“Hello Davey, it’s your Mother.”
Sometimes, they come back. And sometimes they come back as the thing they loved most when they were alive. Case in point: fictional TV-land car lover Agnes Crabtree passed away in 1947, and when she came back years later, she came back as a disembodied voice that emanated from a car. A 1928 Porter, to be precise. And there, folks, is the sitcom premise of My Mother The Car.
It could be worse, you know—it could have been that Agnes liked shoes, or fancy cheese, and seeing Jerry Van Dyke talk to any of those things would have been downright uncomfortable. Television devotees love to bash this NBC curiosity, but in its defense, there were plenty of show premises that forced a viewer to scratch his head in the mid-1960’s. Martians, witches, ghosts, angels, and a slew of talking animals turned up on the small screen. So why not a talking car?
When it was time to buy a new car, his family wanted a practical station wagon, but lawyer Dave Crabtree (Van Dyke) couldn’t help himself—there was just something about that old Porter at the used car lot. And when he got in and turned on the radio, he figured out why—the voice of his late mother was transmitting from the radio. When he tried to convince his family that the car wasn’t just a car, they thought he was absolutely nuts, because of course his car/mother only talked when the others weren’t around. Maggie Pierce played Dave’s long-suffering wife Barbara, and the bad guy (because what ‘dead mom is talking from the car again’ sitcom is complete without one?) was automobile aficionado Mancini, who just had to have that Porter for his collection.
Plenty of TV pundits are surprised that My Mother the Car lasted a whole season—which meant more than thirty episodes back in those days. But NBC put it in a timeslot where the other networks were running adult dramas, and the goal was to nab the attention of the younger viewers. Suffice it to say, when there’s a show about a mother who is reincarnated as a voice in her grown son’s fixer-upper jalopy, attention definitely is garnered, for better or worse.
USA / NBC – United Artists – Cottage Industries / 30×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 14 September 1965 – 6 September 1966
Jerry Van Dyke as Dave Crabtree
Maggie Pierce as Barbara Crabtree
Cindy Eilbacher as Cindy Crabtree
Randy Whipple as Randy Crabtree
Avery Schreiber as Captain Manzini
Ann Sothern as Voice of Gladys, Dave’s mother