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Fernwood 2 Night stars Martin Mull and Fred Willard

Writing For Fernwood 2 Night

By Billy Ingram

Fernwood 2 Night stars Martin Mull and Fred WillardCreated by Norman Lear and produced by Alan Thicke, Fernwood 2Night was, for me, the funniest TV show of the 1970s. Starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard, this weekday evening syndicated program was a sendup of local talk shows that were so popular during that era.

Originally the summer replacement for Mary Hartman Mary Hartman in 1977, the series returned the next summer as America 2 Night and featured more big name guest stars appearing as themselves. A new audience discoverd Fernwood 2-Night and America 2-Night when they were rerun for the first time on Nick at Nite from 1990 to 1993, then again on TV Land in 2002.

Writer / producer Jeremy Stevens talks about the making of the series. I doubt that I’m alone in thinking that much of the banter between Mull and Willard was improvised - turns out not so much.

Jeremy Stevens: It was written, there was a little bit of ad-libbing but essentially it was very well scripted. Very carefully scripted, and they stuck to the script. But with a little bit of ad-libbing, they’re both very very clever guys and are able to do it. What did they bring to the show is what you see.

I man, each one of them is terrific. I mean, Fred is the inimitable Fred Willard, no one has ever been able to… that’s the smartest dumb guy you’ll ever meet. You know, he’s really hilarious, that’s what you love when you’re watching because, to me, Fred is something… he involves me in what he’s doing because he’s such a wonderful actor. But he also does something else, he has me in it which of course is the ultimate goal.

But I’m also outside of it because there’s something Fred is doing, he isn’t really winking at us but his whole approach has a wink in it. It’s almost like he… it’s very hard to articulate what Fred does but I’m his biggest fan.

So he had that, he had that character, he needed no help in playing… you just wrote for him and he fulfilled it. And, by the way, he inspired good writing. As did Martin [Mull]. Martin has got that, you know, that smarmy but impish… what a combination. He’s lovable even though he’s… the human being that he is is really not a lovable human being but Martin makes him a lovable human being.

Here’s this portion of the Jeremy Stevens interview:

 

Here’s a run of Fernwood 2 Night episodes starting with one of the funniest with guest star Bill Kirchenbauer as Tony Rolletti:

 

Norman Lear on creating the show Fernwood 2-Night, its nonsensical nature and the comic talents of the stars.

 


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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman starring Louise Lasser is a 1976 syndicated soap opera parody produced by Norman Lear (All in the Family), directed by Joan Darling. The series was written by Gail Parent and Ann Marcus.

 

 


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