My Mother the Car
|My Mother the Car|
My Mother the Car title screen
|Created by||Allan Burns
|Written by||Allan Burns
James L. Brooks
|Directed by||Rod Amateau
|Starring||Jerry Van Dyke|
|Voices of||Ann Sothern|
|Theme music composer||Paul Hampton|
|Opening theme||"My Mother, the Car", sung by Paul Hampton|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||30|
|Editor(s)||Richard K. Brockway
|Running time||24-25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Cottage Industries, Inc.
United Artists Television
|Original release||September 14, 1965– April 5, 1966|
Critics and adult viewers generally panned the show, often savagely. In 2002, TV Guide proclaimed it to be the second-worst of all time, just behind The Jerry Springer Show. In 2010 The O'Reilly Factor recorded its viewers as listing it as the worst show of all time. In the context of its time, however, My Mother the Car was an original variation on then-popular "gimmick" shows like My Favorite Martian, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, and especially Mister Ed, all of which depended on a fantastic, quirky premise for their comedy. Like these situation comedies of the 1960s, My Mother the Car is remembered fondly by baby boomers who followed the series during its one broadcast season.
Allan Burns, co-creator of My Mother the Car, went on to create some of the most critically acclaimed shows in television history, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. Television producer James L. Brooks, who later collaborated with Burns on these series, created, among others, Room 222 and Taxi, and served as executive producer of The Simpsons (which later parodied the show in the "Lovematic Grandpa" segment of "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase"), got his start in television sitcoms when he was called upon to rewrite a script for an episode of the series. The other co-creator, Chris Hayward, produced and wrote for Barney Miller during its first several seasons.
The show follows the exploits of attorney David Crabtree (played by Jerry Van Dyke), who, while shopping at a used car lot for a station wagon to serve as a second family car, instead purchases a dilapidated 1928 Porter touring car. Crabtree hears the car call his name in a woman's voice. The car turns out to be the reincarnation of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern). She talks (only to Crabtree) through the car's radio: the dial light flashes in synchronization with "Mother's" voice. In an effort to get his family to accept the old, tired car, Crabtree brings it to a custom body shop for a full restoration. The car is coveted by a fanatical collector named Captain Manzini (Avery Schreiber), but Crabtree purchases and restores the car before Manzini can acquire it.
For the rest of the series, Crabtree is pursued by the avaricious Captain Manzini, who is determined to acquire the valuable automobile by hook or crook. In a running gag characterizing his shifty nature, Manzini (who resembles a 1920s silent film villain) always distorts Crabtree's name when speaking to him. "Now, then, Crabapple..." "That's Crabtree." "Whatever."
Others in the cast included Maggie Pierce as wife Barbara and Cindy Eilbacher (the sister of Lisa Eilbacher) and Randy Whipple as the kids, Cindy and Randy. Veteran movie and television character actors played supporting roles, including Harold Peary, Byron Foulger, Bob Jellison, Sam Flint, and Willis Bouchey.
The show was created by Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who had better success with Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Munsters, and Get Smart (which debuted the same season). Aluminum Model Toys (AMT), a well-known producer of plastic model car kits, introduced a 1/25-scale kit of the Porter in late 1965.
The show began with a black and white pilot, which was later totally re-filmed. This pilot did not originally air, but has been shown several times on Canadian television. Network censors insisted that one particular scene be deleted where the car backfired, for obvious reasons.
In an American variety show special [date/title unknown], the brothers Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Van Dyke appeared together. Comparing each other's successes, Jerry noted that his first program, My Mother the Car, did not even complete one season. Jerry said that his final episode was interrupted by a special news report on the American NASA space program. Jerry lamented that when the news special was over, his program was not resumed. It would be many years before the final episode could be seen in its entirety.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2015)|
The 1928 Porter used in My Mother the Car was not a production car. Real Porter cars had existed. The first was a steam automobile (Boston, Massachusetts, 1900–1901). The second car was a powerful luxury car made (Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1919–1922) made from parts left over from production of Finley R Porter’s FRP. By the 1960s, no examples of either remained.
For the TV show, assistant prop man Kaye Trapp leased the producers a 1924 Ford T-tub hot rod he recently bought from his friend and its builder, Norm Grabowski. Both Grabowski and the car had earlier appeared in the B movie comedy Sex Kittens Go to College (1960).
The 1928 Porter touring car sported diamond-tufted naugahyde upholstery, oversized white tonneau cover, plush black carpeting, chrome windshield braces and half-moon hubcaps. Trapp and studio special effects man Norm Breedlove (father of land-speed-record-setter Craig Breedlove) modified the car to give it an elongated engine compartment, palladian-style brass radiator with “Porter” script, a spare tire mounted on the running board, outboard fuel tank and antique cane-clad trunk. (It was later fitted, as needed, with special effects hardware, such as an oil tank drip to simulate a smoking engine and "tear ducts" in the headlamp bezels.) Off-camera operation of electrics was by umbilical cable. The signature features gave it an anachronistic look, resembling cars of earlier eras.
