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MARY'S INCREDIBLE DREAM (1976).

In the 1960's, Mary Tyler Moore epitomized the young American housewife in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW; in the early-seventies, she became the modern working woman in THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW; but by 1976, her out-of-control ego flushed away much of that accumulated goodwill with this hilariously deluded, hour-long musical-fantasy-abomination for CBS-TV (premiering on January 22, 1976). Cramming a wide range of hit tunes into a pretentious dream-scenario smorgasbord that spans humankind's history (and beyond), our disconcertingly-scrawny, frizzy-permed diva proudly shows off her extremely-limited singing and dancing skills. But before this gaudy, indulgent MTM Enterprises "spectacular" is over, you'll have the urge to beat Mary Tyler Moore senseless with a sockful of nickels. When we first see Moore, she's sound asleep (in the type of flowing pink nightgown usually reserved for Doris Day movies) and floats away on a musical odyssey that begins at the Pearly Gates, with The Boston Pops' Arthur Fiedler leading a celestial choir, that detestable vocal quartet The Manhattan Transfer (who repeatedly interrupt any halfway-decent scene) inside a giant radio, plus a bearded, green-sequin-tuxedoed, '666'-monogrammed Ben Vereen as Lucifer. From there on, it just gets goofier, with Mary and her guests playing multiple roles. Is there an Adam and Eve sequence? You betcha! How about cavewoman Mary weakly warbling Cy Coleman's "Nobody Does It Like Me" into a dinosaur-bone microphone? A Renaissance sequence featuring "Alfie," "Runnin' Wild" and the obtrusive Manhattan Transfer singing The Ink Spots' hit "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea"? A shit-kicking musical number with portable washboards? Vereen and Mary as Mr. and Mrs. Noah, post-flood, floating about on a giant plaster hand (with the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower submerged in the background)? Oh, and let's not forget to include a boring ballet sequence. Things almost perk up when Vereen grabs a solo for Cole Porter's "Let's Misbehave" and fiddle-playin' Cajun Doug Kershaw maniacally blasts through Johnny Horton's "The Ballad of New Orleans", but those moments are all too brief. A few contemporary tunes are also covered, including The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" (sung by The Devil, of course) and Moore murdering Cat Stevens' sublime "Morning Has Broken". If you haven't already figured it out for yourself, this was one seriously brain-fried hour of primetime TV. Created and written by Jack Good (no stranger to bizarre musical projects, after producing 33-1/3 REVOLUTIONS PER MONKEE and Patrick McGoohan's rock-Othello CATCH MY SOUL) and directed by Gene McAvoy and Jaime Rogers (both on a break from their jobs on THE SONNY & CHER SHOW as, respectively, art director and choreographer), this obviously-coked-out idea might've been a whole lot trippier if its production budget didn't look cheaper than an episode of PINK LADY AND JEFF. Plus every time you think it couldn't possibly get any worse, it does! This is the type of full-blown fiasco where Ben Vereen, writhing about in a one-piece, red jumpsuit that's cut down to his navel is an aesthetic highpoint. Hard to believe, this wrongheaded debacle was nominated for three Emmy Awards (all in technical categories).

© 2009 by Steven Puchalski.