If you pay attention to local TV commercials (like if your TiVo’s on the fritz, for instance), you may have been moderately confused by a recent ad supporting a casino in Ohio, sponsored by My Ohio Now. The ad features the bumbling antics and homespun aphorisms of a salty old matriarch named Mama.
Well, sketch-comedy fans of a certain age (ahem) will remember Mama, played by Vicki Lawrence, from “The Carol Burnett Show,” circa 1967-1978. Younger “comedy” fans may be haunted by memories of “Mama’s Family,” the sitcom spin-off that aired from 1983 to 1990.
(Think My Ohio Now couldn’t have found a more obscure “celebrity” spokesperson? Think again. Another supporter is Jamie “Klinger” Farr. Mmm… Tony Packo’s…)
Well, being pop-culture completists (or maybe that should be pop-culture masochists), your faithful servants here at the Alive decided to investigate this “Mama’s Family” for ourselves. Boy, were we sorry we came up with that idea…
We made it through two whole episodes from Season 1 -- that’s nearly 44 minutes of “comedy” -- with almost no laughs, chuckles or guffaws. (There were a few snickers of disbelief.) I mean, there is nothing funny about this show.
The writing is obvious yet somehow strained -- slow and stale set-ups telegraph the wannabe-catchphrase punch lines. The acting is hammy. Even the sets look cheap (you can see brushstrokes in the “siding” painted on the outside of Mama’s house). I felt like I was watching a high-school play. In Des Moines. In 1982.
People who know more about TV than I do have observed that we’re living in a golden age of television -- that small-screen dramas like “Lost,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” to name a few, are as good as anything you’ll find at the multiplex. After re-living this one little slice of ’80s TV, all I can say is, Thank God for progress.
Oh, and the casino people need to update their Rolodexes.