The power train was the rod-grade 283 cu in V8 (Chevrolet small-block) engine mated with Powerglide automatic transmission. The "Porter" was registered (as a modified Ford) in 1964 with the contemporary yellow-on-black California license plates PZR 317 evident throughout the show's run. Though it bore a few design similarities with the FRP Porter, which may have suggested the television car's moniker, it is rumored that the car was named after the show’s production manager, W. A. Porter.
When series production was approved, the Grabowski rod was retained as the "hero" car, and a second — "stunt", or special effects — car was commissioned and built by celebrated car customizer George Barris, whose Barris Kustom Industries licensed it to AMT for model kit production (an inaccurate rendering) and also toured it after series wrap with other of his creations. The stunt car, not conventionally driveable, was ingeniously equipped with apparatus to let Mother "drive herself" via a system of levers and mirrors operated by a short human driver concealed on a tractor seat below the removed rear floorboards. It also had other special mechanical features, such as gimbaled headlamps.
Both cars had the dashboard-mounted radio head with flashing dial light through which Mother "talked" (though only to her son). These scenes were filmed with a stand-in; actress Ann Sothern’s voice was dubbed to the soundtrack in post-production. Generally, the hero car was used for driving shots and close-ups, and the stunt car for long shots and special effects sequences. Either was available as a stand-in in case of mechanical breakdown on set. Though made to represent one car, they can be distinguished by minor details, and actually appeared together in one episode.
Additionally, a third car was used in filming, representing both the dilapidated car-lot Porter of the pilot and, in another episode, a “1932 Porter”. This car may not have been complete, and its existence and whereabouts are unknown.
The hero car is currently[when?] located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The stunt car was once owned by casino giant William Harrah, who had one of the largest special-interest and antique auto collections of all time in Reno, Nevada. After Harrah's death in 1984, the auction catalogue advertised the lot as having a carnation red body with white top and created from parts of a Ford Model T, a Maxwell, a Hudson and a Chevrolet. Following ownership by Rear View Mirror Museum (Nags Head, North Carolina) and later Herbie's Antique & Classic Car Museum (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina), the stunt Porter is currently[when?] on display in Star Cars Museum (Gatlinburg, Tennessee).
- Jerry Van Dyke as Dave Crabtree
- Maggie Pierce as Barbara Crabtree
- Ann Sothern as 1928 Porter (Gladys Crabtree)
- Avery Schreiber as Captain Bernard Manzini
- Cindy Eilbacher as Cindy Crabtree
- Randy Whipple as Randy Crabtree
|Nº||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|1||"Come Honk Your Horn"||Rod Amateau||Allan Burns,
|September 14, 1965|
|While perusing the local car lot, Dave Crabtree discovers that his mother Gladys has been reincarnated as a junky old Porter automobile, so he buys her and brings her home, much to the dismay of both his wife and eccentric car collector Captain Manzini.|
|2||"The De-Fenders"||Rod Amateau||Allan Burns,
|September 21, 1965|
|When Dave learns that there are local vandals who are stripping cars, he spends a sleepless night going to ridiculous lengths ensure Mother's safety.|
|3||"What Makes Auntie Freeze"||Sidney Miller||Earl Barret,
Robert C. Dennis
|September 28, 1965|
|Dave is forced to drive his mother to a mountaintop wedding, but along the way she gets drunk on antifreeze.|
|4||"Lassie, I Mean Mother, Come Home"||David Davis||Phil Davis||October 5, 1965|
|Gladys falls asleep and winds up on a truck bound for Mexico. When they discover she's missing, both Dave and Captain Manzini go into mourning.|
|5||"Burned at the Steak"||David Davis||Arnold Margolin,
|October 12, 1965|
|When his mother encourages him to meddle in their quarreling neighbors' affairs, Dave inexplicably winds up breaking up their marriage.|
|6||"I'm Through Being a Nice Guy"||David Davis||George Kirgo||October 19, 1965|
|Captain Manzini launches Operation Unscrupulous: he replicates the Porter, hires a trio of thieves to steal the original and establishes an airtight alibi for himself.|
|7||"Lights, Camera, Mother"||Sidney Miller||Frank Fox||October 26, 1965|
|An obnoxious neighbor petitions Dave to get rid of his "eyesore" car, but he changes his tune when a television executive announces plans to feature the Porter in a TV commercial.|
|8||"The Captain Manzini Grand Prix"||Tom Montgomery||Allan Burns,
|November 2, 1965|
|Captain Manzini goads Dave into a race against a speed walker in an attempt to attain ownership of the Porter.|
|9||"TV or Not TV"||James Sheldon||Allan Burns,
