In 1965, NBC put a show on opposite Combat and Rawhide about the antics of lawyer Dave Crabtree (Jerry Van Dyke), a typically hapless sitcom family man who discovers that his mother has returned from the grave as a 1928 Porter open touring automobile. Most plots involved Dave getting into situations with his family, neighbors, and the hazards of owning a vintage car. It found a recurring villain in Captain Manzini, an obsessed automobile collector who wanted to acquire Mother to complete his collection. (Apparently it was the only make and model of the car to exist.)There is no real-life "1928 Porter," the company was meant to be fictional and the actual car used on-set was one of two variations of a Ford Model T. One version was made for normal driving shots. The other was a "stunt" car, built to be driven by a hidden driver (to make it appear like a Sentient Vehicle). The "stunt" version was modified by the then-ubiquitous George Barris, who also did the Monkeemobile and the 1960s Batmobile. Both cars survive. The normal version is owned by a fan, and the "stunt" car is on display at the Star Cars Museum in Tennessee.The show was critically lambasted and caused NBC to be something of a laughingstock for green-lighting it in the first place. The ratings were horrid across the board, except among the younger demographics who were more inclined to watch something silly than the two serious dramas competing in the time-slot. But, back then, networks only looked at total number of watchers in deciding what shows to renew. (And at the time, most households only owned one TV and the parents got to decide what to watch, limiting potential viewers further.)Despite this, NBC left the show on for its entire 30-episode season, likely to burn off the episodes and recoup some sort of investment (a common tactic in television). It should be noted that James L. Brooks, famous now as one of the executive producers of The Simpsons, worked on this show as a writer. His distain for the show allowed The Simpsons to poke fun at it a few times.
This show provides examples of:
- And Starring: Miss Ann Sothern.
- Back from the Dead
- Dastardly Whiplash: Captain Manzini is a pastiche of silent movie villains, complete with sinister mustache.
- Dead Person Conversation
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a show about a man and his relationship with his mother, who is a car.
- Expository Theme Tune: Complete with Follow the Bouncing Ball!Everybody knows in the second life we all come back sooner or later
As anything from a pussycat to a man-eating alligator
Well you all may think my story is more fiction than it's fact
But believe it or not, my Mother dear, decided she'd come back
As a car
She's my very own guiding star
A 1928 Porter, that's my Mother dear,
She helps me through Everything I do
And I'm so glad she's here
My Mother the Car My Mother the Car
- Invincible Classic Car: The entire show is from the era of invincible cars, but Mother is very resilient.
- Magical Guide: This is Mother's reason for coming back: to help her son. Justified in that her son is somewhat lacking in common sense.
- My Beloved Smother: Surprisingly averted. Mother is actually very reasonable.
- Sentient Vehicle: Sort of zigzagged. Mother can drive herself to some extent, and can outright refuse to be driven. She does seem to need some sort of driver behind the wheel to go long distances though. She can also do things like open the car's door.
- Shout-Out: The name 'Porter' was a shout out to Ann Sothern's former co-star Don Porter who she worked with on The Ann Sothern Show.
- Signature Sound Effect: Mother has a very distinct "ooga-ooga" horn sound.
- Temporal Paradox: How does a dead mother get reincarnated into a car that already exists? The explanation from the show is that you don't get to choose what you come back as when you 'apply' for it in the afterlife.
- The Cameo: In the episode And Leave the Drive-In to Us, Dave and his family brave a cold day in order to take Mother to a drive-in movie co-starring Mother's favorite actor Sonny Tufts(?). When the picture is finally over, there are two cars left in the lot, and the other car is driven by Sonny Tufts himself.
- What a Piece of Junk: Everyone except Dave and Captain Manzini treat it like The Alleged Car. It actually performs rather well, for an old car. This is aided by Dave taking it to the mechanic very often.