Sunday, December 12, 2010

$h*! My Mama Says

On one of my recent TV TIME MACHINE nights, I rediscovered a 1970s sitcom gem, THAT'S MY MAMA - which ran on ABC for season and a half starting in September '74 and concluding on Christmas Eve, 1975. The show was almost certainly pitched to the network as "SANFORD & SON with a mama instead of a pops," but somehow it transcends that premise with an absolutely perfect cast.
As "Mama" Eloise Curtis, Theresa Merritt is a sharp-tongued mama bear who will stop at nothing to protect her cub, Clifton (played by Clifton Davis - later on AMEN). Rounding out the cast are the wonderful Jester Haiston (also later on AMEN), Ted Lange (who went on to great fame as Isaac the bartender on LOVE BOAT), reliable player Teddy Wilson and the lovely Lynne Moody (who was later featured on KNOTS LANDING for a few years). The series sets the tone for its run in the pilot episode, in which barber shop owner (and swinging bachelor) Clifton is accused by an scheming ex-girlfriend of being a "baby daddy". Seems kinda groundbreaking for 1974, don't it? But I guess with all the progressive Norman Lear shows (ALL IN THE FAMILY, MAUDE, SANFORD & SON) in full swing by now, unwed motherhood was considered a safe topic for the 8PM "family hour."
After the pilot, plots often went like this a) Clifton does, gets or finds out about something that he doesn't want Mama to know about. b) other characters stop by the barber shop and give Clifton advice c) Mama knew about it all along, and gets sassy with Clifton and everything goes back to the way it was at the beginning of the episode. Ah, if only real life was that simple. So, if you get a chance, step into your own TV TIME MACHINE and pay Mama a visit!

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