Everybody knows in a second life
We all come back sooner or later
As anything from a pussycat
To a man eating all-i-gator
Well you all may think my story
Is more fiction than it's fact
But believe it or not my mother dear
Decided she'd come back...
As a car...
She's my very own guiding star
A 1928 Porter
That's my mother dear
'Cause she helps me through
Everything I do
And I'm so glad she's near.
Though it only lasted a single season, My Mother the Car has gained a
reputation for being one of the worst shows to ever air on American TV.
It has been the punch line for jokes about bad TV for decades but now
TGG Direct has released the entire run of this infamous series and...
it's actually not that bad. There have certainly been much worse shows
and when taken in context of other network shows of the time, it
doesn't really seem like such a stretch. The entire series arrives on
five DVDs with a surprisingly good image quality and, most important of
all, no laugh track.
Dave Crabtree (Jerry Van Dyke, brother of Dick Van Dyke) is looking for
a station wagon for his family when he stumbles across a very run down
1928 Porter. He laughs a bit as he sits down behind the wheel, but
stops laughing when he hears his long dead mother's voice (Ann Sothern)
coming out from the radio. She tells him that she's decided to 'come
back' to help her son out. He needs her guidance and advice. Not many
people want to return to earth (the application box is usually empty
she explains) but people can come back... they just don't get to decide
what form they'll take when they return. Poor Gladys came back as a car.
For her first piece of advice, Gladys tells her son not to let anyone
know the Porter is really his mother. They'll think he's crazy or
they'll put her on display in a museum. She doesn't want that! So
she'll only talk to Dave.
Dave isn't about to lie to his wife Barbara (Maggie Pierce) and two
young children however, and dutifully explains that he bought the old
heap because it's his mother... and they think he's crazy. He
reluctantly claims it was a joke, and the next day gets the car totally
restored including a new bright red paint job.
Dave's problems aren't over however. Captain Manzini (Avery Schreiber)
is an avid car buff and he's only missing one thing from his
collection: a 1928 Porter. He's been looking for one for years, and
when he hears that Crabtree has one, he starts pestering him to sell.
Dave tells him that he'll never sell the Porter, but that doesn't stop
Manzini from pestering him about it.
Yeah, the concept is pretty stupid. But is this 1965-66 series anymore
outlandish than a man who has a talking horse (Mr. Ed 1961-66), an astronaut who
lives with a millennial-old genie (I
Dream of Jeannie 1965-70), or a man who rooms with a sometimes
invisible, mind-reading, Martian (My
Favorite Martian 1963-66)? The biggest problem was the title of
the show. It screams 'stupid idea' where as Bewitched sounds like it
could be anything from a sitcom to soap opera. If the show had been
named "Oh Mother" or "The Old Porter" it wouldn't have been such a
magnet for criticism.
The other problem is that they change two things. There's an old adage
in fiction: if you change one aspect of reality people will swallow it.
If you change two things it will come across as silly. This show did
the latter. If they had a man being visited by the ghost of his mother,
it would have been okay (like Topper,
both the film series and the TV show). If the show had been about a man
who has a talking car (ala Knight
Rider) it wouldn't have elicited chuckles. Have a mother that is
reincarnated as a talking car, and that's just changing too much.
Is the show as wretchedly horrible as the name and reputation would
imply? Not by a long shot. There are many sitcoms that were much, much
worse (Family Matters anyone?)
and this had some decent laughs. Each episode starts with an odd
situation and that soon grows to become absurd. Dave starts to worry
about the gang of 'car strippers' that have been plaguing the city for
example, and starts taking reasonable measures to ensure his mother's
safety. But as Barbara points out the flaw in Dave's reasoning he goes
to greater and greater lengths and that's where the humor lies. Is it
realistic? No, not at all, but it did make me laugh a couple of times
every show, and that's the important thing.
Jerry Van Dyke does a very good job in the show. He's not quiet as
funny as his brother Dick, but he manages to carry the show. The pretty
and perky Maggie Pierce was also very good as Dick's more sensible and
loving wife. It's a shame that she didn't do more work after this show
because she had a natural way about her that grounded the show
somewhat. Ann Southern voiced the car (it's too bad she never appeared)
and though she hammed it up in a few episodes (you don't want to hear
her speaking English with a Spanish accent...) she did her best with
the role that wasn't as large as you would expect.
When all is said and done, My Mother
the Car is a hokey show that gives some decent laughs and is not
anywhere near as bad as its reputation would have you believe.
All 30 episodes of this series arrive on five DVDs that are housed in
two multi-disc keepcases, which come inside a nice, illustrated box.
The original mono audio track sounds pretty good. It was limited by the
recording technology of the time but the audio is still clear and the
dialog is easy to hear. One thing that I'd like to compliment TCC
Direct on is that they wiped the laugh track from the show. Normally I
like shows to be presented as they originally aired... I don't care for
colorization or 5.1 audio created from a stereo track. This is
different because laugh tracks are incredibly obnoxious and they can
ruin a show. There is at least part of one episode that has the laugh
track included, and watching that episodes serves to remind viewers
just how much worse the show is with canned laughter.
The full frame picture is surprisingly clean and clear. I was
pleasantly surprised when I popped the first disc in. The colors are
bright, the level of detail is very good and the image is crisp. Print
defects (spots and dirt) are at a minimum. Overall this is a really
good looking show.
Unfortunately there are no extras. I would have really enjoyed the
unaired pilot, but I can live without it.
If you enjoy the other fantasy-comedy series that were somewhat
prevalent in the 60's (I Dream of
Jeannie, Mr. Ed) then you'll like this show. It's not nearly as
bad as its reputation suggests, and there are some quite funny moments.
The A/V quality is excellent too. As astounding as it sounds, this set