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MAMA'S FAMILY
Season One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, Dorothy Lyman, Eric Brown, Karin Argoud, Rue McClanahan
Creators:  Dick Clair, Jenna McMahon
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  None
Length:  278 Minutes
Release Date:  September 26, 2006

“Fran?”

“Yes, Thelma?”

“Did I just tell Vint and that…what’s-her-name…they could have their wedding in my house?”

“Yes, Thelma.”

“Well, WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU STOP ME?!”

Shows ***

George Burns once remarked, “Happiness is a large, closely knit family.  Especially if they live in another state.”  I wonder if he had Mama’s Family in mind when he quipped that?

Mama’s Family first launched to the airwaves in 1983 and rode to the end of the decade with laughter and merriment.  The character of Mama was first introduced on The Carol Burnett Show, when Vicki Lawrence was tapped by Ms. Burnett to play the cantankerous character Eunice while she herself played Mama.  But even though Ms. Lawrence was younger, and remained younger than any of her ‘children’ in the skit by at least 15 years and on the show, she ended up filling the role of Mama Thelma Harper.  Her sharp-tongued delivery became a hit with fans, and it was no wonder she eventually found her way to her own show.

As the first season begins, her hapless son Vint (Berry) and two kids are having to move back in with Mama after Vint’s divorce.  Mama’s sister Fran (McClanahan) was already in the picture.  And soon a new love interest for Vint would enter the mix:  the vivacious Naomi (Lyman), the next-door neighbor that Mama hardly approves of.

Most of the early episodes deal with Vint and Naomi and their wedding day, which is almost brought to a screeching halt by Eunice.  Some of the best shows of the year feature Carol Burnett making appearances to help out Vicki and crew.  Watching Eunice go round and round with Mama was always good for big laughs.

My favorite episode of the first season’s original thirteen involved the Harpers going on Family Feud.  Hysterical stuff, especially with the good-natured Richard Dawson kidding himself a little bit for the show.  I howled with laughter all the way through.

Mama’s Family was initially cancelled after the first two years, but fan demand helped keep it going.  In fact, it was one of the first shows ever to successfully switch from network to syndication.  I know it was always a staple in my house growing up.  My parents loved the show, and so did I. 

Some of the later years would be even funnier, but I’m glad to see this first year finally making DVD.  We can only hope that means more will soon be on the way.  Mama would be pleased, I’m sure.

Video **

It’s an 80s show shot on video, so it looks about like what you’d expect on DVD…clear enough, but a little muted, with some noticeable grain and tape limitations here and there.  Nothing to complain about, really, but not exemplary either.

Audio **

Well, the box says Dolby Surround, but I’ll be darned if it didn’t sound more like mono to me.  Obviously the show would have had a mono soundtrack in its inaugural year, so that would only be proper.  Not a lot of dynamic range, and dialogue oriented, of course, but the audio serves the purpose just fine.

Features (zero stars)

Well, hell, Eunice…nothing.

Summary:

Mama’s Family is a classic sitcom with great characters spearheaded by the inimitable Vicki Lawrence in the title role.  Pop in for a visit with this double disc set.  Just don’t put your feet up on the coffee table.

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