A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series highlights the importance of family and supporting family members, despite the their eccentricities. Thelma Harper is a strong, caring woman, but she continually offers sarcastic insults to those who displease her (which may be funny but isn't the best example). Parents also need to know that the show sometimes tackles adult situations, including extramarital love interests (often prompted by Iola's constant flirtations with Vinton).
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What's the story?
MAMA'S FAMILY focuses on Harper family matriarch Thelma Mae Crowley Harper (Vicki Lawrence) and the daily trials caused by her extended family in the blue-collar Southern suburbs. The show features a noisy, bickering assortment of relatives who Thelma takes in when they have nowhere else to go. Live-in guests include Thelma's uptight sister Fran (Rue McClanahan) her unmotivated locksmith son Vinton (Ken Berry), his second wife Naomi (Dorothy Lyman), and, of course, her quirky daughter Eunice Higgins (played by Burnett herself during the first season). Thelma's best friend and neighbor, prim Iola Boylan (Beverly Archer), adds to the craziness. As the seasons progress, new relatives and old friends join the fray, including Eunice's son Bubba (Allen Kayser) who comes to live with Thelma after he's released from juvenile hall.
Is it any good?
While Thelma's house is small, she never turns away those who need a place to stay. In turn, however, family members must cope with a blue-haired, sharp-tongued, hot-tempered, support-hose-and-glasses-wearing widow who doesn't hesitate to air her opinions (which often take the form of insults) about each of them. But despite her biting words, Thelma is committed to her relatives and friends and clearly represents the idea that people's strength and support comes from their family, no matter how zany or dysfunctional it is.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role extended family plays in their lives. What kind of support does extended family offer? What kinds of things can you do to support family members? What limits, if any, should you establish when helping them? Families can also discuss the importance of respecting elders and the unique challenges that come with dealing with aging family members. Last but not least, families can talk about how the Harpers interact with each other. Does Thelma love her family or despise them? How can you tell?
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