Mama's Family is an American television sitcom that premiered on NBC on January 22, 1983. It was cancelled in May 1984, but NBC would continue to air reruns until September 1985. In September 1986, Mama's Family returned in first-run syndication, where it aired for an additional four seasons, ending on February 24, 1990. Mama's Family is a spin-off of a recurring series of comedy sketches called "The Family," which appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s.
The show, set in the small southern town of Raytown, revolved around a typical squabbling family, headed by Thelma Harper — a buxom, blue-haired, purse-lipped, 65-year-old widow, who is loudmouthed and outspoken. Living with Thelma originally was only her uptight spinster sister Fran (Rue McClanahan), a journalist for a local paper. Thelma's son, Vinton (whose wife, Mitzi, had left him to become a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas, Nevada) and his two children, Sonja and Buzz, moved in with her later.
During the first season, Vinton forged a relationship with the Harpers' flirtatious next-door neighbor Naomi Oates (whom Thelma had a distaste for), and soon married her. After selling her house and losing the money in a bad business deal, Naomi and Vint are forced to move into Thelma's basement, where they remain for most of the show's run. Also seen on a recurring basis were Thelma’s two daughters: the snobbish Ellen (Betty White) and the ornery Eunice (Carol Burnett). Harvey Korman, who directed many of the earlier episodes, made featured appearances as Eunice’s husband, Ed Higgins. During the eleventh and final season of The Carol Burnett Show (1977), the Ed Higgins character was written-out of "The Family" skits, having left Eunice. Korman also appeared at the beginning of each episode as the stuffed shirt Alistair Quince, who would soberly introduce the program in the style of Masterpiece Theatre. These monologues were cut out of the later syndicated reruns and the subsequent DVD release of the first season.
While not a huge ratings success, the first season garnered good enough ratings to be renewed for a second season. The first episode, "Vint and the Kids Move In," finished among the Top 30 programs, ranked at #28 for the week, garnering a commendable 18.6/28 rating/share. However, during the second season, the show dropped to 59th place in the yearly ratings due to being forced to compete with CBS's Top 10 hit Magnum, P.I.