Say it ain’t so! Alas, it’s so: Mary Hart is leaving ‘Entertainment Tonight‘ next year.
Hart, 59, the inspiration and role model for every female entertainment-news anchor to come on the scene in the last three decades, has decided to pack it in after the show’s upcoming 30th season – which is her 29th as co-anchor. The new season starts Sept. 13.
The official announcement early this morning came on the heels of several news items in the New York Post over the last few days that suggested Hart was close to a decision to leave the show and her likely successor would be Lara Spencer, host of the ‘E.T.’ sister show ‘The Insider.’
Both shows are produced by Paramount Television (a unit of CBS), which announced that this upcoming season will be Hart’s last, but made no mention of Spencer or any other potential successor.
“I’ve had the privilege of spending 29 years doing something I love – how often does that happen?” Hart said in a prepared statement.
When Mary Hart started working at ‘E.T.’ in 1982, Ronald Reagan was in the second year of his first term as president. After replacing original co-anchor Dixie Whatley, Hart worked alongside anchor Ron Hendren and then Robb Weller for a time, but her heyday may have been the 10 seasons she spent alongside co-anchor John Tesh from 1986 to 1996.
Hart virtually created the role of the always-smiling, always-chipper female entertainment-news anchor who never let her enthusiasm flag no matter what she was reporting on.
She became so iconic that a 1992 episode of ‘Seinfeld‘ had Kramer going into convulsions at the sound of her voice. The plotline was inspired by a story that appeared a year earlier in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which a neurologist reported that one of his patients experienced seizures when she heard Hart’s voice. “It was very dramatic,” the doctor said of his patient. “She would look confused and far away. The expression in her eyes – she looked like she was far away and out of it.”
And funnywoman Jane Lynch (now seen in ‘Glee‘) did a spot-on parody of the typical entertainment-news anchorwoman – patterned at least partly on Hart – in the 2006 Christopher Guest movie satire of Hollywood’s annual award season, ‘For Your Consideration.’
Few personalities in the history of television have had as long a run as Hart – not even Oprah Winfrey, whose farewell season – her 25th – will now coincide with Hart’s. Television without Mary Hart? How on Earth will we survive?