It Seemed Like a Good Idea: My Mother the Car

Not every show can be a Mary Tyler Moore or Lost. Heck, not every show can be a Team Knight Rider or B.J. and the Bear. But with buckets of money involved in creating TV shows, someone somewhere thought the show would be profitable enough to give it a green light. That's what "It Seemed Like a Good Idea" is about. It's not about whether it was a good show or a bad show, it's about who thought this was a good idea?

Much ink has been spilled about the notorious Jerry van Dyke vehicle (sorry), My Mother the Car. Having not been alive during its initial 30-episode run in 1965, I didn't get around to seeing it until a few years ago. Yeah, oddly enough, it was not among the shows all the indie stations had in their syndicated lineups. Go figure.

In a nutshell, Dave Crabtree (van Dyke) has a problem on his hands. His mother, Gladys (voice of Ann Sothern), has been reincarnated as a 1928 Porter. She communicates with him through the radio, but the catch is (cough, cough Mr. Ed cough, cough), only Dave can hear her.

So you end up with retreaded Mr. Ed-style jokes in which Dave can't explain to his family or friends who he's talking to without looking a few fries short of a Happy Meal. To complicate matters, there's a nutty car collector, played by future Doritos pitchman Avery Schreiber, who wants to add the Porter to his collection.

Aside from the wacky premise, this was a pretty formulaic sitcom with the requisite wacky sitcom hijinks. In my estimation--and I've seen a lot of bad TV--it rated as "meh." Certainly not as brain-meltingly horrible as decades of articles and books would have me believe. That said, I'm not exactly about to organize my friends to start an online petition to get it issued on DVD, either.

But still, every show is someone's favorite show, with the possible exception of The Brady Bunch Hour, and I'm sure My Mother the Car had its share of fans. It did last for a whole season, after all.

Let's face it; TV shows with talking cars are kind of a mixed bag, success-wise. Knight Rider was so awesome that it won the 1983 Tony Award for best musical (Well, no, not really. Cats won, but it was really close). But then there was Turbo Teen, which I think is on a continuous loop on the TVs in Guantanamo Bay.

But back to My Mother the Car. There are a few things I'm curious about regarding the show:

1. How did they come up with "Guy's mom reborn as vintage vehicle" as the premise for a show? Were there ideas that didn't make that cut?
2. Did no one find the concept of a guy riding around in his reincarnated mom just the teensiest bit creepy? And I'm not even addressing the ick factor of him taking her for a fill-up at the gas station.
3. How exactly did Gladys Crabtree end up as a car? Was it punishment? A waiting room for heaven or hell? Purgautory, if you will.

You never know; we could get the answers to these questions the next time there's a writer's strike and they start digging for material again. We can only hope.

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