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Mama's Family

By Wikipedia

Mama's Family was a sitcom which ran from 1983 to 1985 on NBC and from 1986 to 1990 in first-run syndication. It was a spinoffof a series of comedy sketches called The Family which appeared on The Carol Burnett Show. The Family was roughly based on Burnett's childhood.

After the cancellation of The Carol Burnett Show, The Family was spun off into a series called Mama's Family which aired first an NBC network program. Burnett, who played Thelma's short-tempered daughter Eunice, never appeared after the first season.

After the show was cancelled on NBC, it continued to film for first-run syndication. Many cast changes occurred around this time, with only the characters Thelma, Vinton, and Naomi staying on as regulars. Two more characters were added: Iola Boyland, the Harpers' neighbor, and Bubba Higgins, Eunice's son and Thelma's grandchild. New relatives and neighbors were brought in to evoke comedic situations.

Setting

The show was set in a fictitious small town called Raytown. It is presumed that Raytown is somewhere in the South or Midwest. Although a specific state is never mentioned as the setting of the show, some of the cast claim that it was modeled after the actual city of Raytown, Missouri. It is often mentioned on the show that the town is in "the Tri-state Area," which means it is located near the junction of three states. It should be noted that Raytown, Missouri actually is located near such a junction—that of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Premise

The show centered around a squabbling family headed by buxom Thelma Harper, a gray-haired, opinionated, sharp-tongued widow. Living with her originally was only her high-strung, stick-in-the-mud sister Fran, a journalist for a local paper. At the start of the series, her somewhat dim-witted son, Vinton (whose wife had just left him to become a Las Vegas showgirl), and his two children, Sonja and Vinton Jr. ("Buzz"), moved in with her. Vinton was a locksmith by trade and took a job at Kwik Keys, a lock sales shop in the Raytown Mall.

During the first season, Vinton had a relationship with the flirtatious next-door neighbor Naomi (a checker at a grocery store called Food Circus), whom he soon married. Thelma thought little of Naomi, referring to her as a floozy. Also seen (but occasionally) during the first few seasons was her daughter, foulmouthed Eunice, Eunice's husband Ed, and her other daughter, the snobbish Ellen; Ellen's husband, Bruce, was talked about but never seen. Both Eunice and Ed had appeared in “The Family” skits on the Carol Burnett Show, and Ellen had also occasionally appeared. Although Eunice never appeared again after the show's syndication, she was referred to numerous times, and a younger actress played her in a flashback of a Mother-Daughter dinner in which she embarrasses Thelma by arriving completely drunk. This episode also reinstated the fact that Iola has lived across the street from the Harpers since birth.

When the show went into syndication, major cast changes occurred and only Thelma, Vinton, and Naomi remained as regulars from the first seasons. Vinton’s children, Buzz and Sonja, had moved away, never to be spoken of again. Aunt Fran had passed away (Rue McClanahan left the show to star in another NBC sitcom The Golden Girls), and Eunice and Ed had moved to Florida. Their son Bubba, who had just been released from juvenile hall after doing time for car theft, was foisted on his grandma Thelma to raise. He moved into Fran's old room, much to the disgust of Vinton and Naomi who thought that they were going to move into that room (their bedroom was in the basement).

Also added to the cast of characters was Iola, a thirty-something prissy neighbor with a crush on Vinton. Iola lived with her demanding and severely obese mother and her equally eccentric father (both referred to but never seen) and had practically no social life, especially with men, choosing to hang around Thelma much of the time, sometimes to Thelma’s annoyance. Iola had been friends with the Harpers since childhood. She was known for her numerous and ridiculous handi-crafts, including the Monitor and Merrimac kitchen cozies. She was usually the most knowledgeable of the group, but much of this "knowledge" seemed to come from various magazines and television programs such as Oprah. Although Iola was not added to the cast until the show went into first-run syndication, it was told that she lived across the street from the Harpers her entire life. She's known for her catchphrase: "Knock, knock!" (rather than actually knocking on the door)

A recurring theme throughout the syndicated seasons was Naomi's desire to become a mother. Following through with this, the penultimate season concluded with Naomi's announcement that she was pregnant. Preparation for the baby then became a major theme in the final season. The series finale had Naomi giving birth to a baby girl, whom the family decided to name Tiffany Thelma.

