I’ve noticed that YouTube is overflowing with quite good copies of the late 1970s television show, Fernwood 2 Night. When I was a kid, I thought it was a big deal. But I was wrong. It only played for 65 episodes during the summer of 1977. Then they did another 65 episodes in the fall of 1978 in a “national” format as America 2-Night. But I’m often impressed with just how good my taste was as a young boy. I don’t recall fully understanding the show, but I certainly understood that it was something hip and generally silly enough to enjoy.
The show had a strange birthing process. It all started with the comedic soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. I don’t know a lot about the show because it was far too dry for my young brain. Consider the following dialog from the first episode:
Mary: Oh my God. The whole family?
Loretta: All five of ’em plus two goats and eight chickens.
Mary: I can’t believe it. What kind of madman would shoot two goats and eight chickens? [Pause.] And the people. The people, of course.
Funny stuff and throughout the episode, everyone seems more focused on the goats and chickens than the family. But after a year, Louise Lasser left the show. So they changed the show to Forever Fernwood, which ran for a half year with all the same characters except for Mary Hartman. And then they changed it to, Fernwood 2 Night — a local talk show.
Fernwood 2 Night was hosted by Barth Gimble, who is the brother of Garth Gimble, a wife beater on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Both characters were played by Martin Mull. Fernwood 2 Night is still pretty dry fare. But it is spiced up with Mull’s sarcasm and Fred Willard clueless silliness. The show also has Happy Kyne, as the band leader — played as dour as can be by Frank De Vol. It’s all brilliant.
The first episode is, “Talk to a Jew.” In addition to the titular segment, it also has Bruce Mahler as Howard Palmer playing piano while in an iron lung, which in addition to being offensively funny is also kind of amazing. I think you can find most of the other episodes on YouTube at this time. That also goes for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and America 2-Night as well.