Mama's Family: Wikis


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Mama's Family
Mamas Family title screen.jpg
Main title screen
Genre Sitcom
Created by Dick Clair
Jenna McMahon
Directed by Roger Beatty
Harvey Korman
Dick Martin
Dave Powers
Starring Vicki Lawrence
Ken Berry
Dorothy Lyman
Rue McClanahan
(Seasons 1–2)
Eric Brown
(Seasons 1–2)
Karin Argoud
(Seasons 1–2)
Betty White
(Season 1–3)
Beverly Archer
(Seasons 3–6)
Allan Kayser
(Seasons 3–6)
Theme music composer Peter Matz
Opening theme "Bless My Happy Home"
Composer(s) Peter Matz
Dick Walter
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 130 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Joe Hamilton
Producer(s) Jim Evering
Neil Lebowitz
Dave Powers
Fred Rubin
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 24–25 minutes (NBC episodes)
21–22 minutes (Syndicated episodes)
Production company(s) Joe Hamilton Productions
Distributor Lorimar-Telepictures
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original channel NBC
Audio format Mono
Original run January 22, 1983 (1983-01-22) – March 20, 1990 (1990-03-20)
Status Ended
Related shows The Family

Mama's Family is an American television sitcom that premiered on NBC on January 22, 1983. It ended its run on that network in May 1984 when it was cancelled, but NBC would continue to air reruns until September 1985. In June 1986, Mama's Family returned in first-run syndication, where it aired for an additional four seasons, ending on March 12, 1990. Mama's Family is a spin-off of a recurring series of comedy sketches called The Family, which appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s.



The show, set in the small town of Raytown, revolved around a typical squabbling family, headed by Thelma Harper — a buxom, blue-haired, purse-lipped, 65-year-old widow, who is loudmouthed and outspoken. Living with Thelma originally was only her uptight spinster sister Fran, a journalist for a local paper. Thelma's son, Vinton (whose wife, Mitzi, had left him to become a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas, Nevada) and his two children, Sonja and Buzz, moved in with her later.

During the first season, Vinton forged a relationship with the Harpers' flirtatious next-door neighbor Naomi Oates (whom Thelma had a distaste for), and soon married her. After selling her 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. Also seen on a recurring basis were Thelma’s two daughters: the snobbish Ellen (Betty White) and the ornery Eunice (Carol Burnett). Harvey Korman, who directed many of the earlier episodes, made featured appearances as Eunice’s husband, Ed Higgins. During the eleventh and final season of, The Carol Burnett Show (1977) the Ed Higgins character was written-out of The Family skits, having left Eunice. Korman also appeared at the beginning of each episode as the stuffed shirt Alistair Quince, who would soberly introduce the program in the style of Masterpiece Theatre. These monologues were cut out of the later syndicated reruns and the subsequent DVD release of the first season.

The first-run syndication years

After Mama’s Family was cancelled by NBC in 1984, it moved to first-run syndication in 1986. Major cast changes occurred during the convert, with only Vicki Lawrence (Thelma), Ken Berry (Vinton), and Dorothy Lyman (Naomi) returning as regulars from the NBC run. Eric Brown and Karin Argoud, who played Buzz and Sonja in seasons one and two, did not reprise their roles; their characters, though mentioned briefly in the first episode of the third season, were never to be spoken of again. During Mama's Family's hiatus, Rue McClanahan (Aunt Fran) and Betty White (Ellen Jackson) had both gone on to star in the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, rendering them unavailable to return, although White returned as Ellen for one episode in 1986. Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman, meanwhile, did not reprise their roles either, resulting in their characters (Eunice and Ed Higgins) being written as having moved to Florida.

To fill the void, Allan Kayser was cast as Thelma’s delinquent teenaged grandson, Bubba Higgins (Ed and Eunice's often mentioned, but never seen, young son from The Family sketches on The Carol Burnett Show), who was ordered to stay with the Harpers after being released from Juvenile Hall, and placed on probation. Also added to the cast was Beverly Archer, who played the new character of Iola Boylan, the family’s prissy neighbor; she was known for her catchphrase: "Knock, knock!" As the series continued, more new characters were sporadically brought in to evoke comedic situations.

