My Mother the Car

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NBC (ended 1966)

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My Mother the Car
7.8
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217 votes

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Show Summary

For almost fifty years, My Mother the Car has remained a punchline, easily the most infamous of all the "What idiot thought THIS was a good idea?" sitcoms to hit the air. Just how did a comedy about the spirit of a man's dead mother inhabiting an old automobile get on TV?

In hindsight, it had to happen. During the 1960s, the network schedules were overrun with comedies based on completely unrealistic and usually lame-brained premises. There was a talking horse (Mr. Ed), a Martian being passed off as an uncle (My Favorite Martian), a genie servant to an astronaut (I Dream of Jeannie), a playboy with a robot girlfriend (My Living Doll), an average American family made up of movie monsters (The Munsters), another family of creepy oddballs (The Addams Family), and the most unrealistic family of weirdos of them all, the Nelsons (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet). In this context, it's not such a leap for a woman planted six feet under to possess (or repossess) a car.

The premise, in a nutshell, is that Dave Crabtree is a lawyer whose momma takes a break from pushing up daisies to return and take over the body of a 1928 Porter. She talks to him through the radio speaker. His wife is Barbara and his two young kids are Randy and Cindy. The wealthy, evil Captain Manzini is always trying to get his hands on Dave's car to complete his automobile collection.

As with anything, it's the execution of the idea that matters most. A show such as Bewitched demonstrates how charm, a great cast, and the right "touch" can turn an unbelievable premise into an entertaining series. MMTC, on the other hand, was extremely pedestrian. Despite the lurid hook, it was a rather lame undertaking. None of the characters on the series had any actual character or personality; they were just "types." The only thing that could be said about Dave Crabtree (Jerry Van Dyke), the dutiful son is that he was a trusting and dull dullard. His wife and kids were as generic and forgettable as they come. His arch nemesis, Captain Manzini, would have been more at home as a villain on Batman, but only on the weeks the writers decided he should be.

The 1928 Porter, as seen in the series, did not exist. A 1924 Ford T-tub hot rod, built by Norman Grabowski, was modified to turn it into the car seen on the series. A second "effects car" was built by George Barris for the scenes requiring the car to seemingly drive itself, move its headlights, and the like.

Despite a universal lambasting by the critics and lousy ratings, MMTC was kept on the air by NBC for a full season opposite Rawhide on CBS and Combat on ABC. It probably is remembered today thanks to Johnny Carson, who made it a frequent punchline for years to come.

Legacy:
-In 2002, TV Guide named My Mother the Car the second worst show of all time. It was beat only by The Jerry Springer Show.
-Ann Sothern, the voice of Mother, readily admitted to the press that she took the job because it was easy money, calling it radio acting with a TV paycheck It is said she soon regretted having done the series.

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    It Seemed Like a Good Idea: My Mother the Car

    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.

  • Jerry Van Dyke

    Jerry Van Dyke

    Dave Crabtree

    Maggie Pierce

    Maggie Pierce

    Barbara Crabtree

    Ann Sothern

    Ann Sothern

    Gladys Crabtree, Mother (voice only)

    Avery Schreiber

    Avery Schreiber

    Captain Bernard Manzini

    Cindy Eilbacher

    Cindy Eilbacher

    Cindy Crabtree

    Friday
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    More Info About This Show

    Categories

    Comedy

    Themes

    suburban life, supernatural forces, Sitcoms, the middle class, 60s