Characters

  • Thelma Crowley Harper, the sardonic, widowed matriarch of her family. Played by Vicki Lawrence.
    • Vinton Harper, Thelma's slow-witted son and third husband of Naomi. Works at Kwik Keys as a locksmith. Played by Ken Berry.
    • Naomi Oates Harper, Vinton's girlfriend and later, second wife. Works as a checker, and later, regional manager of Food Circus, a local grocery store. Vinton's pet-name for her is "Skeeter," and no one seems to know why. Played by Dorothy Lyman.
      • Vinton "Buzz" Harper, Jr., Vint's son with his first wife. He later moved out and was never spoken of again. Played by Eric Brown.
      • Sonja Harper, Vint's daughter with his first wife. Like her brother, she later moved out and was never spoken of again. Played by Karin Argoud.
      • Tiffany Thelma Harper, Vint and Naomi's newborn daughter. Born in the series finale.
    • Ellen Harper Jackson, Thelma's rich, snobby daughter. Played by Betty White.
    • Eunice Higgins, Thelma's short-tempered and melodramatic daughter. Played by Carol Burnett.
    • Ed Higgins, Eunice's dolt of a husband. Played by Harvey Korman.
      • Bubba Higgins, Ed and Eunice's son. Just returned from juvenile hall. Played by Allan Kayser.
  • Aunt Fran Crowley, Thelma's sister. Works as a newspaper reporter and free-lance writer. Dies by choking on a toothpick. Played by Rue McClanahan.
  • Iola Boylan, Thelma's nosy, prissy neighbor. Lives with her obese mother and eccentric father (who are never seen). Has a crush on Vinton (and Alex Trebek). Played by Beverly Archer.

Reoccurring Characters

  • Aunt Effie Harper, Thelma's sister-in-law. Played by Dorothy Van.
  • Reverend Lloyd Meechum, the Harper's henpecked minister. Played by Earl Boen.
  • Alberta Meechum, Reverend Meechum's condescending wife and a perennial thorn in the side of Thelma Harper. Played by Anne Haney.
  • Mayor Alvin Tutweiler, the mayor of Raytown. Played by Allan Oppenheimer.
  • Luann Fayette, Naomi Harper's trashy best friend. Played by Jennifer Richards. More spoken of than ever seen.
  • Roselle Huplander, the obese friend of of Thelma and Iola. Never actually seen on an episode but frequently referred to.
  • Dwayne and T-Boy, Bubba Higgins' teenage delinquent best friends. Played by Beau Bishop and Grant Heslov respectively.
  • Mr. Hanson, night-school teacher of Thelma and Bubba, and love interest of Thelma Harper. Played by Joseph Campanella.
  • Amy Johnson, girlfriend of Bubba Higgins. Played by Amy Benedict.
  • Lolly Purdue, member of the Chruch Ladies League. Played by Marge Redmond
  • Officer Sneed, young police officer. Played by Allan David Fox

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Mama's Family? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"My particular favorite is when Mama wins the contest for "Dirty Dancing". Vicki Lawrence is terrific as are all the cast members."

--Dolores J.

"My favorite Mama's Family episode is when Bonita Rokeke broke out of juvenile hall and came to Mama's house when the Meechums were there for dinner."

--Anonymous

"I really enjoy watching Mama's Family because its downright funny. Especially Mama, of course the show needs all of its casting members. I lived with my family for a long time and somehow I could relate to this show. My dad always said, "when you meet someone new, don't talk, that way they won't know how dumb you are." Of course, he was just kidding."

--cinnamon

"I am a huge fan of Mama's Family! I have a big collection of mama episdoes from 1984 to 1989. My top 5 favorite episodes of Mama's Family are:
5. Naomi gets amnesia
4. Bubba, Iola, and Mama imagine being married
3. Mama gets hooked on KRAY teleshopper
2. the family switch rooms
1. Mama finds out that Lolly Perdue (president of CLL) cannot read or write.
"

--MamaLover

"One of my favorites is in a Mama's Family sketch when Tim Conway is telling a story about the siamese elephants. Everyone in the sketch is trying desperately not to lose it. Tim continues on with this ridiculous story as usual! [Editor's note: Tim Conway is one of the funniest homo sapiens to ever grace the small screen. His ability to break up other professional actors is legendary.]"

