Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Might've Been: That's My Mama (1974)

If you've ever wondered what inspired the "Barbershop" comedies with Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer a few years back, well, you might want to hit the ol' WABAC machine and take a time trip about 40 years into the past.

That's My Mama was ABC's attempt to produce a hip, urban sitcom on the order of NBC's Sanford & Son. Unfortunately, it lasted barely three months into its 2nd season when the show was cancelled. The bitter irony was that the series finale aired on Christmas Eve, 1975.

Clifton Davis starred as an inner city barber, with Theresa Merritt as the Mama in the title. Most of the action, though, took place at the barbershop. Ted Lange, later of The Love Boat, played Junior, Clifton's best buddy, and was in line to star in an update of the series in the 80's, had it been cleared by enough stations in syndication. I think it was meant to be coupled with an updated What's Happening!.

That's My Mama boasted a creative pedigree that included comedy writers Alan Blye & Chris Bearde, who'd worked with the likes of Andy Williams and Sonny & Cher on their variety shows. Bearde also had a hand in the Hudson Brothers' short-lived Saturday morning variety series for CBS, which bowed the same year, and teamed with Chuck Barris to package The Gong Show. There were, however, some casting changes during the course of the series. Ed Bernard, for example, was cut after 2 episodes, replaced by Theodore Wilson. However, Columbia Pictures Television, which produced the series, found another gig for Bernard, casting him in the crime drama, Police Woman. Lynne Moody, who'd played Clifton's sister, left after the 1st season, replaced by Joan Pringle. Can't figure that one out.

In the late 80's, Clifton Davis & Jester Hairston (Wildcat) were reunited in an NBC sitcom, Amen. Davis today is an ordained minister and has occasionally hosted the TBN talk-variety series, Praise the Lord. Lange has recently resurfaced on GSN's Mind of a Man.

Following is the season 2 open:

So much promise, but airing on Wednesday wasn't exactly the smartest of moves.

Rating: B.

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