It's a funny family feud from Desi Arnaz and the writers of I Love Lucy
Set in the swinging late 1960s, THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW centers on the laugh-filled misadventures of longtime neighbors in suburban Los Angeles who become related to each other when their children suddenly get married.
Legendary actress Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks, Grease) stars as Eve Hubbard, the sophisticated wife of straight-laced lawyer Herbert Hubbard (Herb Rudley). Veteran comedienne Kaye Ballard plays Kaye Buell, the outspoken wife of bombastic television writer Roger Buell (Roger C. Carmel and Richard Deacon). To the dismay of their hapless husbands, the strong-willed mothers are determined to meddle in the lives of newlyweds Jerry (Jerry Fogel) and Suzie Hubbard (Deborah Walley).
is one of those "You had to be there" shows, best appreciated by those who dimly but fondly remember this short-lived series. This was Desi Arnaz's last TV series as a producer. As a swan song, it's more "We're Having a Baby, My Baby and Me" than "Cuban Pete," but for a show that was hopelessly square even back in 1967 (as witness the cringe-worthy episode featuring the one-hit wonder band the Seeds, who perform said one hit, "Pushin' Too Hard"), it rates as a found treasure thanks to the crack timing and expert clowning of its stars. Show biz troupers Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard star as reserved and sophisticated Eve Hubbard and histrionic and overly emotional Kaye Buell. They are neighbors with an odd-couple friendship whose lives become further bound when their children, Eve's daughter Susie (Deborah Walley) and Kaye's son Jerry (Jerry Fogel), get married and move in to the Hubbards' garage. Arnaz did not attempt to reinvent the wheel with The Mothers-in-Law
. Created and written primarily by I Love Lucy
scribes Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis, the series takes several pages from the Lucy
playbook. Arden and Ballard have a Lucy-Ethel chemistry. Arnaz, who directed many of the episodes, deftly stages the ladies' slapstick shenanigans. And just as Lucy never stopped plotting to get into husband Ricky's act, so do Eve and Kaye insist on meddling in their children's lives, much to the eye-rolling annoyance of their long-suffering husbands (Herbert Rudley and Roger C. Carmel). Several episodes also manage to work in comical production numbers to showcase the cast's talents. Fan-favorite episodes include those in which Arnaz guest stars as matador Raphael Del Gado from Barcelona. Other memorable guest stars include Don Rickles, Ozzie Nelson, Paul Lynde, and a pre-All in the Family
Rob Reiner. Despite being sandwiched between Disney's The Wonderful World of Color
, The Mothers-in-Law
was not a ratings smash. In season 2, Carmel left the show in a salary dispute and was replaced Darrin-style with Richard Deacon, and not even the addition of grandchildren to the family mix could save the series. The extras on this eight-disc set are impressive. Baby boomers will get a nostalgic kick out of seeing the NBC peacock unfurl its feathers in "living color," as well as period commercials. There is a newly filmed interview with the gracious Ms. Ballard, the original unaired pilot featuring Kay Cole as Susie, two failed Arnaz series pilots for The Carol Channing Show
and Lands End
, and solo variety show performance clips featuring Arden and Ballard. Unlike the intrusive Mrs. Hubbard and Mrs. Buell, TV buffs should welcome The Mothers-in-Law
into their homes. --Donald Liebenson