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.

Comments (16)
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Yes, it's bad and not quite so bad it's good. The stories are similar to the Monkees and just siily, but not played to the young adult hip crowd. It is a kids show. I can see the cool car attracting some of the adults. I can maybe see Jerry and Barbara attracting the adults of 1966 to the set. The production is as slick as any show of that timeframe. There is no laughtrack. It's just the stories are quite dull, the soundtrack almost Hanna Barbera tubas and silly clarinet whomps and tiptoeing xylophones, and you feel like you're watching a boring, pointless animated show. No matter how cool the idea, you just want it to end.
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This was a very weird time for tv.
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The idea that it was soooooooo bad has become dogmatic. A lot of people who have never even seen the show think it's that bad, and those that have seen it were conditioned ahead of time to believe it. Give it a break! It wasn't the most exquisite sitcom on television, but it was popular with kids, the primary intended audience. It shouldn't be judged by the same standards as, say, The Dick Van Dyke Show or M*A*S*H.
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It's probably no worse than a lot of stuff shown nowadays.
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I think it was a great show. And if you think Mr. Ed was the first talking "something" check out Universal Studios Francis the Talking Mule. I love those movies.
Scott-
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It would be right up today's TV alley, horribull
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This show sounds pretty good
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This is OT even my last comment, but checking the imdb on Schreiber led me to his partner, Jack Burns. Two things worth noting -- his first partner was George Carlin and he was the head writer for the first year of THE MUPPET SHOW.
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I am old enough that I saw the show live, and while it was never a great, maybe not even a good show, it never deserved the image of 'worst show of all time' that it had. One thing that was in its favor was the performance of Avery Schreiber as 'Captain Manzini' the rich guy who was always trying to get "Mother" away from Jerry van Dyke He wasn't in every episode (imdb says he was in 5) but his talent always lit up the ones he appeared in.



(If you don't remember Avery Schreiber -- who appeared in more unseen movies and tv shows than practically anybody -- he's best remembered as one half of "Burns and Screiber" whose taxicab routines are the next thing I'm going to check on youTube.)
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I was 10 years old when this first aired and liked it. It would have made a great Saturday morning cartoon but was not a great sit-com. I think an updated cartoon "My Mother the Laptop, Ipod or Mac" may make a good cartoon today.
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This was one of many shows of the era that was geared toward we baby-boomers (who were children at the time) and thier families. It was pretty funny. I checked the schedule and found that it ran against Combat and Rawhide. As a 7-year-old I definitley would have chosen My Mother the Car. Other kid-friendly shows that aired that season were My Favorite Martian, F-Troop and The Addams Family.
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If it's as good as the Love-Matic Grandpa, I'm on board. It probably isn't, seeing as how Magnum PI pales in comparison to Wiggum PI.
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I grew up in a small town in Alberta where there were 2 tv stations-the local station and CBC. When Lethbridge finally got cable there was a mad dash to sign up for it. When we got our cable, the first show I wanted to see was Rawhide as I was and always will be a die hard Western fan. The 2nd. show was My Mother the Car. I don't know why, but I loved that show. I was a teenager at the time, and maybe the idea of having a parent as an inanimate object even if it could talk seemed pretty appealing. Considering the premise, the writing was quick, bright and well paced. I know it didn't have a huge fan base but it was different and I always got more than a few laughs out of it. In the 60's a tv season was 26 to 34 weeks so you really got to know the show and it wasn't cancelled after 4 or 5 episodes because no one had found it yet or it was moved all over hell's half acre. If it ever comes to DVD I'll probably buy the set.
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My God, I'd almost completely forgotten about My Mother the Car. I vaguely remember driving my parents crazy singing the theme song to that show over and over again when I was a kid!
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That doesn't even sound real it sounds like a parody of itself. Like that episode of The Simpsons (I think it was a Halloween Special) where Grampa becomes the Love-Matic-Grampa
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I was actually watching a clip on Youtube of it earlier today so it's weird to see this pop up. It actually wasn't that bad, there were some funny lines and it seemed a lot edgier than most shows of its era.

I'm not about to call it great, but there are definitely a plethora of worse shows than this.
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