Daniel DiManna
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Remembering the Legendarily Bad Sitcom ‘My Mother the Car’

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An old car that could possibly be my mother the car
This photo might be funnier than the actual show
Photo: Bogden Stepniak via CC

There’s very little in this world that’s harder to watch than an unfunny sitcom. If the purpose of a story is to make you laugh, failing to deliver on that purpose can make the resulting show a real slog to sit through. While the last few decades have certainly given the world plenty of unfunny sitcoms, this phenomenon is nothing new. Case in point: 1965’s legendarily humorless My Mother the Car.

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Remembering ‘My Mother the Car’

More often than not, the strength of a sitcom depends on two factors: the characters, and the situations they find themselves in. If the characters are well-developed, endearing, and funny, people will want to watch them every week. If the show’s setting/situation is at least interesting if not unique, an audience will respond with views. And if either or both of these elements are out of sync, the show can crumble under its crushing humorlessness.

Such is the case for My Mother the Car. This odd little sitcom aired for only one season from 1965 to 1966, lasting a mere 30 episodes. During a decade that created some of the most memorable television of all time, My Mother the Car stands out as being both stunningly unfunny and supremely bizarre.

The plot of My Mother the Car is easily the show’s most baffling aspect. It tells the tale of a man named David who is compelled to purchase a beat-up old car from the 1920s. Why does he do this? Well, because the car is his mother. Obviously.

Through the magic of mid-60s suspension of disbelief, David’s mother has been reincarnated as a crappy old jalopy. She can talk to him through the car’s radio, and only he can hear her voice. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one heck of a premise.

Every week, David must navigate the weirdness of driving his mother to work every day while thwarting the show’s villain, a duplicitous fellow named Captain Manzini, who wants the car for himself.

A harsh legacy

Despite its oddball premise, My Mother the Car had plenty going for it. Some proven and future talent worked on creating the show, including creators Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who had collaborated on Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Munsters, and Get Smart. Even future The Simpsons executive producer James L. Brooks worked on the series. In front of the camera, the endearing Jerry Van Dyke played David. However, not even this impressive collection of talent could turn the show into a success.

My Mother the Car was almost instantly hit with harsh critical reviews and low ratings. Consequently, the series did not return for another season. Over the years, the show has faded into obscurity, only occasionally surfacing as the butt of jokes or the subject of parody. TV Guide even dubbed it the second-worst sitcom of all time in 2002.

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Despite its reputation, My Mother the Car lives on thanks to a small but dedicated cult following. If you’re a fan of weird 1960s sitcoms, so-bad-it’s-good cinema, or the criminally underutilized “family member reincarnated as a motor vehicle” genre, this odd little show might just be worth tracking down.