Mama’s back for one last round.
The Harper family is back for one last laugh in Mama’s Family: The Complete Sixth Season. Of course, Mama (Vicki Lawrence, The Carol Burnett Show) is as feisty as ever, still clashing with her clan of oddball family members including her son Vinton (Ken Berry, Mayberry R.F.D.) and his flirtatious second wife Naomi (Dorothy Lyman, All My Children); Thelma’s thick-as-a-brick nephew Bubba (Allan Kayser, Night of the Creeps); and Iola (Beverly Archer, Major Dad), Thelma’s prissy, nosey best friend and neighbor. The Harpers love, laugh, and fight…but not necessarily in that order.
Here it is. The final season of Mama’s Family, a show that probably wore out its welcome a long time ago for most viewers. Reviewing a season of Mama’s Family is like trying to critique a McDonald’s cheeseburger: it is what it is, nothing more and nothing less. While Mama’s Family is better than anything McDonald’s has to serve up, I wouldn’t consider that to be a ringing endorsement.
This time around the Harper family encounters…well, just about every possible 1980s story cliche you can think of. The Harpers take in a visit with a psychic only to have Mama expose the medium as a phony. A heavy metal female band ends up spending time at the Harper house (thanks to Bubba booking them for his school’s homecoming), and Mama shows them some old-fashioned down home hospitality (and, of course, hilarity ensues). The Harpers receive a live goose for a holiday meal and have to decide if they’ll let it live or cook it up for the celebratory meal. As you can see, none of the storylines are deep and penetrating; for all intents and purposes, each of these nineteen episodes are run-of-the-mill stories that are neither terrible nor very good — they just sort of “are”. You know a sitcom has run out of steam when the best guest stars they can get are Liz Torres, Robert Mandan, and musician Stacey Q.
Performances are exactly what you’d expect from the series if you’ve been keeping up with it through this sixth season. Vicki Lawrence is as acidic and snappy as the title character, Thelma “Mama” Harper. Not surprisingly, Lawrence is the bright spot in this series and while the stories and writing around her aren’t very inspired, Lawrence’s performances usually are. Ken Berry and Dorothy Lyman return as dim bulb Vinton and sexpot Naomi, both of them looking a bit tired and ready to move on by this final season. Rounding out the cast is Beverly Archer as the uptight Iola and Allan Kayser as the lunkheaded Bubba, both playing caricatures, not characters. Everyone here seems to be going through the motions as they make their way to the final episode.
The series finally comes to a merciful end with the final episode where Naomi gives birth to a baby girl, Tiffany Thelma Harper, named after her grandmother (awww). I’d say it’s a touching ending but, truth be told, I didn’t feel much of anything after the final credits had rolled. I had already tired out of Mama’s Family; a little of this show goes a long way, and digesting too many episodes in a row may end up in cathode embolism. Then again, I suppose that Mama’s Family wasn’t really a show that needed a lot of ‘wrapping up’ when its final moments transpired.
Each episode of Mama’s Family: The Complete Sixth Season is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. While the transfers here all look fine, none of them are all that impressive; colors and black levels are decent, but not fantastic. Each episode’s soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. There’s very little to report here — dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard and little else.
Extra features include interviews with writer/producer Jim Evering, writer Manny Basanese, executive producer Rick Hawkins, actress Vicki Lawrence, and costume designers Bob Mackie and Ret Turner.
If you have already picked up the first five season of Mama’s Family, I suppose this one is a no-brainer. About an episode or two is more than enough for me, but those who can’t get enough of Thelma Harper’s shtick will lap up this final season of the series.