DVD cover, with Kaye Ballard (left) and Eve Arden
|Created by||Bob Carroll, Jr.
|Directed by||Desi Arnaz
Roger C. Carmel
|Theme music composer||Jeff Alexander|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||56 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Desi Arnaz|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Desi Arnaz Productions
United Artists Television
|Original release||September 10, 1967– April 13, 1969|
The Mothers-in-Law is an American sitcom starring Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard as two matriarchs who were friends and next-door neighbors whose children's elopement made them in-laws. The show aired on NBC from September 1967 to April 1969. Executive produced by Desi Arnaz, the series was created by Bob Carroll, Jr., and Madelyn Davis.
Eve (Eve Arden) and Herb Hubbard (Herbert Rudley) have lived next door to Kaye (Kaye Ballard) and Roger Buell (played first by Roger C. Carmel and later by Richard Deacon) for 15 years. Herb is a successful lawyer, while Roger is a television writer who works at home. The Hubbards are very straitlaced, the Buells off-the-wall and fun-loving. Despite their differences, including an age disparity of about twenty years, they are best friends. In spite of their friendship, though, they do tend to get into more than their share of squabbles.
The Buells' son Jerry (Jerry Fogel) and the Hubbards' daughter Suzie (Deborah Walley) fall in love while in college, marry, and set up house in the Hubbards' garage apartment. The two sets of parents have different ideas of how their children should live their lives, and the constant meddling of the mothers-in-law provides the premise for the series. One of the differences between the two couples is that Kaye allowed Suzie to call her Mother Buell, but Eve would not allow Jerry to call her Mother Hubbard without objecting. During the second season, the young couple have a set of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl named Joey and Hildy (from the middle names of Kaye and Eve).
Most of the episodes were written by Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., who had worked with series producer Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy. Unlike most sitcoms of the era, The Mothers-in-Law was filmed before a live audience; standard practice at the time was to film an episode on a closed set and add a laugh track during post-production. However, a laugh track was still used to fill any gaps in audience reactions or missed punchlines.
When choosing the cast, Executive Producer Desi Arnaz approached Ann Sothern, who had worked on seven episodes of The Lucy Show as the Countess Framboise (née Rosie Harrigan), to play the role of Eve Arden's next-door neighbor. Sothern was a very good friend of Arnaz and his former wife Lucille Ball. In fact, in the late 1930s when Ball was under contract to RKO Pictures, Sothern was already an established star at the studio and was known as "Queen of the B's". When Ball and Sothern were both working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1940s, Sothern continued as "Queen of the B's" in the Maisie films. Eve Arden was also an old friend of Arnaz and Ball, with whom she knew from RKO in the 1930s. However, NBC found Ann and Eve's styles of comedy too similar for the way the show was written. Singer-comedian Kaye Ballard, another old friend, auditioned for and then got the part of the neighbor (now named Kaye Buell) that would have gone to Ann Sothern.
Actress Kay Cole (who later went on to work on Broadway in the original cast of A Chorus Line) had played Suzie Hubbard in the original unaired pilot; but when the series began, Cole was replaced by actress Deborah Walley, who portrayed her through the two seasons the show aired. Ironically, five years prior to The Mothers-in-Law, Walley had unsuccessfully auditioned for Arnaz and Lucille Ball for the role of Lucy Carmichael's daughter Chris on The Lucy Show. Walley lost the part to Candy Moore.
As of 2016, Kaye Ballard and Jerry Fogel are the only two surviving cast members.
- Eve Arden as Eve Hildegarde Hubbard (née Windsor), wife of attorney Herb Hubbard and mother of Suzie Hubbard Buell. A housewife, she and Kaye tend to meddle and interfere with the kids' marriage and lives, which serves as the premise of the show. When she got annoyed with her husband, or her male in-laws, she would utter coldly, "Beast!" She also had a tendency to sarcastically mock in a high voice when she is shown something that she is in disbelief of, namely when it comes from Herb or Kaye. The name of her granddaughter, Hildy, whom she spoils and dotes on, comes from her middle name.