--Bigtexana

"I'd have to say that my favorite episode was the April Fool's Day one. It is absolutely hilarious the way Mama got her family to finally help clean up her yard! I think my two favorite parts of the episode was when Bubba says to Mama "You mean we did all this work for nothing? and Mama says to Bubba "It wasn't for nothin' it was for.. APRIL FOOLS!!" The second is when Iola says to Thelma "Oh Thelma.How deceitful!" Mama's reply is "What's the matter? Can't you take a joke Iola? Come on back we'll have some lemon sponge cake!!" I absolutely love that episode.truly a classic."

--Amy

"Best episode was when Eunice wanted to sing at Vint and Naomi's wedding. . . . classic!!!!"

--linglang28

"This is one of the funniest '80s shows, though at times it could get cheezy. My favorite episode is probably when everyone has daydreams (that turn into nightmares) about their possible futures. Bubba sees him and his girlfriend with tons of kids, Iola envisions herself as a Naomi-type wife to Vint, and Mama has "Rebecca" always shadowing her. Classic!"

--Anonymous

"I think that Mama's Family is a truly terriffic show. I think that it is just down right funny. Some of the best five episodes that I think are:

1. When they rent the house out to guests when the fair comes to town. The best parts are when Iola gives Mama the pink toilet seat covers and when Mama is trying to get on the hammock. She is trying and she just cjant get on and she keeps flipping. She keeps yelling "Oh. . . . thats ok none of you have to worry I am fine. "

2. When Mama's house is going to get demolished because of the garbage dump and when they are about to swing the ball. She jumps on it and starts swinging and almosts hits everyone.

3. When the tornado comes and they all have to take refuge in the basement. They are all running and Mama is telling "Effee put a lead on it!" And when Iola gets drunk off of Aunt Effee's rum balls.

4. When Vint and Naomi go on their honeymoon and Mama walks in on them. She just gets on the bed and she looks up and sees herself in the mirror and she screams and then she starts watching the "smut" (in her language) and she leaves.

5. When they go to Hawaii and Mama is stalked by that man who turns out to be the owner of a very rich company. And Naomi gets sunburn because Vint confuses bath gel with sunscreen and she has to stay in the room. And when Mama is about to leave Naomi crys "Well are you just gonna walk out that door and leave me here without even a small thought of consent for your daughter-in-law( something like that) and Mama says "Yup, what are mother-in-laws for. ""

--Dom

"Mama's Family is my favorite TV show of all time. Every episode was great but my favorites of all time were when Thelma/Mama doesn't pay the electric bill, Thelma/Mama wrestles in the honeybee costume, Thelma's/Mama's mother comes back to haunt her, the obscene phone call, and the one with the love letter that gets into everyones hands. Those just crack me up and that show is just the funniest show ever made. I hope they keep showing reruns."

--Nina

"I just recently started watching Mama's Family, I am a real insomniac and I stay uup to the wee hours. Mama's Family keeps me entertained. I have to say that I have several favorite episodes.

The April Fools Episode, The Episode when Naomi tells everyone that she is pregnant, the episode when Bubba and Thelma graduate, the episode when Thelma gets everyone drunk at the church, the Thanksgiving episode when Thelma gets the goose as a gift and changes her mind about cooking him and eating him, and the season finale when Tiffany Thelma is born."

--mama's family fan

"Mama&'s Family is my favorite t. v show of all time. Every episode was great but my favorites of all time were when Thelma/Mama doesn&'t pay the electric bill, Thelma/Mama wrestles in the honeybee costume, Thelma&'s/Mama&'s mother comes back to haunt her, the obscene phone call, and the one with the love letter that gets into everyones hands. Those just crack me up and that show is just the funniest show ever made. I hope they keep showing reruns."

--Nina

"I just recently started watching Mama&'s Family, I am a real insomniac and I stay uup to the wee hours. Mama&'s Family keeps me entertained. I have to say that I have several favorite episodes. The April Fools Episode, The Episode when Naomi tells everyone that she is pregnant, the episode when Bubba and Thelma graduate, the episode when Thelma gets everyone drunk at the church, the Thanksgiving episode when Thelma gets the goose as a gift and changes her mind about cooking him and eating him, and the season finale when Tiffany Thelma is born."

--mama&'s family fan

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: January 22, 1983 - August 17, 1985

Cast: Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, Carol Burnett

Network: NBC

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Spinoff of: Carol Burnett Show

Image courtesy of NBC


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