The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on August 31, 1975 · Page 80
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August 31, 1975

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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 80

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Des Moines, Iowa
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Sunday, August 31, 1975
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Page 80
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Lear's satiric soap opera fnay never hit the air By BENJAMIN STEIN _ ROpfMMl WWH ffc§ Wow § WOW JUimOJ You have to give Norman credit. Five years ago, he introduced' the' Bunker family to the American public with "Alt in the Family." It was a little slow getting started, but for many people it has become the standard in television comedy to which all new shows aspire. He followed with spin-offs and re- made Imports — "Maude," "The Jeffenons," "Sanford and SM" - which were not as creative or eicitlng as "All In the Family," but were hugely successful in terms of audience site. Then be bad a failure. He tried to put an off-Broadway play, "Hot I Baltimore," into the weekly comedy format. It didn't work But Lear has not given up trying. He now has a new project which could revolutionize daytime television. It is a satiric soap opera, designed for daily weekday showing in the soap opera time period, and it represents a quantum jump in daytime television programing quali- ty, for several reasons. First of all, the show ia a scream. It is more sophisticated than "Monty Python" without the slightest pretensions. It is more subtle than "Mary Tyler Moore," and just as funny. And even more amazing, the show works on the level of both satire of soap opera and as Singer-actor Rippy is hot property By MARGARIA FICHTNER NtWIWMM There was a time, back before the television commercials, the record albums, the guest appearances with the Harlem Globetrotters, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, jr., and Kathryn Kuhlman, that he was known around the house principally as Poo. Today, he's known around the world and is called Rodney Allen Rippy. It suits. Rod Rippy implies a 6 foot 3 inch — musclqman. Rodney Allen Rippy measures in at 42 inches and 43 pounds. He is seven. A button-cute little boy with big brown eyes and a missing lower tooth whom critics call the hottest juvenile property since Shirley Temple, singer-actor Rodney has already learned that the benefits of celebrity some- times have limits and sometimes don't. Being famous means that if his mother Flossie says no, he can't' have Ice cream because he's just eaten breakfast, and then his agent, Do 'rothy Day Otis, says "Do you want some Ice cream, Sweetie," chances are he'll get ice cream. It also means he carries around rubber stamps with his name printed on them to satisfy autograph hunters. "It takes him too long to sign his name," says Otis. "He prints." It means that although his per appearance fee reaches somewhere Into four figures, that cash goes Into a special education fund. Back home in Long Beach he earns his spending money by taking out the neighbor's garbage. She pays him a dime. He is expected to take out his family's garbage for free. It means that his famify still lives in the same house it's had since before he was born, although his mother, who formerly worked in a rag factory and then in a perfume company, now spends her time chaperoning her son on appearances. And it means that although Rodney now attends private school and professes to be good in spelling, he spells doctor dr. and, on this hot summer day, cannot cope with the intricacies of the word ice cream. Fred Rippy, a self-employed diesel truck driver, and his wife registered all three of their children — Rodney, Beverly, now 14, and Kenneth, 12 - with a talent agent, but it was Rodney who was hired by a West Coast hamburger chain look- Rodney Allen Rippy ing for a child to star in a new commercial. "1 went on an interview," says Rodney. "They were looking for a little Negro boy, so they put me on TV. Know how much money I got? Over $1,000. The next time, I'm gonna get a thousand and one, then more and more and more." SiPTEMBER NETWORK TV MOVIE CALENDAR Mr*««iayl«v»TVmH«iM SUNDAY „ 7 14 0«*'<! (»IC) 1:00 21 20 MONDAY 1 Mky ll IM Ml (CIS) 10:31 0 (MO IM TM Ski Wki CMW Silt Wftffrt (CIS) 40:31 IS IM Itfril full (NIC) 1:00 Ni|kt it Terr* (CIS) 10:30 22 TMft't i Cirt ta My SMP (NIC ' IN Hilckcd (CIS) 11:31 20 UK (MC) IN liMti (CIS) 10:30 TUESDAY 2 •MUWTllKlllM'i Trta«ll(MC>7:N lwiiMlMM(NM>T:M VMrMMM)(tVnir«Hfi (CM) It* 9 •My SUM (Ml) CIS) lt.M 10 OMKik-nyMtllVN CMfMdMt(CIS>lfrU 23 link tl fiat (CIS) «M 30 Miritwi (CIS) 111! WEDNESDAY 3 (MO 130 C*|iyl*« (COS) 1033 10 ftrtyO«<M(Pjr!il> (CIS) 1038 17 HilKk (CIS) tl):M 24 • lilt (CIS) 1039 THURSDAY 4 Tkru fir tki tut (CIS) l:3« TM ftrfiliiM (CIS) 11.31 SHIIIM it tM DMT • (KON) IIM 11 CMN. It Mwikll (COS) IN XMti< City lurtw <CIS) 10:3* 11 tat SI'Mt (KIN) 11:00 to M {M (CIS) 1:01 fell it tiiM* (CIS) 10:30 TkifliNlk bin <KIN) 11 N 25 S4tm's SckMl IM Gtrli >.CIS) 1030 IM«« PiMli Nut Iiw (KIN) HOD FRIDAY S fuel fill (US) 1.N