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That's My Mama - The Complete First Season


TITLE: THAT'S MY MAMA - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: August 23, 2005 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Color
MSRP: $29.99
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: 602 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: N/A
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English, closed-captioned
Special Features: None


Introduction:

Welcome to Oscar's Barber Shop, named after my daddy who passed it on to me. It's been part of Washington DC for a long time. That's me, Clifton Curtis, my own boss and loving every minute of it. And this is my little sister Tracy... and her husband Leonard. This is my best friend, happy-go-lucky Earl. And this wonderful person... well... That's My Mama! And now this wonderful person has made it to DVD!

The Complete First Season (and also second season, more details on that set coming later in another review) of the obscure 1970s sitcom That's My Mama, is coming to DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. It is one of the more obscure sitcoms from television history, starring Clifton Davis as a barber named Clifton Curtis that lives with his wise and loving mother Eloise (played by Theresa Merritt). The show also features Theodore Wilson (if the name doesn't sound familiar, you will recognize the face from many other sitcoms of the past) as mail carrier Earl Chambers, and Lynne Moody as Curtis' sister Tracy. Also, there are the two barbershop regulars, Wildcat and Josh, played by Jester Hairston (who later went became a regular in the television series Amen along with Clifton Davis) and DeForest Covan. Ted Lange plays Junior on the series, although he doesn't appear in the series as often as I would have imagined. Even Gordon Jump, who later went on to play Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati, has a semi-regular role as a police officer. The series aired on ABC for two seasons (the second of which contained only 13 episodes) from September 1974 until December 1975.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

There are some great episodes in this set, beginning with the first episode "Whose Child is This?" In this episode, a woman shows up at the barber shop claiming that she is the mother of his child—until she finds out that mama knows best! Mama falls in love with a man that has six young (and almost beastly) children in "Mama Steps Out," but does the man really love Mama or does he just want a nanny? Tim Reid plays a minister in "Clifton's Persuasion," an episode in which Clifton begins to have doubts about the existence of God. Clifton decides to bring a gun into the house for his safety in "The Gun," but will Mama approve? A 94-year-old loan shark dies while taking a nap in one of Clifton's barber chairs in "The Last Haircut," but leave it to Earl to make the death seem less innocent than it actually is! Clifton gets hit by a taxi cab and gets tied up with a lawyer that is less than honest (and unwilling to allow Clifton to drop the case) in "The Ambulance Chaser." Earl needs a place to hideout after he testifies against a witness that is set free in "The Witness," and it is driving Clifton and Mama nuts! Clifton and Mama are chosen to demonstrate what life is like in a typical day of a middle-class African American family in a television documentary, and choose to show how a middle-class African American family is no different than a middle-class white family when Clifton's Uncle Gus, a man that demonstrates every single negative African American stereotype that the documentary producers had in mind, unexpectedly shows up in "The Image Maker." Clifton volunteers for a political candidate, and learns the reality of what politicians are really like in "Clifton and Politics."


Packaging:

The packaging style at Sony keeps evolving all the time it seems, but the style that they seem to be using for series that are new to DVD right now is pretty good (and of course, used in this set). The set contains two slim cases, one of which is a double slim case. Discs 1 and 2 are in the double slim case, and Disc 3 has its own slim case. The overall packaging is very slim, about as thick as an Amaray case. Just like the Bewitched set that was released in the double slim case form, however, there is one thing that bothers me. The manufacturer that made the double slim cases created cases that do not hold the DVDs in very securely, and the discs do not stay locked into place like they should. I like the double slim cases; I just wish that Sony would use another design that will allow the discs to stay locked in a little better. The box art is actually fairly nice looking, with the That's My Mama logo on top and pictures of the characters on the bottom. The individual cases are roughly the same, only with fewer characters on the cases.

