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The sketches led to the television film Euniceand finally the television series. The show's producers chose to use an instrumental version. After several timeslot changes and a subsequent drop in ratings, the network canceled the series after two seasons; the final episode from this two-season NBC era of the series aired on April 7, Two years after its cancellation, original series producer Joe Hamilton Productions JHP revived Mama's Family for new episodes in first-run syndication on local stations across the United States.
The revived run lasted four seasons and did not end by cancellation, but rather voluntarily on February 24, The show is set in the city of Raytown, which actress Vicki Lawrence later revealed to be Raytown, Missouria suburb of Kansas City  although the script writing suggests the setting was Raytown, Mississippi.
The television series revolves around the wacky misadventures of the Harper family, extended non-Harper family members and their neighbor friend in later seasons. Always at the center of the trouble and confusion is head of the clan and matriarch Thelma Harper —a buxom, gray-haired, purse-lipped, year-old widow who is portrayed as explosively quick-tempered, abrasive, and brash.
In spite of Thelma's derogatory attitude, regular zingers and sarcasm, she is nurturing and obliging at heart, allowing family members to live in her home who would otherwise have no place to live, while also regularly cooking for and cleaning up after them. She did not wish to wear a fat suit portraying an old lady every week, and she had misgivings about playing the role without Harvey Korman who played Mama's son-in-law, Ed Higgins and Carol Burnett who played Mama's daughter Eunice Higgins regularly by her side as in "The White lonely women in Eunice Missouri sketches.
Burnett and Korman told Lawrence that they would only appear as guest stars on the new series, and that it was Lawrence's time to shine and take what she had learned from The Carol Burnett Show and make it on her own. Shortly after the highly-rated Eunice TV movie, with continued urging by Korman and Burnett, Lawrence finally changed her mind and accepted the offer for her character's own sitcom. The writers had created Raytown to be its own "cartoon-like" world outside of reality. Although the series was sold to NBC without a pilotthe network had its own requirements, such as having "normal" teenagers as seen in other sitcoms of the time, which is how the Buzz and Sonja characters came about.
Lawrence objected to the original script of the episode "Mama Cries Uncle", in which Thelma's brother-in-law visits and the two supposedly wound up sleeping together:. I went to the writers and I said, 'I'm sorry, she is nothing if not Bible Belt. She would never sleep with her brother-in-law. I don't care how dead her husband is, This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong'. Well, threw everything into a tizzy and Joe [Hamilton] said, 'Gotta listen to her,' and they re-wrote the second half of the show.
In the series' first episode, Thelma Harper lives with her uncomfortable, uptight spinster sister Fran Rue McClanahana journalist for a local paper. Thelma's son Vinton whose wife Mitzi had left him to become a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas arrives to inform Thelma that he and his two children, Sonja and Buzz, have been evicted from their home and need a place to stay. Much to Fran's chagrin, Thelma allows the trio to move in.
During the first season, Vinton forged a relationship with the Harpers' flirtatious next-door neighbor Naomi Oates, whom Thelma disliked, and soon married her. After selling Naomi's house and losing the money in a bad business deal, Naomi and Vint are forced to move into Thelma's basement, where they remain for most of the show's run.
Harvey Korman, who directed many of the earlier episodes, made featured appearances as Eunice's husband, Ed Higgins. Korman also appeared at the beginning of each episode as the stuffed shirt Alistair Quince a parody of Alistair Cookewho would soberly introduce the program in the style of Masterpiece Theatre.
These monologues were cut out of the later syndicated reruns. An extended version of the show's opening theme song, with repeated melodies, was used during the original NBC run, but was never used in reruns. The house and neighborhood shown in the opening credits differed between the original NBC run and the syndicated shows, leading to discrepancies such as in the episode " Mama for Mayor ", in which Mama is shown in front of the house used in the original opening theme used for the first two seasons. InStarVista Entertainment released the original NBC seasons with the Alistair Quince intros and original opening credits intact, except for two episodes in Season 1 "Cellmates" and "Mama's Boyfriend"as the master prints of those episodes are lost and were replaced by the syndicated version in the re-release.
