Poster: Mr. Television
(see this users gallery)
Mama's Family aired from January 1983 until September 1984 and September 1986 until September 1990 on NBC and first run syndication.
Mama's Family mined comedy from a squabbling family in the midwestern blue-collar suburb of Raytown. The noisy clan was headed by Mama Thelma Harper ( Vicki Lawrence), a boxum, grey-haired widow with sharp opinions and a sharper tongue who shared her small house with her high-strung sister, Fran ( Rue McClanahan), a journalist for a local paper. Mama's lazy, dim-witted son, Vint ( Ken Berry), a locksmith by trade, moved in at the start of the series with his troublesome teenage children, Buzz and Sonja ( Eric Brown, Karen Argoud), after his wife ran off to become a Las Vegas showgirl. Must to Mama's disgust, Vint soon took up with the flirtatious neighbor , Naomi ( Dorothy Lyman), who Mama referred to as " that floozy." The two were married in early 1983 and Naomi moved in too. Further uproar was caused by the periodic visits of Mama's two married daughters, the foulmouthed Eunice ( Carol Burnett) and the snobbish Ellen ( Betty White). Ed ( Harvey Korman ) was Eunice's dolt of a husband.
The program was based on a series of sketches originally seen on The Carol Burnett Show and later made into the high-rated special " Eunice" in 1982. Each episode began with a short , pompous introduction by " your host" Alistair Quince ( Harvey Korman), seen seated in his arm chair.
In the fall of 1986 Mama's Family returned to TV in first run syndication after a two year hiatus, although some cast changes had been made. Fran had recently passed away ( Rue McClanahan was starring on NBC's The Golden Girls at the time and did not return to the series. Likewise , Betty White was also starring on the Golden Girls although she did make one more guest appearance as Ellen). Meanwhile Ed and Eunice had moved to Florida. They had neglected to mention this to their delinquent son Bubba ( Alan Keyser) who, after serving a term in juvenile hall for car theft, ended up living with Mama in Fran's old room, much to the consternation of Naomi and Vint who thought they were getting it. Vint's children Buzz and Sonja had disappeared also with hardly a mention. Iola ( Beverly Archer) was the prissy neighbor and Thelma's best friend who barely conceiled her romantic designs on Vinton.
The biggest event in the run of Mama's Family occured in the spring of 1990 when Naomi, who had seemingly been pregnant for an eternity, presented Vint with a bouncing baby girl named after his mama-Tiffany Thelma. They had moved out of the house but not out of her shadow as they were now in a trailer on her property.
11 things you might not know about 'Mama's Family'
Revisit Raytown and learn about the sitcom's house changes, family changes, secret theme song lyrics, presidential candidates and more!
Good lord! Thelma Harper's clan has a rather unique history on television, moving from Carol Burnett Show comedy sketches to made-for-television movie to beloved sitcom. While the family members may have changed over the years, one constant throughout was Mama herself, brilliantly portrayed by Vicki Lawrence. To this day, Lawrence continues to revive the character for TV appearances (and for us, as you can see above).
We thought it was only fitting to revisit Raytown and unearth some delightful details you might not know about Mama's Family.
1. There was no pilot made.
Each year, dozens of pricey television pilots go unseen as networks pass on the prospective shows. That's just how the biz works. What is far, far more rare — if not unheard of outside of this example — is a television show being ordered without a pilot. Producer Joe Hamilton sold the idea of Mama's Family to NBC chairman Grant Tinker over a game a golf. Not that NBC was buying the idea cold. The Carol Burnett Show's "The Family" skits and the popular 1982 television movie Eunice had established the characters and concept.
2. The show was canceled after its second season
Getting the axe from a network doesn't always mean death. In 1984, NBC booted the Harper family from its lineup. The episodes fared well in summer reruns, however, and others took note. The recently merged Lorimar-Telepictures was on the hunt for first-run syndicated properties. Seeing life in Mama yet, the company ordered 100 episodes. Sitcoms like Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons and Webster would soon follow a similar path. Yet it was Mama's that would become the highest rated sitcom in first-run syndication.