There are 26 episodes in this set, and they are spanned across the discs fairly evenly, with episodes 1-9 on Disc 1, 10-18 on Disc 2, and 19-26 on Disc 3. Disc Three also contains the trailers that are included in the set. The episodic contents of what is on each disc, as well as a brief description of each episode, can be found on the back of the slim case for that disc. The discs themselves look pretty nice too, again with pictures of the characters from the show.


Menu Design and Navigation:

There isn't much to say here, they are very basic menus. The main menu has various pictures from the show, and the options include Play All Episodes and Episode Selection. Disc 3 has a Previews section as well, with the previews for other DVDs. The Episode Selection option takes you to a menu that looks just like the menu on other Sony sets, where you are presented with a snapshot from each episode. There is no scene selection menu, but there are chapter points placed at every point where a commercial break would be, which is (in my opinion) sufficient for any sitcom on DVD. There really isn't much else to say.


Video and Audio Quality:

First and foremost, here is a flaw with this set that demands immediate attention: Just about every single episode on this set appears to be edited. I can't confirm that 100%, because I don't have access to unedited episodes, but with many of the episodes running at 22:34, something just isn't right about that runtime. There are four episodes on the set that have a runtime that seems reasonable for unedited episodes, such as Tracy's Trouble (24:36), The Ambulance Chaser (25:14), The Witness (25:15), and The Image Maker (25:15). My theory about Tracy's Trouble is that the runtime is shorter because it has an opening sequence that is about 40 seconds shorter (some episodes begin with an introduction that is the same throughout the set, and others begin with the music credits). The other 22 episodes run at 22:35 or less, with some as short as 22:19. Common sense dictates that these are definitely edited episodes. We contacted Solomon Davis, a big fan of the show, and he timed an episode for us (“Trial and Error”) from his library that contains syndicated prints of the show and his timing came roughly to 22:27, which was almost exactly the same run-time for the DVD version of this episode. It is a shame that a show such as this one, especially considering how it has almost never aired in syndication with only one exception that I can think of (on the UPN affiliate in Atlanta), has syndicated episodes on the DVD set, but perhaps that is still better than nothing at all.

The problems don't just stop there unfortunately. The video transfer on some of these episodes is less than spectacular, and I have found several "bad" spots from the video on several episodes throughout the set. I have never seen so many video glitches on a DVD, except perhaps on public domain DVDs. The video quality in general is actually better than just decent for a series this old, but the glitches that occur here and there are a bit annoying. The glitches could have something to do with the fact that this series has remained mostly untouched since it originally aired. The audio quality on this set is decent...nothing spectacular though. The box says that it is in stereo, but that is incorrect, it is actually mono (what else would you expect for 1974?). Some of the episodes have audio that has that annoying "tin can effect," but it isn't a serious problem that plagues the set.


Special Features:

There really aren't any special features... unless you count trailers. There are trailers for Classic Urban Series (1:27), Bewitched TV series (1:00), The Partridge Family (1:00), Are We There Yet? (0:30), and Hitch (2:25). They are all contained on disc 3, if you actually care to see them. They should have put some sort of interviews or something about the show on the set for the majority of people (including myself) that know nothing about the history of the show, but they didn't... and considering that this set (as well as the other set) has no special features, we will probably never see special features for this show unless the show is released on whatever format replaces DVDs in the future.


Final Comments:

After reading everything that I've said, you probably have some reservations about picking up this set--but let me say, it is a mistake to think that way. This set is far from perfect, especially considering the fact that most of the episodes are edited and the video transfer glitches, but That's My Mama is one of those rare gems in television history that you will likely never get a chance to see unless you pick up this DVD set. It doesn't really remind me of any other show that I've seen, so it is hard to say what this show is like. I don't understand why this show was so unsuccessful when it originally aired, because it seems like a very good show to me. It was a rare treat to see this show, and it is a set that I would buy even if I did know about the problems with the set. The bottom line: buy this set if you want to experience an interesting show that you don't know much about. It's a pretty good show and something out of the ordinary fare that is offered by the mainstream outlets.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 08/03/2005.

To order the DVD click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009X7BEG/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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