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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > The Mothers-In-Law – The Complete Series (1967 – 1969/MPI DVD Set)

The Mothers-In-Law – The Complete Series (1967 – 1969/MPI DVD Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: A+     Episodes: A



To paraphrase the last line in the movie King Kong, “Twas Cosby Which Killed The Mothers-In-Law.”



The Mothers-In-Law was a comedy series starring Eve Arden (Eve Hubbard), Kay Ballard (Kaye Buell), Herbert Rudley (Herb Hubbard), Deborah Walley (Suzie) and Jerry Fogel (Jerry). Roger C. Carmel and Richard Deacon shared the role of Roger Buell.  The set-up involved two older couples whose children were getting married, though the parents were not necessarily happy with each other.  The series was written by I Love Lucy show veterans Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis.  Desi Arnaz was the program’s executive producer and directed several of the episodes. Physical comedy was performed extremely well and the writing was strong.


With all this exceptional talent involved, the series should have run longer than two seasons on NBC.  Despite being slotted on Sundays at 8:30pm opposite Ed Sullivan (CBS) and The F.B.I. (ABC) the series held its own in the ratings. During the show’s run it was sponsored by Procter and Gamble.


According to the May 8, 1968 edition of Variety, the series ended its first season in thirty-seventh place with an 18.8 rating.  The April 2, 1969 edition of Variety reported the series finished at number thirty eight with a 19.9 rating.  In its final season, The Mothers-In-Law rated higher than Mannix, High Chaparral, That Girl, Lassie and Hogan’s Heroes.  All of the lower rated series were renewed for the following season.


The Mothers-In-Law was cancelled to make room for The Bill Cosby Show (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  Cosby’s half-hour comedy series took over the Sunday night time slot and was sponsored by Procter and Gamble.  For the record, Cosby’s new series also ran for two seasons.


Roger C. Carmell left the series after the first season due to a condition set down by Procter and Gamble.  The series would be picked up for another season provided there would be no budget increase.  Reportedly, Desi Arnaz asked the cast to forgo the salary raises they would automatically receive.  All agreed except Carmel who said to the press at the time, “Desi said I would put 100 people out of work if I didn’t meet the terms.  How could my raise affect 100 people?   My raise was going to be nothing major, $250.00.  It may sound pompous, but this is strictly a matter of principle. If I had given in, I would have spent everyday on that set next year grinding my teeth down to the gums especially while looking at the budget waste in other areas.”  Carmel was replaced by Dick Van Dyke Show veteran, Richard Deacon.


Deacon said of his hiring in 1968, “Actually Desi told me the Buell role originally was created for me, but at the time I was committed to another of Desi’s projects, The Carol Channing Show series, which didn’t get off the pad.”


With Carmel or Deacon the episodes sparkle with energy.  The cast performs in several musical themed episodes including, The Career Girls, My Son, The Actor and The Hombre Who Came to Dinner (Part II).  Guest stars who appeared in the series included Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, Jeanette Nolan, Larry Storch, Beverly Garland, Alice Ghostley and Ozzie Nelson.  Many episodes in this set include their original commercials, with the sponsor’s product appearing on the end credits as well.


The extras are sure to give fans of the series the ultimate treat.  Kaye Ballard recalls her time on the set and remembers how Jerry Fogel, who played her son, was thirty years old while she was only eight years older.  She speaks warmly of her time on the series, her fellow performers and said Desi Arnaz was a genius. “Desi was very loyal,” Ballard says.  The actress continues to receive fan mail from all over the world about the program.


The 1.33 X 1 full color image quality can be impressive e depending on the episode.  Some prints have good moments and in other places, there is softness or fading, but Arnaz shot all of his shows on 35mm film and that is a plus here.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good for its age and the combination is very watchable despite imperfections.


Entertaining commentary highlights behind the scenes rehearsal footage.  Eve Arden discusses her children in two radio interviews with Lucille Ball from Lets Talk to Lucy from 1965.  The cast are seen in network promotional spots mainly from the second season. Also featured are the original unaired pilot and rare footage with Eve Arden and Kay Ballard.  Two of Desi Arnaz’s projects which didn’t make it to a series are included: The Carol Channing Show and Land’s End.


DVD companies should take a lesson from MPI when compiling archival footage for television series releases.  “What a thrill!” was Kaye Ballard’s reaction to being a part of the series.  Her enthusiastic comment applies to this fabulous collection.



-   Fred Grandinetti


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