Mama

Mama

Synopsis of TV Show

“I remember the big white house on Elm Street, and my little sister Dagmar, and my big brother Nels, and Papa. But most of all, I remember Mama…”

Before Lucy and Ricky, before Ozzie and Harriet, there was Mama. The Hansens, television’s first beloved dramatic/comedic family, originally came to life in Kathryn Forbes’ nostalgic book of 1943, Mama’s Bank Account. One year later, the novel was adapted by John Van Druten into the play I Remember Mama, which led to a 1948 feature film of the same name. In 1949, the Hansens moved their blend of sweetly comedic family interplay to television, and an emerging nation of TV viewers fell in love.

Katrin Hansen gave the narration to open each episode of Mama, but the real star of the show was ‘Mama’ Marta Hansen, the no-nonsense but warm-hearted matriarch of the Norwegian immigrant clan. Sharing the house with Mama and Katrin in turn-of-the-century San Francisco were ‘Papa’ Lars Hansen, son Nels, younger daughter Dagmar and family dog Willie. Like the great family sitcoms that would follow, Mama dealt with the humor of day-to-day living: Mama’s try at substitute teaching, Papa’s latest carpentry project, Nels’ troubles at school, Katrin’s adolescent blues, and so on—always with a happy and wise resolution by the end of the half-hour. Most of these happy endings took place around the family dining table, where the Hansen clan shared a pot of Maxwell House (the show’s sponsor), and reminisced about what they had learned that day.

In addition to the immediate family, the Hansen household was open to several regular visitors, including Aunt Jenny (that’s “Yenny” to you non-Norwegians out there), Uncle Chris, Uncle Gunnar, Aunt Trina, Ingeborg and T.R. Ryan. Everyone had something to share, and everyone had something to learn.

Mama was tremendously popular, as CBS learned when it tried to cancel the show in 1956. After seven years, the Hansens felt like family, and protests flooded CBS. The network brought Mama back as a Sunday afternoon show with thirteen new episodes. Sadly, these final episodes were the only ones shot on film. The bulk of Mama was performed live, and most episodes now reside in TV heaven. But ask any child of the early 50’s what he remembers about the early days of television, and he’ll almost certainly tell you, “Well, I remember Mama.” Show 7/1/49 - 7/27/56 CBS

TV Sub Categories

comedy
drama

Television Network

CBS

TV Cast

'Mama' Marta Hansen (1949-57) Peggy Wood
'Papa' Lars Hansen Judson Laire
Katrin Hansen Rosemary Rice
Nels Hansen (1949-57) Dick Van Patten
Dagmar Hansen (1949) Iris Mann
Dagmar Hansen (1950-56) Robin Morgan
Aunt Jenny Ruth Gates
T.R. Ryan (1952-56) Kevin Coughlin
Uncles Chris (1949-51) Malcolm Keen
Uncle Chris (1951-52) Roland Winters
Uncle Gunnar Gunnerson Carl Frank
Aunt Trina Gunnerson Alice Frost
Ingeborg (1953-56) Patricia McCormack

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