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YMMV / Mama's Family

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  • Adaptation Displacement: A lot of the show's younger fans don't know that it was based upon a recurring sketch from The Carol Burnett Show. This is especially ironic given that the "Family" sketches were some of the earlier show's most popular.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The whole half-hour series took the characters from the Carol Burnett Show sketches and put a completely different spin on them, particularly Mama. On Carol Burnett, Mama was a practically villainous character who browbeat Eunice into an emotional wreck. On Mama's Family, Mama was cranky, but basically good, and Eunice was a histrionic brat who caused her own problems. This is particularly true in the syndicated run, where Eunice never appears.
    • Anyone growing up in a family like that could say that both sides are equally valid.
  • Broken Base: Fans of the NBC episodes vs. fans of the syndicated episodes. Then there are those who hate both runs and tout the original sketches as superior.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Doddering Aunt Effie (played by series writer Dorothy Van) was just a one-shot character from Vint and Naomi's wedding in season one. She proved so popular she was bumped up to recurring character during the syndicated run.
    • Betty White's character Ellen Harper-Jackson, who was a gloriously witty Alpha Bitch and the only one of Thelma's kids who wasn't a neurotic wreck, was very popular with fans.
    • For the syndication episodes, Bubba. Not just for the eye candy reasons, but also for his relationship with Thelma, as far as being the second chance she had at raising a kid and not screwing it up like she had with her flesh and blood.
  • Funny Moments: In the series' first Christmas Episode, "Santa Mama", Mama dresses as a mall Santa, and her encounters with children are documented in a series of photos. One such photo was taken just as a bratty kid kicked her in the shin, and the photo captured her pained expression.
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  • Growing the Beard: Some consider the syndicated run to be this, given the Character Development (Vinton becoming less intelligent, but was given more to do in this role, Thelma actually became kinder—but not any less snarkier—and Naomi's sluttiness was toned down), the Denser and Wackier tone, which actually worked and the significant trimming of the cast, namely in the case of Buzz and Sonja (see The Scrappy below.)
  • Ham and Cheese: Carol Burnett's Eunice is even hammier in the series than in the original sketches (and her scenes were definitely the better for it).
  • Harsher in Hindsight: One of the earlier "The Family" sketches during the original Carol Burnett Show had Eunice and Thelma attend a parent/teacher conference with one of Bubba's high school teachers (played by the episode's guest star Maggie Smith). In the sketch, Smith basically tells Eunice that her son is brilliant but emotionally troubled by his home life and that she feared for his future. The meeting is quickly derailed by Thelma and Eunice bickering, at which point when the sketch ends, Smith is left alone basically torn up when she realizes the extent to which Bubba's home life is fucked up and how he has no real chance to escape the vortex. When we finally meet Bubba, in season three of the show, he has officially become a juvenile delinquent and has served a stint in prison/on probation until he turns 21. And his mom Eunice (who he confirms was utterly worthless as a mother) has abandoned him by moving to Florida with his father, leaving him with no place to go except his equally abusive grandmother (though by that point she was nowhere near the abusive crank she was in the Carol Burnett sketches).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Seeing Rue McClanahan be such an uptight prude as prissy spinster Aunt Fran becomes this once you consider her later role of Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls.
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    • The episode where Bubba had made a video project of the family that ended with them all appearing to be bad-mouthing Mama through the "magic" of Manipulative Editing (or as it was in that case, a conveniently malfunctioning record button) is titled "The Really Loud Family".
    • In "An Ill Wind", Thelma calls Naomi "Ms. Poker Face".
  • Moment of Awesome: In the season 4 episode "Child's Play", Reverend Lloyd Meechum, the Harper's henpecked minister, finally grows a spine and thoroughly and firmly spanks his grandson, Eugene, for constantly putting the Harpers through hell with his various pranks, much to the horror of his wife, Alberta, who was blindly convinced that Eugene was a complete angel who could do no wrong, and in fact was blaming Mama for bringing Eugene's behavior on herself.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • When Eunice was a little girl, Mama killed her pet rabbit and cooked it for dinner.
    • Eunice and Ed not showing up for Bubba's graduation was this for a lot of people.
    • And even before then, moving to Florida without telling Bubba or Mama what was going on, knowing full well that Bubba was being released from juvenile detention, and his probation prevented him from leaving the state until he was 21, forcing him to move in with Mama.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy:
    • Aunt Fran was seen as this by some, due to her unnecessarily uptight manner making her come off as a bit bitchy at times. Rue McClanahan herself actually hated how prissy Aunt Fran was, as she had signed on the series under the expectation that the character would be more man hungry, thus making her the primary foil for Thelma. However, the producers were so impressed with Dorothy Lyman's performance as Opal on All My Children, that they decided to make her character, Naomi, the resident slut and primary foil for Thelma instead.
    • Not even the writers liked Buzz and Sonja, Vinton's two kids in the NBC run, as evidenced by the characters being written out with exactly zero explanation when the show returned in first-run syndication. Buzz was a bland and uninteresting Cheerful Child who never received any Character Development throughout the two seasons, while Sonja started out a completely obnoxious, lazy, and unlikeable Bratty Teenage Daughter. Her personality lightened up considerably when season two rolled around, but the writers struggled to find much for her and her brother to do, leading to the majority of that season's episodes having the two kids appear only for minutes at a time before leaving. Vicki Lawrence has expressed some regret at the two characters and actors ultimately not having much of a chance to develop before they were removed from the series.
  • Values Dissonance: A given for a 1980s TV show about an older woman in a Missouri small-town but there are a few, one example is "Sins of the Mother" where a flashback had Thelma and Eunice arguing about the girl getting drunk and Thelma yelling that if she didn't get drunk by Eunice's father, Eunice would not have been conceived. Hard to swallow now given that getting someone under the influence before intercourse or having sex with someone under the influence counts as rape.


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