Mama's Family TV Poster Image

Mama's Family



Mama's in charge of this comedy. Older tweens OK.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show highlights the importance of family and the need to support family members in need. The show also presents a woman as the strength behind the family and as the authority figure. References to extramarital romance are occasionally made but are treated as negative behavior. Mama has a tendency to belittle her family members (even though she clearly cares about them).

Not applicable

Flirtation, some spoken innuendo, and mild references to sexual behavior. Naomi sometimes uses her feminine wiles to get her way.


Characters frequently toss sharp insults at each other, but they don't swear.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional references to alcohol, including beer and homemade alcoholic beverages.

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).

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Premiere date:September 27, 1986
Cast:Dorothy Lyman, Ken Berry, Vicki Lawrence
Networks:ION, Syndicated, TBS
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD

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Adult Written byNathanS 1 March 23, 2015

They don't make em' like this anymore

A wonderful sitcom I grew up with. It has all the qualities I love in studio audience, tons of comedy, family loyalty and pride despite constant criticisms from the overbearing matriarch, emotional drama that occurs in the everyday life and a cast of average looking, every day people instead of the unrealistic attractive people that dominates the vast majority of current shows.
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