This Day in Entertainment History: Mama’s Family Debuts (January 22nd, 1983)

By: Sean Sporman
By: Sean Sporman

It began as skit on a popular variety show and then became a full-fledged sitcom of its own: Mama’s Family.

During the 1970s, one of the recurring skits on the Carol Burnett Show called the Family focused on characters Eunice and Thelma Harper. These skits involved a dysfunctional family led by their matriarch, Thelma, a.k.a Mama. A TV-movie was made from the skit before NBC debuted Mama’s Family as a sitcom on January 22nd, 1983.

The series, like the skits, focused on the Harper Family. Mama’s character was still the focus on the series, played by Vicki Lawrence. Several supporting characters rounded out the cast including locksmith Vint and his girlfriend Naomi, and Mama’s other children: Ellen and Eunice.

In the series first couple of seasons on NBC, Carol Burnett, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan made frequent guest appearances.
The series was cancelled in 1985, but brought back in syndication the next year, where it would last until 1990. The series recently saw a collector’s series DVD set.

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