Betty White on Mama's Family
From 1983-1985, Betty played Ellen Harper-Jackson, a recurring chracter on the sitcom Mama's Family, which was based on a running sketch on The Carol Burnett Show. Most people know Betty White as the Scandanavian simpleton, Rose Nylund, on The Golden Girls. Ellen Harper-Jackson is the opposite of everything for which Rose stands. From what I've read, Ellen would best be compared to the devious Sue Ann Nivens on Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Status on Show: Self-centered, snooty, "rich bitch" daughter of Thelma Harper, who is known to only visit the family when she needs something (ie. when she wants to borrow Mama's diamond bracelet) and thinks she's "high and mighty."
Mama's Family is a different kind of sitcom; it's a wickedly fun, yet simple show. The show focuses on the family of Thelma Harper (Vicki Lawrence), a sassy senior who is known to speak her mind and voice her opinions. During the first episode, Thelma's son, Vint (played by Ken Berry), moves in along with his two teenage children, Buzz and Sonja (his first wife ran off to Vegas in hopes of becoming a dancer). Already living with Thelma is Fran Crowley, her no-nonsense, stick-in-the-mud sister played by Rue McClanahan. Not too long after Vint and the kids move in (causing the Harper residence to be packed to the brim as is), Vint marries their next door neighbor, Naomi Oates, who Thelma has always despised, even referring to her as a "hillbilly Barbie doll." Vint, Naomi and the kids had plans to move to their own trailer park in Arizona after getting married, but like most of Vint's ideas, it falls through. Ultimately, Naomi moves in with the rest of the Harper family. Mix it all together and you get Mama's Family! The pre-syndication episodes (the first two seasons) include some of the most clever, witty, and downright side-splitting funny writing in sitcom history. The Harpers are a simple, middle-class family living in Raytown--presumably a small, midwestern town. Part of the fun derives from the colorful dialogue. Such phrases and words as "horsepucky!", "in a pig's patoot!", "good Lord!", "boy howdy," and "well I'll bet the neighbors are just lovin' this!" are common. After two seasons, the show was sold into syndication and the cast changed dramatically. Rue McClanahan left the show permanantly, Betty only guest starred one or two more times, Vint's kids left and new characters were added. I have only seen a few syndication episodes but personally, I found that they were lacking. The writing, and especially the casting paled in comparison to the pre-syndication episodes. It was still entertaining, but the magic just seemed to be gone.
Ellen poses with Mayor Tutwiller as Raytown's Woman of the Year
Back to Betty White Online home