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Beloved '80s Sitcom Arrives on DVD: Mama's Family: The Complete Series

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Just about anyone old enough to remember watching TV in the ‘80s is bound to have at least a passing awareness of Mama’s Family. Debuting in 1983 as a spin-off of The Carol Burnett Show, the series ran two season before being cancelled. But sometimes you just can’t keep a good show down, as series star Vicki Lawrence, indelible as ‘Mama’ Thelma Harper, returned (along with a retooled cast) for an additional four seasons that took the show right into the beginning of 1990.

Exclusively available online via StarVista Entertainment and TimeLife, Mama’s Family: The Complete Series is quite a blast of prime ‘80s nostalgia. The hefty boxed set includes all 130 episodes from the original broadcast masters, spread across 24 DVDs. The set also includes the 1982 TV movie Eunice, featuring Carol Burnett in the title role along with all the Mama’s Family regulars. Ten hours of bonus materials include a cast reunion roundtable, brand new interviews (Betty White among them), and key examples of “The Family” sketches from The Carol Burnett Show that were the foundation for Mama’s Family.

Mama's Family group photo (380x249).jpgFor those who may have forgotten, Vicki Lawrence was actually just 33 when the Mama’s Family pilot aired, several decades younger than the character she played. But her signature role fit her like a glove and revisiting these episodes will be a comforting treat for those with fond memories of the show. It’s a fair bet that younger viewers weaned on modern sitcoms might be less tolerant of the now-dated approach of Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon’s creation.

The teen kids of Thelma’s son, Vinton (Ken Berry), were jettisoned after the series’ makeover that followed its premature 1984 cancellation. As Buzz and Sonja, Eric Brown and Karin Argoud were notable mainly for their broad, not very funny portrayals. The characters went very nearly unmentioned once the first-run syndication began in 1986, which didn’t seem to bother viewers. The presence of future Golden Girls Betty White and Rue McClanahan certainly enlivened the early seasons and were consistently funny as part of the supporting cast.

mama'sproduct1and2 (380x285).jpgFor those fans who might balk at the $199.99 retail price for The Complete Series, StarVista and TimeLife are providing a way to acquire the seasons one at a time. Currently available so far are Mama’s Family: The Complete First Season and The Complete Second Season, priced at $22.95 and $29.95 respectively. The individual season sets are available at retailers everywhere.

Undoubtedly, the various configurations will be on many Mama’s Family fans’ Christmas lists this season. For the superfans, a limited edition set, hand-signed by Vicki Lawrence and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, is also available. Only 500 of these were made available. For ordering information on The Complete Series (and its limited edition variation), visit the official Mama’s Family DVD website.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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