Young love in the ‘60s is always colorful and joyful. Jerry Buell (The White Shadow‘s Jerry Fogel) and Suzie Hubbard (Beach Blanket Bingo‘s Deborah Walley) are next door neighbors that are ready to tie the knot. The only real issue is that their mothers barely tolerate each other. Eve Hubbard (Our Miss Brooks‘ Eve Arden) is a rather waspy wife of a lawyer (Herbert Rudley). Kaye Buell (Kaye Ballard) is a extroverted Italian American married to a TV screenwriter (Roger C. Carmel best known as Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd). These two women are oil and water when they share a room merely as neighbors. Now their clashes shall elevate as they become in-laws. The Mothers-In-Law: The Complete Series contains the two seasons that charted the mothers fight for control over their hitched kids.
“On Again, Off Again, Lohengrin” cuts to the chase when the kids surprise their parents with their engagement. They don’t want to have prolonged wedding date. They have an immediate date. The mothers go nuts inflicting their plans into the ceremony. This element is extremely funny to anyone who has struggled to keep their mother-in-law from hijacking their nuptials. “Everybody Goes on a Honeymoon” has the ultimate helicopter parents moment. Although the kids ask for this under their nose lifestyle in “The Newlyweds Move In.” Instead of living in a happening youth apartment complex, they move into the apartment over the Hubbard’s garage. They pioneer the space that the Fonz would occupy on Happy Days.
“Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor?” unites the mothers against their husbands. The guys have no problem with a fling with Mrs. Richard Burton. This is always a dangerous game to play with your spouse. “Divorce-Mother-In-Style” lets the mothers attempt to break up their kids by luring back their ex-lovers to the house. The kids plot back by faking that they made a mistake in their vows. The dads play along with the kids so the wives can realize how evil they’ve been. Besides being the producer and occasional director, Desi Arnaz also had the recurring character of Raphael del Gado, a bullfighter. “The Hombre Who Came to Dinner” has him show up to visit the Hubbards. He stays long enough for a second episode. “How Not to Manage a Rock Group” gets the families involved in promoting The Warts. The fake band is actually the Nuggets superstar The Seeds. They perform their garage band hit “Pushin’ Too Hard.” While they don’t get Iggy Pop, keep an eye out for legendary Stooge Joe Besser.
The second season features a drastic cast change that goes beyond the Darren switch on Bewitched. Roger Carmel wasn’t happy that he wasn’t getting his salary bump so he walked. He was replaced by the icon of Richard Deacon. He was already a famous TV dad as Lumpy Rutherford’s dad on Leave It to Beaver. He works a fierce flustered chemistry with Kaye Ballard. “Here Comes the Bride, Again” makes the kids renew their vows when Kaye’s mom arrives from Italy.” Ironically the episode “The Match Game” features Paul Lynde (Hollywood Squares). Why couldn’t they have had Charles Nelson Reilly running the computer dating agency? The series amps up the fun by having Suzie get pregnant in “A Little Pregnancy Goes a Long Way.” Instead of just having the grandmothers fight for time with a single baby, Suzie pops out twins in “And Baby Makes Four.” The ladies fight over the names of the children. Alice Ghostley (Bewitched) pop up as the babies pop out. “Guess Who’s Coming Forever” has a black tenant (Match Game‘s Scoey Mitchell) moving into Jerry and Suzie’s apartment. What will the neighbors say? “Show Business is No Business” has the ladies wanting to work with Don Rickles during a lodge benefit. He goes full hockey puck on them.
Why did this series only last two seasons? The prime slot on NBC between Wonderful World of Disney and Bonanza didn’t help. The Mothers-In-Law wasn’t a great transition between a kiddie show and a male dominated Western. If only Desi Arnaz had been able to get it on ABC with Love American Style, this show might have lasted as long as Here’s Lucy. The show was created by Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll Jr. The duo had written many of the most loved I Love Lucy episodes. Their work on The Mothers-In-Law showed they could work with Lucy. This is a short lived series that deserves to be rediscovered by people who enjoy screwy ‘60s sitcoms.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers look fine and include the NBC Peacock showing off the rainbow tail. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. The levels are set up nicely for both Kaye and Eve’s vocal range.
Featurette with Kaye Ballard (15:02) is a recent interview with the star.
Original Unaired Pilot (28:14) features Kay Cole as the daughter-in-law
Cast Sponsor Commercials (5:41) has the stars promote Camay and other Proctor and Gamble products.
Network Promotional Spots (7:26) includes Desi Arnaz talking directly to the good folks of Proctor and Gamble at their convention.
Behind the Scenes (17:03) is footage from “My Son the Actor.” Kay Ballard and others narrate the footage that runs from table read to rehearsals to the shoot. There’s amazing hair in the audience that night.
Lucille Ball Interviews Eve Arden (19:10) is another installment from Lucy’s radio chat show. The audio is accompanied by stills and clips.
Photo Gallery (13:53) is a montage of production, promotion and behind the scenes pics.
Rare Kaye Ballard Footage (12:42) starts with her doing stand up on The Hollywood Palace hosted by Don Adams. The second clip is her on the Mike Douglas Show when he was in black and white. She’s
Rare Eve Arden Footage (7:47) includes a section from Meet Cyd Charise Startime special from 1959. Eve and Cyd go diamond shopping, but get sticker shock. There’s a promo for the movie version of Our Miss Brooks.
Unproduced Script and Outline is for an episode called “My Obstetrician Was More Sensitive Than Yours.” It’s a fun read for those wondering about the process of episode development.
Pilot: The Carol Channing Show (36:59) reminds us that a little Carol Channing goes a long way. There was a reason she made an iconic guest star and not a series star. Richard Deacon guest stars. She’s gone to New York City to find her stardom dreams, but runs out of cash after a few days. Wasn’t this the plot to Midnight Cowboy? She ends up moving in with Deacon and taking odd jobs.
Pilot: Land’s End (28:52) is an action series based around a resort. How could a series starring Rory Calhoun, Gilbert Roland and Sonny Tufts fail? It could have made a fine exotic series. Martin Milner (Route 66) is the guest star as a guy who might have blown up a ship.
The Mothers-In-Law: The Complete Series is extremely complete. The 56 episodes prove this series was cancelled too soon. The good part is that the series didn’t pace itself so we got to watch Kaye and Eve battle over weddings and grandchildren. The bonus features allow us to see what other shows Desi Arnaz was pitching during his life after Lucy.
MPI Home Video presents The Mothers-In-Law: The Complete Series. Starring: Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard, Roger C. Carmel and Richard Deacon. Boxset Contents: 56 episodes on 8 DVDs. Released on DVD: July 27, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.