of the Lombardi family, their two goats and eight chickens, and put the town on the map.
The murders occurred on Mary June Street. A short distance from that location is Bratner Avenue in the Woodland Heights section of town.
At 343 Bratner lives 31-year-old Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) – a pigtailed and plain housewife who constantly worries about the waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor – with her 25-year-old husband, Tom (Greg Mullavey), an auto plant assembly line worker, and their daughter, Heather (Claudia Lamb), who attends the Woodland Heights Elementary School.
Mary’s parents, George (Philip Bruns) and Martha (Dody Goodman) Shumway, her sister, Cathy (Debralee Scott), and her grandfather, Raymond Larkin (Victor Kilian), live at 4309 Bratner Avenue. George works with Tom at the Fernwood Auto Plant and has been married to Martha for 36 years.
Grandpa Larkin, now 83, was born in Macon, Georgia. He is somewhat senile and is always asking, “Where’s the peanut butter?”. Cathy, who is ten years younger than Mary, is a pretty, man-crazy free spirit.
Mary’s next-door neighbours are Charlie and Loretta Haggers, who live at 345 Bratner Avenue. 22-year-old Loretta (Mary Kay Place) is a sweet and trusting country girl who is hoping to make it big as a recording artist and performs at the local Fernwood watering hole, the Capri Lounge. Charlie (Graham Jarvis), her husband and manager, is 43 years old and also works with Tom at the auto plant.
Mary goes through crisis after crisis: Her father disappears; her daughter is held prisoner by a mass murderer; her husband is impotent; Loretta becomes paralysed; her grandfather becomes known as the Fernwood Flasher for exposing himself, and her sister becomes a hooker.
Mary eventually has an affair with Sergeant Dennis Foley (Bruce Solomon) of the Fernwood Police Department – and a nervous breakdown (any wonder).
When Louise Lasser left the show in 1977, it continued for another six months under the title Forever Fernwood. Most of the original cast was intact, but Tab Hunter replaced Philip Bruns as Mary’s father – the explanation being that George had fallen into a chemical vat and had been restored with plastic surgery (!).
Philip Bruns (1)
Tab Hunter (2)
Mary Kay Place
Grandpa Raymond Larkin
Sgt Dennis Foley
Garth Gimble/Barth Gimble