M. friMy liN *IC) 7:31 CUM lift it»i i mtto (CIS) 10:30 TMy Ml* Ml i CrWMl (KM) 11:31 12 Nmnit In Fwiw (MO 1:31 fctl Oi My lislwy (KIN) 10:31 mri taint M wMtU (CIS) 1131 10 NMtll City Mmicri (MC) 1:31 TIN N«*i lM|Mir (CIS) 10 N Sitir<iy'i CkiMrii (KON) 11:31 20 Mmitlf (CIS) 1130 (<tl ll IM linir (KON) 10:30 SATURDAY 0 IM lilt MI*' (KON) IN 13 Citari* TwrHiry (KM) 1* TM lltl ll XMKl (NIC) IN 20 (KM) IN IM Stm MUr (MO IN 27 I M litlb] CiMl (KIN) IN IM MM WM ll«l< Clt HMU| (MC) IN ursL Hart oper. sayin possi you crutc ing i a fe wha( ny. As soap neigl ing then der Mar) even sion, on mad it h, up." port abo Mar him that swe M trot nrrtl like mor her Rea moi Ton an, and '* soap opera. It is a TFX of television — and it can fly. The show is called "Mary Hartman,'Mary Hartman." It was originally conceived in Lear's mind seven years ago as a show which would be both funny and satiric, and also true to the soap opera genre, to paraphrase Lear. It has since been worked on by Al Burton, Lear's director of new projects, two intensely talented directors, Art Wolff and Joan Darling, and Ann Marcus, a long-time soap opera writer. They assembled a wonderful group of actors and actresses, and have made the first few episodes. As in all soap operas, the action involves several interrelated groups. The—Starr- Mary Hartman, played by Louise Lasser so well that most soap opera heroines would want to kill her, is a 30-ish wife and mother in a blue collar suburb. Her hubby works at an automobile plant. They have two children. They live down the street from Mary's parents, George and Martha. George also works on the assembly line. Martha's father, Grandpa Larkin, also lives with George and Martha. In addi- ' tion to being an eloquent spokesman for the elderly, he is a "flasher" - an exhibitionist. Then there are Loretta and Charlie, a neighbor couple. Loretta is a Southerner who wants to be a country music star. Her husband Charlie is 20 years older than she is, but she calls him "baby-boy." By a .brilliant .stroke, the first show opens with Mary Hartman transfixed by a soap opera in which a woman is saying "What good could we possibly be to each other with you in jail and me on crutches?" That tone of pushing the soap opera genre just a few steps over the line is what make* the shows so fun- IT- As Mary is watching the soap, her sister and her neighbor Loretta come rushing in. They tell Mary that there has been a mast murder in. the neighborhood. Mary briefly focuses on that event in her placid subdivision, but she is more fixated on a comment her sister made about her kitchen floor: it has a "waxy yellow buildup." Even when a crime reporter comes to interview her about the mat? murder, Mary cannot resist asking him about her floor: "Do you *ee any waxy buildup on that floor?" To which he answers, ''Looks fine to me." Mary is having "marital troubles" too. The marital problem is that Tom does not like to make love to Mary any more because, a* a result oC her reading an article in Reader's Digest about women's rights, sh« has become more sexually aggressive. Tom tells her that, as a woman, her role a to do nothing, and wait for him to make ad- D<js Moine'i Sunday vances. "Then when ( feel like doing it, I'll do It." The next night, she eagerly lies perfectly still and telli her husband, "I'm not doing anything. Isn't that what you want me to do?" "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" not only takes us right into the bedroom, but dares to turn the light of humor on a sensitive and sad problem, and in that way handles it tastefully and palatably. The show does what tha best continuing comedies liko "Mary Tyler Moore" and "All in the Family" and tha best soaps do, but does it better. It makes us laugh, but it also gets us involved with tha -characters. In fact, I, a self- COMMENTARY confessed fan of soap operas, found myself getting involved with the characters on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," just as I used to wonder about the interesting but humorless people of "Tha Young and the Restless" and "All My Children." Into the desert of gama shows and soap operas; which are one millimeter from being parodies of themselves, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" would introduce extremely fine comedy and a high degree of viewer involvement - if it gets on the air. So far, Lear .is having trouble getting into the world of daytime programing with "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." According to a Lear spokesman, unnamed network executives say they love the show, but think it is too sophisticated for the general audience. The "we versus they" syndrome in network program- ing is always a problem in that network executives have to imagine what they would like if they were not so terribly sophisticated themselves. But in the case of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," the quality of the show is so powerful that eventually someone may decide that the public can be trusted to tuna in. When that happens, daytime television will be a lot brighter. «) i»7l, Om JMM A C«. Louise Latter • ~ August 31, 1975 3 IV

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