While not a huge ratings success, the first season garnered solid enough s to justify being renewed for a second season. However, during the second season, the show dropped out of the top 50 shows, losing share to CBS' hit Magnum, P. As a result, NBC canceled the series in May After Mama's Family was canceled by NBC init was later relaunched in first-run syndication in Lorimar Television had merged with Telepictures and were looking for projects for first-run syndication, and after seeing the show's ratings in the summer reruns, it decided that the show needed a second chance and ordered episodes for syndication.
Since the original set had been destroyed, a new set had to be constructed. This led to some ificant changes in set de details. Adjustments in the show's cast occurred as well, with only Vicki Lawrence ThelmaKen Berry Vinton and Dorothy Lyman Naomi returning as regulars from the original era of the sitcom. Vinton's kids from his first marriage, Buzz Eric Brown and Sonja Karin Argoudwho were regulars in the show's first life, did not reprise their roles for the show's revival; their characters, though mentioned briefly in the first episode of the show's syndicated life, were never to be spoken of again.
White, however, did return as Ellen for one episode in while Fran was killed off in the first episode of the revival. Carol Burnett and Harvey Kormanmeanwhile, did not reprise their roles either, resulting in their characters Eunice and Ed Higgins being written out as having moved to Florida. Bubba was ordered to live with his grandmother after being released from juvenile hall and placed on probation. Also added to the cast was Beverly Archerwho played the new character of Iola Boylen, the family's wildly quirky and prissy neighbor and Mama's best friend.
Her catchphrase was calling out "Knock, knock! According to Lawrence's autobiographyVicki! By the time of Hamilton's death, Burnett and Lawrence had reconciled. Lawrence's autobiography re:. A funny thing happened the day I ed with Lorimar. Carol called and said, 'I think I'd like to put together maybe a little syndicated show with the family characters.
I'll do Eunice, you do Mama.
Doesn't that sound like fun? I then went to Al and asked him what he made of the whole thing. He agreed it was really weird. I wondered if I was about to get caught in the middle of yet another struggle between the two of them.
During her divorce, Carol and I went through a 'cool' period. She 'divorced' everyone and remained distant for a lot of years.
She called the house a few years ago. I was standing at the sink peeling carrots, fifteen feet from the phone, but Garrett got to it first and I only heard his half of the following conversation: 'Hello? Oh hi. Yeah, sure, he's in the other room, on the other line. You want me to tell him you're calling? My mom's here, you want to talk to her?
She only wanted to talk to Dad. It's just going to take a while longer. Give me another year or so. After Mama's Family was picked up in first-run syndication, ratings for the series improved, becoming the highest-rated first-run program in syndication. Despite the title of "Mama," few characters in the sitcom actually refer to Thelma as Mama. Thelma plays a variety of roles in the series, including grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, neighbor friend, and mother, depending on the supporting character in question.
Thelma is the widowed matriarch of a rural Southern family. Mama's appearance is based on that of a stereotypical elderly woman. She is a buxom, purse-lipped widow with silvery gray curls. All of her daytime outfits were short-sleeved, floral-print dresses with lace collars. Costumer Ret Turner color-coded Mama in lavender. Mama's lower legs were always enveloped by visible support hose a feature that was nonexistent during "The Family" sketches, but made its first appearance during the segment in the Eunice movie.
Mama invariably wore a few fashion accessoriesincluding a white pearl necklace and white pearl earrings. Mama's outerwear always consisted of the same purple sweater, draped casually over her shoulders without arms in the sleeves; inconstant floral headpieces ; and a white purse, which she didn't hesitate to use as a weapon when given the opportunity.
In contrast to her more stereotypically elderly, dependent, invariably spiteful and cantankerous character on "The Family" skits, Mama's hostilities were ificantly toned down in the sitcom's first life. Though still cantankerous, the character expanded with wisecracks and humor, pesky antics, unseemliness and naivete. Mama's unseemliness and naivete were exemplified by her inability to drive episode " Mama Learns to Drive " ; inability to act in socially acceptable ways in public and in the presence of guests episodes " The Mama Who Came to Dinner ", " Country Club " and " Ellen's Boyfriend " ; inability to hold jobs outside the home episodes " Mama Gets White lonely women in Eunice Missouri Job ", " Supermarket " and " Mama for Mayor " ; etc.