|November 9, 1965|
|Dave puts a TV in the garage for Mother, but confusion abounds when she wins a chance to appear on a game show.|
|10||"My Son, the Ventriloquist"||Sidney Miller||Phil Davis||November 16, 1965|
|With the help of his mother, Dave lands a new client by pretending to be a ventriloquist.|
|11||"My Son, the Judge"||Sidney Miller||Phil Davis,
|November 23, 1965|
|Dave is up for a job as a judge, but complications ensue when he gets a pair of roller skates stuck on his feet.|
|12||"And Leave the Drive-In to Us"||David Davis||Lou Breslow,
|November 30, 1965|
|For his mother's birthday, Dave decides to take the family to the drive-in, but the evening is mostly a disaster.|
|13||"For Whom the Horn Honks"||Rod Amateau||George Kirgo||December 7, 1965|
|In order to get his mitts on the Porter, Captain Manzini fakes a terminal illness.|
|14||"Hey Lady, Your Slip Isn't Showing"||Tom Montgomery||Tom Koch||December 14, 1965|
|When Captain Manzini manipulates Barbara's mother, it results in the whole family treasure hunting for the Porter's registration slip.|
|15||"Many Happy No-Returns"||Tom Montgomery||Phil Davis||December 21, 1965|
|Dave and Barb each decide to forfeit their own Christmas presents to bid on the other's work in a charity art auction.|
|16||"Shine On, Shine On, Honeymoon"||Rod Amateau||Allan Burns,
|December 28, 1965|
|Dave and Barb decide to finally go on their honeymoon, but Barb's mother goes to ridiculous lengths to ensure they don't leave.|
|17||"I Remember Mama, Why Can't You Remember Me?"||Rod Amateau||Arnold Margolin,
|January 4, 1966|
|Dave's mother gets amnesia following a fender bender.|
|18||"Goldporter"||David Davis||Phil Davis||January 11, 1966|
|Captain Manzini uses a hypnotic drug on Dave to get him to agree to sell the Porter.|
|19||"The Incredible Shrinking Car"||Rod Amateau||Allan Burns,
|January 18, 1966|
|Captain Manzini uses a molecular compressor on the Porter to render it useless to Dave.|
|20||"I'd Rather Do It Myself, Mother"||David Davis||Phil Davis||January 25, 1966|
|Dave hires a maid to help out with the housework, but she quickly takes charge of the house.|
|21||"You Can't Get There from Here"||Tom Montgomery||Arnold Margolin,
|February 1, 1966|
|The Crabtrees get stranded in the backwoods when the local sheriff discovers Dave's driver's license has expired.|
|22||"A Riddler on the Roof"||Rod Amateau||Phil Davis||February 8, 1966|
|Dave and his mother try to thwart the assassination of a visiting dignitary.|
|23||"My Son, the Criminal"||Rod Amateau||Phil Davis||February 15, 1966|
|A nosy mailman convinces officials that Dave killed his mother and buried her under the floor of the garage.|
|24||"An Unreasonable Facsimile"||David Davis||Arnold Margolin,
|February 22, 1966|
|Captain Manzini tries to steal the Porter away from the Crabtrees by hiring a Dave lookalike.|
|25||"Over the Hill to the Junkyard"||Rod Amateau||Phil Davis||March 1, 1966|
|Numerous complications ensue when Barbara wins a new car.|
|26||"It Might as Well Be Spring as Not"||Rod Amateau||James L. Brooks||March 8, 1966|
|Dave's wealthy new client loves the Porter, and offers his limo and chauffeur in exchange for it; Gladys, who's smitten with the client, wants her son to make the deal.|
|27||"Absorba the Greek"||David Davis||Phil Davis||March 15, 1966|
|A prudish building owner hires Dave to close down a nightclub he claims is indecent. Dave and Barbara go to check out the place, and end up masquerading as exotic Greek dancers.|
|28||"The Blabbermouth"||Rod Amateau||James L. Brooks,
|March 22, 1966|
|Barbara learns the truth when she walks into the garage and catches Dave and Mother talking. In no time, the secret's out and the press descends on the Crabtrees. This only makes Manzini want the car more, so he plays on Mother's vanity by convincing her he will make her a star.|
|29||"When You Wish Upon a Car"||Rod Amateau||John Barbour,
|March 29, 1966|
|Mother leads Cindy and Randy to believe that she's a genie who makes wishes come true when they rub her with a magic cloth. The Crabtree kids are soon charging other youngsters to rub and make a wish. Mother is basking in the attention, but Dave wants it to stop immediately.|
|30||"Desperate Minutes"||David Davis||Phil Davis||April 5, 1966|
|A gun-toting hooligan and his moll are hiding out at the Crabtree house after robbing a jewelry store. Dave botches several attempts to escape, leaving it up to Mother to save the day when the criminals try to escape in her.|
TGG Direct released a DVD box set of the series on 12 November 2013. It contains the 30 episodes that aired, but not the unaired pilot. The laugh track has been removed for the DVD set.
- The Worst TV Shows Ever, 'The Jerry Springer Show' Tops TV Guide's List Of Worst Shows – CBS News
- Alex Simon (December 1997 – January 1998). "James L. Brooks: Laughter That Stings In Your Throat". Venice Magazine.
- My Mother the Car, 404 - Not Found 03-08-2015 on Hulu