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Mama made its television debut in 1949 and became something of an institution, running on CBS until 1957. Based on the Broadway play I Remember Mama – which was, in turn, based on Kathryn Forbes’s book Mama’s Bank Account – the programme was a warm comedy-drama that was both a domestic piece and a period piece.

Starring Peggy Wood in the title role, Mama concerned a family of Norwegian immigrants in 1910 San Francisco.

Mama was a practical, loving, matriarch and the rock of the family who could always be depended upon for a solution to whatever problem her family may be having.

Each episode was introduced and seen through the eyes of Katrin (Rosemary Rice), the eldest daughter of the Hansen household.

Each programme began with Katrin’s narration: “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.”

Other characters regularly seen on the show were “Papa” Lars Hansen (Judson Laire), a carpenter; Mama’s sister, Aunt Jenny (Ruth Gates); Mama’s gruff and often overbearing Uncle Chris (Malcolm Keen and then Roland Winters); Mama’s younger sister, Aunt Trina (Alice Frost), and her husband, Gunnar Gunnerson (Carl Frank), and cousin Ingeborg (Patty McCormack).

The stories might revolve around Dagmar’s braces, Nels starting a business, or the children buying presents for Mama’s birthday. The entire family would contribute to the drama’s resolution. however, and images of them sitting down to a cup of Maxwell House coffee – the show’s longtime sponsor – would frame each episode of the show.

Upon cancellation of the show, thousands of letters, wires, phone calls and petitions flooded CBS for the return of Mama. The network acted on the viewers’ letters and newspaper editorials and reinstated the show. This time Mama was filmed and Toni Campbell became the new Dagmar.

The series closed for good on 17 March 1957.


‘Mama’ Marta Hansen
Peggy Wood
‘Papa’ Lars Hansen
Judson Laire

Dick Van Patten

Rosemary Rice

Iris Mann (1)
Robin Morgan (2)
Toni Campbell (3)
Aunt Jenny
Ruth Gates
T R Ryan

Kevin Coughlin
Uncle Chris

Malcolm Keen (1)
Roland Winters (2)
Uncle Gunnar Gunnerson

Carl Frank
Aunt Trina Gunnerson

Alice Frost

Patty McCormack