3. Two different houses were shown in the opening credits.
With the jump from network to syndication came several changes, some so obvious as departing cast members, and some as subtle as tweaks in the opening credits. In its initial run, the Harper home is a smaller abode. Additionally, the title graphic, originally pink, switched to yellow. In subsequent releases over the years, the original house has been replaced with the more familiar dwelling, but the color variance still differentiates the two runs.
4. The instrumental theme song actually had lyrics.
While we never hear them in the television show, there are indeed lyrics for "Bless My Happy Home." Lawrence has been known to perform them in concert. The tune features charming couplets like "Vichyssoise and escargot got nothin' on black eyed peas" and "home, where a Saturday night will cost you $12.98 and that's including the wine."
5. Ken Berry played two different sons of Thelma Harper.
The members of Mama's family evolved as they went from comedy skit to TV movie to sitcom. In "The Family" sketches, Thelma has five children, including three sons, Larry, Jack and Phillip. In Eunice, the clan has been trimmed to three kids, with just one son, Phillip, played by Ken Berry. The F-Troop and Mayberry R.F.D. vet would go on to star as only son Vinton on the sitcom. The two Harpers inherited different genes. Phillip was a Pulitzer-winning author, while Vinton was a loveable dope.
6. Betty White and Rue McClanahan acted together before 'The Golden Girls.'
In the series' first run, Rue McClanahan played Mama's sister Fran Crowley, who eventually chokes on a toothpick at the Bigger Jigger. The incomparable Betty White was the eldest, elitist daugher Ellen. Though NBC might have seemed foolish for dumping Mama's Family, cancelling the show would prove fortuitous for the network in some ways. White and McClanahan were both free to jump aboard a certain new sitcom about three older woman living together in Miami. Initially, White was set to play the lustful Blanche while McClanahan was set to be the scatterbrained Rose, in no small part based on their prior roles. The two switched characters at the last moment.
7. The location of Raytown is never explicitly stated.
Much like Springfield on The Simpsons, the city of Raytown is never given a home state in Mama's Family. There are some references to "the Tri-State Area," but the specifics remain vague. Lawrence confessed the town is loosely based on Raytown, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. Still, the Harper family does not definitively live in the Show Me State. However, this did not deter the real-life citizens of Raytown from voting to erect a $10,000 statue of Mama.
8. Lawrence earned an Emmy Nomination for playing Thelma Harper… but not in 'Mama's Family.'
Lawrence earned a nomination for her Mama character after her work alongside Carol Burnett in the Eunice movie, not once for the sitcom. She lost the trophy to Penny Fuller in The Elephant Man.
9. Vicki Lawrence made a disco album.
Lawrence is a multimedia star. Most remember her hit "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," which reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1973. The actress would continue her singing career throughout the 1970s, culminating in an overlooked album of light dance grooves dubbed Newborn Woman in 1979.
10. Mama ran for president in 2008.
In 2008, Thelma Harper, who was briefly mayor of Raytown, announced her candidacy for President of the Unites States with the book Mama for President: Good Lord, Why Not? Her platform included building senior citizen homes along the border to police immigration. "Every time I enjoy exotic delicacies like Italian sausage, Polish kielbasa or German knucklewurst, I'm thankful foreigners have come to America and brought their weiners with them," she wrote. Might we see another run in 2016?
11. Mama appeared on 'Jeopardy!,' 'Family Feud' and 'Hollywood Squares.'
Thelma was a major fan of game shows — on Mama's Family and in the real world. Mama met both Alex Trebek and Richard Dawson while trying to win some money on the sitcom, while years later Lawrence continued to slip on the wig and house dress to pop up in character as one of the Hollywood Squares. Lawrence also hosted a game show in the late 1980s, Win, Lose or Draw, a Pictionary-like contest that took place on a set modeled after Burt Reynold's living room.
Here is Harvey Korman's Obituary from The New York Times
Harvey Korman of Burnett Show Dies at 81
By BRUCE LAMBERT
Published: May 30, 2008
Harvey Korman, the award-winning comedic actor who rose to fame playing second banana to Carol Burnett on her television variety series and who starred in hit movies like Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 81.
