Mama's Family (U.S., 19??-??)

Figure 1.--

"Mama's Family" was a spin-off of the "Carol Burnett Show" and featured Vicki Lawrence as family matriarch, "Thelma Harper". This was not a sitcom I especially liked. There were a few episodes, however, that had flashbacks with period costuming.


"Mama's Family" was a spin-off of the "Carol Burnett Show" and featured Vicki Lawrence as family matriarch, "Thelma Harper". I'm not sure about the theatrical run.


Some times boys did appear in the weekly eisodes. There were also a few episodes that had flashbacks with period costuming.

Child's Play

In the episode "Child's Play", which first aired on June 26, 1987, Mama and family are asked to take care of Reverend and Mrs. Meechum's grandson, Eugene. Eugene shows up wearing a white (above the knee) short pants suit, short-sleeved light colored shirt with gray vertical stripes, white suspenders, a dark bow tie with small white stripes, and white and black saddle oxford lace up shoes. Eugene apears cherubic, but he's the proverbial "preacher's son" or in this case, grandson. Bratty and mean, he and Thelma take an instant dislike to each other. Eugene pours tabasco sauce in Thelma's soup, draws a picture in crayons on her white tablecloth, and tapes a sign reading "Caution: Wide Load" on her ample derriere. He even hogties Thelma with a rope after she falls asleep reading him a bedtime story! In the last scene when the Reverend and his wife come to collect Eugene, he appears in a short pants sailor suit, a light blue jersey, trimmed at the sleeves in medium blue, medium blue neckerchief, a light blue dickey with two parallel horizontal stripes that are coordinated with his light blue "Dixie Cup" sailor's cap, also trimmed with blue stripes, medium blue above the knee shorts, white knee socks, and the saddle oxfords. Eugene plays no favorites; he's not ready to go home with his grandparents and emphasizes his willfulness by kicking his grandpa on the leg. Well, that does it for Thelma, who takes a hold on Eugene while the Reverend delivers a spanking. Eugene also appears in one scene in short sleeved and short pants pajamas. The young actor who played Eugene was Ryan Bollman, born on August 9, 1972, in St. Louis. He would have been about 14 and a half when the episode was filmed and a very convincing spoiled brat! his is a typical example of American TV's approch to boys' costuming, especially short pants. Boys almost always wore long pants. Boys in shortswere uually portrayed as spoiled brats or foreigners. Stangely, by the 1980s it was very common for boys to war short pants, even to school.


Another episode was done as a flashback to a time when "Thelma's" kids were growing up. A young "Vinton", Ken Berry's character, is shown in period attire. Mama's high-school age grandson, Bubba, comes home one night after drinking a few beers with friends. Mama and his Uncle Vint (Mama's son) and his wife, Naomi, confront Bubba for coming home late and loud and discover he's been drinking. Vint and Naomi say this is just a case of boys will be boys, but Mama is furious and grounds Bubba. Mama's unusually hard line has everyone wondering. Iola, a neighbor, explains Mama's tough stance by a flashback.

Mother-daughter duet

Bubba's mother is Eunice, Mama's daughter. Once, when Eunice and Vint were children, Mama and Eunice were to perform a mother-daughter duet at a church social. Eunice showed up late and drunk at the church and embarassed Mama terribly. Eunice was loud, obviously drunk, and started a horrible verbal fight with Mama. Bubba, fully ashamed now, tells Mama that now he realizes that his drinking hurts both himself and those he loves, and that Mama is the last person he'd ever want to hurt. Mama relents and allows Bubba to participate in a swim meet; she told him he'd need to do extra laps around the pool to work off the beer! In the flashback a young Vint appears in what looks to be boys' clothes from the late 1940's. Rich Kettley played the young Vint and looked to be about 11 years of age. He wears a short-sleeved brown plaid shirt, khaki above the knee shorts with a dark leather belt, argyle socks, and tan suede lace-up shoes.

Mama's 30th Birthday

This is a flashback episode in which Mama recalls her thirtieth birthday party; it looks like the late 1940's or maybe early '50's. A young Vinton, the son, appears in a sports coat and shorts.

Reader Comments

A reader reports, "Both the "Carol Burnett Show" and its spinoff, "Mama's Family", are longtime favotites. "Mama's" TV has been attributed to the universality of these nutty characters. So many people recognize in them some of their own family members! Life would be dull to the point of tedium without the unique color we all possess to some extent"


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Created: October 26, 2002
Last updated: March 27, 2003