These characteristics often resulted in the humiliation or frustration of her loved ones. By the show's second life, Mama was no longer naive Vinton overwhelmingly assumed this role and far more capable of high spirits than ever before. This version of Mama had the fewest stereotypically elderly traits. She was dutiful in caring for her home, garden and family; independent; and active in the community along with best friend Iola Boylen. For example, Mama returned to high school and graduated episodes " Educating Mama " and " Pomp and Circumstance " ; she was heavily involved in the Church Ladies League and at one point its president episode " Where There's Smoke " ; Mama participated in dirty dancing episode " Very Dirty Dancing " ; went on a trip episode " Mama Goes Hawaiian "etc.
Highlighting her much more relaxed nature during the syndicated seasons, Mama's main character trait during this time was her many fretful wisecracks, typically made in a high-pitched, whiny voice. Despite that, this era of Mama was more derogatory than ever; rough, abrasive and brash in manner; volatile and explosive in temper; and smart-mouthed with a proneness for making snappy retorts.
Unlike the preceding sketch comedy and television movie, Thelma had many characteristic expressions on the program, "Good Lord! She occasionally stated this in alternate ways, such as "Good Lord in heaven! Disparaging and impudent, Thelma had a series of name-calling catchphrases she often used to refer to certain members of her family or her family as a whole, such as "Nitwit," "Dimwit," "Goon," "Goober goon," "Lamebrain," "Dunce," "Tramp," "Floozy," etc. Vicki Lawrence has stated that at the beginning of Mama's Familyshe noticed that the writers had made adjustments to her character from "The Family" skits, ificantly toning down Mama's hostilities and nastiness.
Lawrence originally disapproved of the change in character, believing that toning down her then-familiar aggression and spite into a less difficult, more agreeable nature, capable of humor and high spirits, would not be funny. Lawrence has revealed, however, that after counsel from Harvey Korman that the character needed to be reshaped for sitcom television, she came to accept the adjustments made to "Mama".
Korman suggested that Mama had to be less one-dimensionally hostile because the entire show would revolve around her — that more characteristics would need to be added into the mix. Korman's opinion was that people could not be expected to come home from work, pop a beer, and put up their feet to a character who was so one-dimensional; she would have to be more than just disagreeable for a whole half hour, or viewers would get bored. According to Korman, silly elements needed to be added to the character.
Lawrence has stated that it took her a while to warm up to this, but that she later came to greatly appreciate how Mama "blossomed" and "matured" from her early years on "The Family". She added that she still favors the adjustments in Mama's character and partly credits Korman with who Thelma Harper is today. In FebruaryLawrence remarked that "The Family" sketch version of Mama was created by writers who hated their mothers.
No Place", and an Uncle Oscar is mentioned in "Mama White lonely women in Eunice Missouri the Bird", but it is not known if he was from Thelma's side of the family or her husband Carl's. Eunice also mentions having a son named Billy, but Billy's whereabouts are unknown in Mama's Family. Altogether, Mama's Family had six seasons consisting of episodes.
The show's first life consisted of thirty-five episodes, making for two seasons.
The show's second life consisted of ninety-five episodes, making for four seasons. On September 26,Warner Bros. The DVD release features the syndicated versions of the episodes, which edits roughly three minutes from what originally aired. Warner Bros. Due to issues relating to ownership rights between the show's production companies, Mama's Family for a long time had difficulties coming out on DVD, with only its first season available for many years.
However, in Mayit was announced that StarVista Entertainment would release all 6 seasons of the sitcom to DVD, as well as a complete series box set, which was available only through the StarVista website. Included with the package were extras of over 10 hours of bonus material, as well as a new cast reunion with Vicki Lawrence and the show's syndicated cast members. In addition, StarVista offered a "ature" collection of the entire series, autographed by Vicki Lawrence, which was limited to copies.White lonely women in Eunice Missouri
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