A tall man known for his outlandish characterizations, Mr. Korman was nominated for seven Emmys for his television work and won four. He also was nominated for four Golden Globe awards, winning one.
Everything he did on The Carol Burnett Show, especially the Mother Marcus character, was a special favorite, his daughter, Katherine Korman, said in an interview on Thursday. Mother Marcus, which he played in drag, was a Yiddish grandmother based on his own real-life grandmother, she said.
Mr. Korman also considered Hedley Lamarr, his role in the 1974 film Blazing Saddles, as one of his favorites, she said.
A native of Chicago, Mr. Korman studied drama there and then tried, unsuccessfully, to break into show business in New York City.
"For the next 13 years I tried to get on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway," he said in an 1971 interview.
Eventually he gave up and returned to Chicago, but he later went to California to try again. After subsisting as a car salesman and movie doorman, in the mid-1960s he began getting minor movie parts, doing voice-overs as the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones and winning a TV spot on The Danny Kaye Show.
The Kaye show, which he joined in 1964, proved to be a springboard. It went off the air in 1967, but Mr. Korman soon landed a job on the Burnett show, which turned into his breakthrough. He was a natural fit with Ms. Burnett, and their weekly comedy sketches won high ratings for the show and a national audience for him.
Their performing partnership lasted for a decade, and both of their television careers faltered after they split. He became the host of The Harvey Korman Show, which ended after one season. Ms. Burnett acquired a new cast member in Dick Van Dyke, but that partnership did not have the same chemistry. Her show ended soon after.
Crediting Ms. Burnett for giving him an opportunity, Mr. Korman once said: "We were an ensemble, and Carol had the most incredible attitude. I've never worked with a star of that magnitude who was willing to give so much away."
Ms. Burnett loved Harvey very much," according to her assistant, Angie Horejsi, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Korman's career was far from over after he left the Burnett show. He appeared as a guest star in dozens of television series, specials and movies as recently as 2004. His roles covered a range of styles and included voice-overs in Garfield and Friends, Bud Abbott in Bud and Lou, co-host of The Flintstones 25th Anniversary Celebration and a guest appearance on ER.
Mel Brooks cast him not only in Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety, but also in History of the World: Part I (1981) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). His film career also included Huckleberry Finn (1974), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), The Flintstones (1994) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000).
Mr. Korman reunited with a Burnett alumnus, Tim Conway, and toured the country to give live performances, reprising skits from the old shows as well as creating new material. They had a private jet and went all over, Katherine Korman said.
Mr. Korman had two children, Maria and Christopher, by his first marriage, to Donna Elhart, and two more children, Katherine and Laura, by his second marriage, to Deborah Fritz.
Even when off stage and off camera, Mr. Korman still loved to clown, his daughter Katherine said. He was always funny in real life, she said. He would like to see how far he could push the limits, making people laugh. If he were here now, he would want us to be joking.
To read some articles about Mama's family go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=AYVUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=944DAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=3918%2C1701645 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9lEsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Vc4EAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=6773%2C673603 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ngRGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_dAMAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=5955%2C926889 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=6t5eAAAAIBAJ&sjid=glMNAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=2357%2C4765503 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=CYdRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PBIEAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=5360%2C5236352 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LrcwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=sPsDAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=6067%2C394559 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=v3BmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8YwNAAAAIBAJ&dq=mama's%20family%20vicki%20lawrence&pg=5350%2C5116125
To watch some clips from Mama's Family go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mama%27s+family+tv+show
For a Website dedicated to Mama's family go to https://web.archive.org/web/20050208100250/http://mamasfamily.freewebspace.com/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20110219052620/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/mafamily.html
To see how Mama's family is related to the Carol Burnett Show go to http://www.poobala.com/carolandmama.html
For some Mama's Family-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/mamas-family
� Date: Wed May 21, 2008 � Filesize: 26.7kb � Dimensions: 240 x 260 �
Keywords: Mama's Family: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/19/18)