- Kaye Ballard as Katherine "Kaye" Josephina Buell (née Balotta), wife of Roger Buell and overprotective mother of Jerry Buell. She is known for not being too enthusiastic at being a housewife, for speaking in Italian, and for smacking her husband when she got annoyed with him, especially when they were in bed, and she would smack him the back. She had once had a career in show business, when she was a singer with various bands like Ozzie Snick and Charlie Banks and his Ten Tellers. She is also known for being overly emotional; her catch phrases included "Oh, Reeeeally?", "Good luck with your MOUTH!", "This, THIS, is the thanks I get!", and "Yes, YES, I am!". She is affectionately nicknamed "Cookie". The name of her grandson, Joey, whom she spoils and dotes on, as she does his father, comes from her middle name.
- Herbert Rudley as Herb Hubbard, a successful attorney who tended to get very exasperated with the wives' constant meddling and interfering with the kids and their marriage. He tended to be very temperamental as well. When he and Eve argued, they would invariably repeat what the other was saying in anger.
- Roger C. Carmel (season 1) and Richard Deacon (season 2) as Roger C. Buell, a bombastic television script writer who often worked from home. He, like Herb, got very exasperated with the wives' continual interference with the kids and their marriage and lives. When he got annoyed with Kaye, he would call her by her full given name, Katherine, and would also announce, "Now you hear this...". He is affectionately nicknamed "Cutes", is sometimes a target of Kaye's wrath, and is also known for being a miserly cheapskate.
- Jerry Fogel as Jerome "Jerry" Buell, a college student married to Suzie Hubbard and father of twins, Hildy and Joey. Eve didn't think that Jerry was good enough for Suzie to marry, and she wanted her to marry someone who was more financially stable. Although she did like Jerry, she refused to let him call her "Mother Hubbard". He is overly protected by his doting mother, Kaye, who calls him her "darling baby boy". Jerry and Suzie had grown up together and had known one another all their lives.
- Deborah Walley as Susan "Suzie" Buell (née Hubbard), a college student married to Jerry and mother of twins, Hildy and Joey. Kaye didn't think Suzie was good enough for Jerry to marry, and she wanted him to marry an Italian girl. Despite it all, she loved Suzie enough to allow her to call her Mother Buell. She, like her mother, would utter "Beast" at her husband when she was annoyed with him. She could also become overly emotional. (Actress Kay Cole portrayed the "Suzie" character in the unaired pilot episode only. In this episode, scenes with Cole were later reshot with Walley.)
Desi Arnaz, who produced and directed the show, appeared in three episodes, using his Ricky Ricardo accent and trademark mispronunciation of words to full effect. He appeared as a matador named Raphael Delgado, whom the wives had called as a result of a wrong number, and became a somewhat family friend.
This is one of the rare occasions where the characters had the same first names as their portrayers. In the first season, the notable exception was Deborah Walley who played Suzie. In the second season, Richard Deacon played Roger C. Buell and joined Deborah in that distinction.
Despite being sandwiched between Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and Bonanza, the show never garnered the ratings NBC had hoped for. The network considered canceling the show after the first season, but agreed to renew it for the same price as the first season (after sponsor Procter & Gamble had announced plans to move the series to another network). All cast members agreed to do the second season for the same money except for Carmel, who was replaced with Richard Deacon. (Officially, Carmel had a salary dispute with producer Desi Arnaz, Sr., although, according to rumors, he was fired because his drug use interfered with production.)
Season 2 performed worse than Season 1, leading to its cancellation. On The Doris Day Show Season 4 DVD, Ballard remarked that the network and sponsor wanted The Bill Cosby Show to replace The Mothers-in-Law during the 1969-70 season.
Home video release
MPI Home Video (under license from Desilu, Too) released the complete series of The Mothers-in-Law on DVD in Region 1 on July 27, 2010. This new release includes a new introduction from Desi Arnaz, Jr., who appeared in two episodes as Tommy, a drum playing friend of Jerry and Suzie Buell; an interview with Kaye Ballard; the original unaired pilot episode (similar to the first episode "On Again, Off Again, Lohengrin"); original sponsor tags; cast commercials; scripts for unproduced episodes; The Carol Channing Show, a comedy pilot which starred Carol Channing, Jane Dulo, and Richard Deacon; and Land's End, a dramatic pilot starring Rory Calhoun. The latter were two other failed pilots from Arnaz Productions.
Me-TV offers several episodes of the series for viewing online from its Web site.
- Lambert, David (2010-04-27). "The Mothers-In-Law - Cover Art Arrives for The Complete Series on DVD!". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved 4 May 2010.