The syndication years saw far less bickering than the NBC years, and particularly The Family sketches. One reason for this is possibly due to the Naomi and Vinton characters becoming far less serious and more dimwitted. Rather, Mama was represented as more of the leader of the family throughout the show's syndication years. A recurring theme throughout the fifth season of the show's syndicated years was Naomi's desire to become a mother. Following through with this, the penultimate season concluded with Naomi's announcement that she was pregnant. Preparation for the baby became a central theme of the sixth and final season. The series finale featured Naomi giving birth to a baby girl, who was named Tiffany Thelma.


Altogether, Mama's Family had six seasons that consisted of 130 episodes. The NBC version consisted of thirty five episodes, making for two and a half seasons. The syndicated version consisted of ninety five episodes, making for four full seasons.


Principal cast

Character Actor Year_Span Description
Thelma-Mae Crowley Harper Vicki Lawrence 1983–1984; 1986–1990 The smart-mouthed, sharp-tongued, and irascible widowed matriarch of the Harper family. Mama begrudgingly takes in her various family members when they come to her with no other place to go and they're all her biggest complaint.
Vinton Harper Ken Berry 1983–1984; 1986–1990 The youngest of Thelma's three children. Buffoonish and accident prone, Vint regularly makes a fool out of himself, particularly when he attempts to be assertive or knowledgeable. Works at Kwik Keys as a locksmith.
Naomi Oates Harper Dorothy Lyman 1983–1984; 1986–1990 Vinton’s flirtatious second wife, who is often at odds with Thelma over his loyalty. Works as a checker (later becoming the assistant manager) at Food Circus, a local supermarket. Vinton’s pet-name for her is “Skeeter.”
Vinton "Buzz" Harper, Jr. Eric Brown 1983–1984 Vint’s teenage son with his first wife, Mitzi. Buzz is very patient, head strong, and is always willing to help.
Sonja Harper Karin Argoud 1983–1984 Vint's teenage daughter with his first wife, Mitzi. Sonja starts out moody, whiny, lazy, and rather oblivious, but later becomes interested in boys and blossoms into a young lady interested in civic affairs. Like her brother, she later moved out, presumably going off to college.
Tiffany Thelma Harper Stephanie and Rebecca Wrate 1990 Vint and Naomi’s newborn daughter. Born in the series finale.
Ellen Harper-Jackson Betty White 1983–1984; 1986 The eldest of Thelma’s three children. Ellen is a pretentious social elitist, who often avoids fraternizing with the rest of the family, unless it suits her purpose. Her birthday is June 30.
Eunice Harper Higgins Carol Burnett 1983–1984 The second of Thelma's three children. Eunice is extremely tempestuous, antagonistic, and has a combative relationship with everyone in the family (especially her mother) ... and possibly on the planet. Her birthday is December 19.
Ed Higgins Harvey Korman 1983–1984 Eunice’s husband.
Bubba Higgins Allan Kayser 1986–1990 Ed and Eunice’s teenage son who is forced to live with Thelma upon being released from juvenile hall, after his parents had moved to Florida. Initially depicted as a silly, hyperactive prankster, over time he evolved into a calm and commonsensical “every” teen.
Fran Crowley Rue McClanahan 1983–1984 Thelma’s younger, uptight spinster sister. Works as a newspaper reporter and free-lance writer. She later died by choking on a toothpick at The Bigger Jigger.
Iola Lucille Boylan Beverly Archer 1986–1990 The Harpers’ pushy and intrusive pink-wearing neighbor who lives with her overbearing aging parents, and seeks escape by spending as much time at the Harper home as possible. Best friends with Thelma, Iola also regularly flirts with Vint, causing Naomi and her to often have an adversarial relationship. Often brings handmade crafts to the Harper house which are usually ridiculed by Thelma.

Harper family tree

Grandma Crowley*
unknown parents
Frances Crowley
Thelma Crowley
Carl Harper
Effie Harper Roy Harper
Bruce Jackson
Ellen Harper
Eunice Harper
Ed Higgins
Vinton Harper
Naomi Oates
Mitzi (div.)
Bubba Higgins
Tiffany Thelma Harper
Sonja Harper
Vinton "Buzz" Harper Jr.
  • Magenta = Crowleys
  • Orange = Harpers
  • Blue = Harper children
  • Red = Harper in-laws
  • Green = Harper grandchildren

*Note: Thelma's mother was shown on two occasions on the show (once in a flashback and once as a ghost, played both times by Vicki Lawrence), but her name was never revealed. Thelma mentions in ''Pomp and Consequences'' of having an older brother, Clyde.

