Mama’s Family is an extremely underrated, yet extremely funny and campy sit com that ran from 1983-1990. The first 2 Seasons were on the NBC Network and included Mama Thelma Harper- (played by Vicki Lawrence), and her sister Fran, her locksmith son Vinton, his new wife Naomi, and Vinton’s two children: Buzz and Sonya. Mama’s other children Ellen (played by Betty White), and the tempermental Eunice(played by Carol Burnette), sometimes appeared on the show as well. Mama’s Family is a spin off of the “Family Sketches on the Carol Burnette Show. Most of the show centers around Mama and her ungrateful family. Her son Vinton is a neer-do-well who lives in the basement with his wife. Mama’s favorite expressions are “Well, Good Lord!” “Horsepucky”, and “In a hen’s hiney”. These are often said when Mama is mad and pursing and puckering up her lips as in distress.The Harper family is a classic Midwestern-Southern lower middle class dysfunctional family. A lot of the shows quirks have to do with numerous references to “Ray” as in “Raytown” – the fictional town in which this show takes place. Their local TV station is “K-RAY” and a local hotel is “The Raymada Inn”, ” Ray Lane” etc. This plays up Raytown’s provinciality. Even though Raytown is fictional- many believe the show takes place in Raytown, MO. The show often referes to the ‘Tri-State” area. Many believed the humor in the show is more Okie-Texarkana style, at least in the NBC version. The accents and the characters seem to suggest the show takes place in the South, or some place in the Midwest that has a lot of Southern influence.There are many character changes in the show. As the show left NBC, it went off the air in 1985, and came back in 1986-1990, with a slightly new feel and cast. Mama’s sister Fran (Rue McClanahan) is apparently killed off by choking on a tooth pick in the lady’s room of the Bigger Jigger. Buzz and Sonya apparently left for college. Then added are Iola, the quirky next door neighbor, and “Bubba”- Mama’s grandson who was in reform school. Vinton becomes dumber, and Naomi gets trashier. Iola seems to become a replacement for Thelma’s sister Fran- who was very prudish about things. The show in this series became a bit lighter, more punchline comedy humor- typical of the 80s, and not the campy and theatrical deep fried Southern comedy it was during its NBC run. Mama becomes less and less like an old lady, and more atypical. Doing things such as dirty dancing. Iola makes handycrafts and seems to have a thing for Vinton, even though Vinton is married to Naomi. This creates a tension between Naomi and Iola. Iola is much too meek , however to be “the other woman”.For whatever reason, Mama’s Family came to end, with the birth of “Tiffany Thelma” -Vinton and Naomis’ only child. The show was run for many years on TBS, and later on PAX TV. Season 1 has been released on video. Mama’s Family remains a cult classic- because it never got any awards, but many of its fans what most people don’t- ITS FUNNY AS HELL !
I’m a fan of Mama’s Family- that hidden comedy gem from the 80s.