The Mothers-in-Law: The Complete Series
DVD | Box Set
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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).
The Mothers-in-Law 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 and Bonanza, 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
Original unaired pilot
Cast sponsor commercials
Network promotional spots
Behind the scenes footage including dress rehearsal
Script for unproduced episode of The Mothers-In-Law
Desi Arnaz Productions pilots: The Carol Channing Show & Land's End
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Top customer reviews
Reviewers here note that the two starring actresses were under-appreciated...and I feel that the Producer/Director Desi was vastly under appreciated as an actor, as a musician. Hard to rate him as a Director, as such a rating would be based upon comparison with other TV directors: the only ones who come to mind (1960s sitcoms) would be Reiner, Henning, and a few others...here the Director gets the most out of the script (which is generally first rate for the genre, though, obviously badly dated even for 1967-1969) and it appears he let the free spirit Kaye Ballard..run free at times..to the delight of the studio audience. She was fabulous, apparently ad-libbing in "old World Italian"! She outshines Arden, throughout, who is a bit "theatrical", almost mechanical at times, like Roger C. Carmel, the first-season husband of Ballard.
I did not recall Deborah Walley in this show (I have just associated her with the Elvis picture SPINOUT - she did a pretty good job as El's girl drummer; and James Brown's SKI PARTY, etc. Now, I gotta "IMDb" her! :)
I find Roger C. Carmel and his gut very annoying and the dude playing the milquetoast son-in-law, very flat. (not his waistline but his performance..to be fair, let's say, his "assignment"). By the second season, his character was taken by Dick Van Dyke Show veteran, Richard Deacon.
Have not seen the final season as yet, but I feel a 3.5* rating is fair.
It's easy to throw "dated" at this show...but it applies. Imagine ..or should I say...recall watching this stuff (as clever and entertaining as much of it still is)...and then the 10 o'clock news with a report of the weekly death toll in Vietnam. Very soon, shows like ALL IN THE FAMILY and BARNEY MILLER, etc., would make this look ancient. But there's something about watching an old, old sitcom that makes one realize that will all the "progress" on TV, all the sophistication, the "good old family values" (at least on the tube) are sorely, sadly missed. No more "heart". No one "cares".
Fun note for Historians: Original I LOVE LUCY writers do most of the scripting, and for me, THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW is, minute-to-minute, funnier! (case-in-point: the above-mentioned Arnaz guest shots and an episode called "I'd Tell You I Love You But We're Not Speaking").
When you consider you get 56 uncut and cleaned up episodes of some very funny comedy, plus a generous helping of bonus material, this set is a great value at $40. At the Amazon price ($18.99), this set is an absolute steal! If you like some good old-fashioned family-friendly humor, I would encourage you to get this while the price is this low! Highly Recomended!