Recurring characters

  • Aunt Effie Harper, Thelma’s sister-in-law. Played by Dorothy Van. Note: Effie was originally named Effie Crowley. In one NBC episode she was referred to as “Cousin Effie”. She lives in Ceciltown on a farm. In the sydication episodes it is mentioned that she is Thelma’s sister-in-law (which would make her Carl's sister).
  • Alberta Meechum, Reverend Meechum’s stuck-up, catty wife and a perennial thorn in the side of Thelma Harper. Played by Anne Haney.
  • Eddie Edwards, a TV personality in Raytown, who hosts such programs as Good Morning, Raytown and the Grandma USA pageant. Played by Wayne Morton.
  • Clive Montaigne, the head of the community theater, who fashions himself an actor just as important as actors in New York and London. The people in town treat him like a mini-celebrity, despite only running the community theater. Played by Rod McCary.
  • Luann Fayette, Naomi Harper’s flamboyant and flirtatious best friend. Played by Jennifer Richards. More spoken of than ever seen.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Boylan, Iola's elderly, unseen parents with whom she lives across the street from Thelma. Not much is mentioned of her father, while her mother is supposed to be a grotesquely huge, temperamental, T.V.-watching invalid.
  • Roselle Huplander, an obese associate of Thelma and Iola. On rare occasions, Thelma has spoken to her over the phone. But more often, she is gossiped about by Thelma and Iola. Once, at a church fair, she gave Vint a black eye when he suggested that she weighed 309 pounds at the "Guess Your Weight" booth he was running.
  • Dwayne and T-Boy, Bubba’s best friends. Played by Beau Bishop and Grant Heslov respectively. More spoken of than ever seen.
  • Mr. Alan Hanson, an intelligent, laid-back night-school teacher of Thelma and Bubba, and love interest of Thelma Harper. Played by Joseph Campanella.
  • Amy Johnson, girlfriend of Bubba Higgins. Played by Amy Benedict.
  • Lolly Purdue, member and later president (succeeding Thelma) of the Church Ladies League. Revealed to be illiterate. Played first by Doris Hess, then Marge Redmond.
  • Officer Sneed, an extremely youthful-looking, strange police officer. Played by Allan David Fox.
  • Claude Cainmaker, Vint’s seedy friend, who is always thinking up schemes. Played by Geoffrey Lewis.
  • Grandma Crowley, Thelma’s departed mother (in flashback sequences). Her first appearance was in a flashback in the NBC version of the show, grumpily talking to Mama over the phone. In her 2nd appearance in the CBS version, she was skinnier and appeared as a ghost, haunting Mama. She was excessively critical, grim, and tried to control Mama throughout the episode. It was said that it was something Mama had to deal with, growing up as well. Grandma Crowley had apparently acted the same way when Thelma was being brought up by her. Played by Vicki Lawrence.
  • Church Ladies League, also known as CLL. Their motto is: We are helpers kind and good and First Lady Alberta Meechum served as the first president. Members include Thelma Harper, Lolly Purdue, Iola Boylan, Inez and Florence. The association was first mentioned in "Where's There's Smoke", when Mama was nominated for president of the Church Ladies League. It was mentioned later in "Reading the Riot Act", "Ladies Choice" and "Mama's Medicine Show". Their award, interestingly, bears the name "Church Ladies League Woman of the Year".

DVD Release

DVD information
Mama's Family—The Complete First Season

On September 26, 2006, Warner Bros. Television released Season 1 of Mama's Family on DVD. The DVD release features the syndicated versions of the episodes, which edits roughly three minutes from what originally aired. Warner Bros. claimed to only own the rights to the syndicated form.[1]

Since the release of season one, Warner Bros. announced they would only release subsequent seasons if there is enough fan support for the syndicated episodes. In response, fans of the series have started an online petition to support the release of season two.[2]


After the series finale in 1990, Mama's Family ran on TBS from 1997 until August 2006.[3]

That same month, ION Television (formerly the PAX network) began airing reruns of the series. The show aired Monday through Wednesday at 8:00 to 9:00 pm. ET.[3] The series left ION to make room for ION's new fall lineup in 2008.

It had also aired on various stations across the country in syndication, often in the morning hours. WGNO-TV, for instance, aired the program from the late 80s until 2002, and notably it was the number one program in the Greater New Orleans area during the 10:30pm timeslot, Monday thru Fridays, trumping both Jay Leno and David Letterman, until Mama's Family's time slot was changed to accommodate a new ABC affiliation in 1996.

In 2007, and in 2008, CMT began re-airing the series.

Full episodes are also available online via AOL Video.


External links

Mama's Family
Main Characters:
Thelma Harper | Vint Harper | Naomi Harper | Buzz Harper | Sonja Harper | Ellen Harper | Eunice Harper Higgins | Ed Higgins | Bubba Higgins | Fran Crowley | Iola Boylan
Recurring Characters:
Lloyd Meechum | Alberta Meechum | Alvin Tutweiler
The Family | Raytown | Episodes


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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Thelma: What does the IRS want with me?
Vinton: Maybe they're going to deliver a package.
Thelma: That's UPS you dipstick!

Aunt Fran: I tell you, there is a book in me!
Mama: And it's gonna stay in there, too!

[On Mama's lawn addressing the press]
Ellen: There's been a mistake, my mama's not running!
Mama: The hell I ain't!

Thelma: Where in blue blazes have you been?
Eunice: (sarcastically) Just fine Mama, thank you and how are you?

[Fran is attempting to teach Thelma how to drive]
Thelma: ...tell me something that I don't know.
Fran: Like what?
Thelma: What's a PRNDL? [pronounced "prindle"]
Fran: A what?!
Thelma: A PRNDL! See, right here: P-R-N-D-L! Right there!
Fran: Thelma, honey, those are your gear designations.

[After Thelma broke Naomi's vacuum]
Naomi: Oh! You ruined it!
Vinton: Now, honey, maybe it just needs a little adjustment.
Naomi: Honey, it is burnt to a crisp!

Thelma: ...and get this pigsty cleaned up! [referring to Vinton and Naomi's basement]
Naomi: This is out personal boudoiure, Mrs. Harper, and I believe it looks just fine.
Thelma: That's because all you ever see of it is the ceiling!

[Thelma is registering for her driver's license]
Man: How much do you weigh?
Thelma: That's none of your business, you skinhead!
Man: I need your weight!
Thelma: You need my hair!
Man: I don't have to give you a license! Next!
Thelma: (grabs his shirt collar) Wait a minute, you listen up you chrome dome! My taxes pay your salary, and if you don't give me that license, I'm going to find you a new job as a reflector button of the highway!

Thelma: Naomi's expecting!
Sonia: Expecting what?
Fran: A baby?
(short pause)
Thelma:(sarcastically) No, Fran, a Mitsubishi!

Ellen: I hope that you didn't park your clunker behind my Seville; I have to be outta here in 30 minutes!
Eunice: First good news I've had all day...

(Ellen, Eunice, Thelma, and Naomi are cleaning jars in the kitchen.)
Thelma: Oh, Naomi, what a sweet thought. No wonder I love you best. You're like the daughter I never had. (Ellen and Eunice have shocked looks on their faces). Why is it that my own girls can't see the beauty in sharing a warm, family moment?
Eunice: I'm the one that brought the dirty jars; you wouldn't have this warm family moment if it wasn't for me.

Eunice: For your information Mama, I was almost splattered clear over that highway!
Thelma: An accident? Are the jars all right?
Eunice: What the hell is the matter with you, you been sniffing them gooseberries?! I just told you I spent three hours dodging semis across three lanes of public highway!
Naomi: Isn't that dangerous?
Eunice: (to Naomi) Come here. Look at me. (pause) Are you in there?!

Naomi: How does this thing work? I've never dried a dry jar before.
Eunice: I think you stepped off one curb too many.

Thelma: Naomi, did you remember to buy the sugar?
Naomi: Oh, I never buy sugar. (dumps a bunch of sugar packets out of her purse onto the kitchen table)
Eunice: Naomi, you unpredictable little scamp, what is all that?
Naomi: This is my sugar packet collection! I pick 'em up at motels. Each and every one has a different name on it!
Ellen: (picks up a packet and reads it) 'Arthur's Hideaway and Launderette: You tumble, we dry.'
Naomi: Yeah!
Thelma: Well, that is disgusting! I can't take jam to a church bazaar made with X-rated sugar!

Thelma: (to Naomi) I'd be uncomfortable, too, if I were dressed in that get-up.
Naomi: Just what is wrong with my attire? I've always found this outfit very suitable for religious occasions.
Thelma: That's cause you got to pray to God it stays up!

Vint: If only we had a spoon we could dig our way out.
Thelma: Real good, Vinton. If we had a bar of soap we could carve ourselves a gun and shoot our way out.

Naomi: I'm not about to spend my afternoon getting all hot and sweaty over some slimy slug. (about Thelma's garden)
Thelma: Why not? That's the way you spend your nights!

Vint: Mama, you never could throw anything out, no matter how useless it is.
Thelma: It's a lucky thing for you!

Thelma: (Knocks on the door.)
Vint: Mama?
Thelma: No, It's Mr.T FOOL!!!

Naomi: You don't think I'm pregnant, do you?
Thelma: Tell me something, Naomi. Are you late?
Naomi: Late for what?
Thelma: Do I have to come right out and say it? Mr. Monthly Visitor!
Naomi: Yeah! Oh, Miss Harper, how did this happen?
Thelma: Do you want me to draw you a picture?

Eunice: You're skatin' on thin ice old lady!

Eunice: Looks like you write all of your promises in disappearing ink old lady. Like the time when you promised me when I was twelve years old a two wheeler. Well I have yet to see that sucker! But Ellen, everytime I turned around there a brand new Schwinn sittin' under her fat fanny!

Eunice: Hello everybody! Eunice is here. Unwanted Eunice. Untalented Eunice! Caterwauling Eunice!! MONSTER EUNICE IS HERE!!! (she throws the box of party decorations)
Thelma: Uhh-oohhhhhh!!

Eunice: Mama don't you ever read? Why People Magazine just this week said that chili dogs is all the rage in Hollywood. Merv Griffin gave a party, and Pia Zadora put away six of these suckers.

Thelma: (Speaking of Duke Reeves) His parents were trying to avoid a lawsuit so they sent the boy over to apologize for nearly gettin' you killed out in front of the school that day.
Eunice: That's not true!
Thelma: It is! You hounded that boy so bad he had to jump in the car to get away from you and you went tearin' down the street after him hangin' on to the back of the car.
Eunice: That's a lie!
Thelma: And he went around the corner and you went slidin' into the gravel and you got yourself all skinned up. You were a lunatic where that Duke Reeves was concered and everybody knew it. Didn't they Vint?
Vint: Well I don't know about everybody...
Eunice: Oh you shut up!

(Vint enters.)
Vint: What smells so good?
Thelma: It's Naomi's Famous International Heartburn.
(Bubba enters.)
Bubba: What smells so good?
Thelma: It's Naomi's Famous Dinner In A Drum.
(Iola enters.)
Iola: What smells so good?
Thelma: I swear, if I made gym socks, everyone would want a taste!


"And, Lord, if you are listening, the next time you want to give me a message, you better dial direct!"
[The phone starts ringing]
"That better be Roselle..."


"I only drove one time in my life--1946. I started out with a sedan and I came back with a convertible!"

(to Iola) "Get out, you jokin' jackass!"

"I swear, I can't understand why they don't hold these church bazaars in the dead of winter when people can stand to be in their kitchens!"

"Ellen, what a sweet thought. No wonder I love you best. You were my first born and you are my favorite. Should have quit while I was ahead."

"Naomi, What a sweet thought. No wonder I love you best. You're like the daughter I never had."

"Eunice, what a sweet thought. No wonder I love you best. You were my third born and you are my favorite. Third time's the charm."

(to Naomi) "Your idea of a workout includes a man, a bed, and a cigarette afterwards!"

"Well, I'll bet the neighbors are just lovin' this!"

(to snobbish Nita Peterson) "Nita, you've got a lot of class for a dame with a rip in her drawers!"


(to Eunice) "You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you on the butt!"


(after an unkind remark by Ellen) "I'm gonna break your teeth Ellen, pass 'em over!"

[To Thelma] "NOW who's the tramp!"

(Naomi is making her"Famous International Stew") The ingrediants are two cans of stew (pours in stew), canned peas (pours in peas),mexican beans,( pours in beans) Ole!Saurkraut (pours in canned saurkraut,saying in a deep voice) Yum! And for an Italian special (blows a kiss) Spaghetti- O's! (pours in Spaghetti-O's)


"Thanks a lot, Mama!!"

"Mama, what have you done?"


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