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Executive producer of The Mothers-in-Law was Desi Arnaz for Desilu Productions. Arnaz was proud of this show, and worked hard to collect for this series the quality talent that made 'I Love Lucy' and the first season of 'The Lucy Show' work so well. He succeeded in that, but the production never caught on in a big way with audiences.
For the series, Arnaz pulled together the best talent available on the Desilu lot. Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., who wrote so many of the classic 'I Love Lucy' episodes, penned the pilot and continued on as writers for the run of series. 'The Lucy Show's original producer Elliot Lewis was tapped to produce.
'The Mothers-in-Law' starred Kaye Ballard as Kay Buell and Eve Arden as Eve Hubbard, two longtime next-door neighbors who become in-laws when their kids marry. Roger Carmel co-starred as Kay's husband Roger and Herbert Rudley played Eve's husband Herb.
The Hubbards were respectable and highbrow - Eve Hubbard was the country club housewife-type and her husband Herb an uptight lawyer. Roger and Kay Buell, on the other hand, were a little more way out.
Roger was a television comedy writer that worked at home and Kay was a loudmouth, lazy housewife. They were also Italian, which led to lots of ethnic jokes (since Italians were the only nationality in the 60s with enough of a sense of humor not to complain about it).
Jerry and Susie, the newlywed kids (that lived in a garage apartment behind the homes), were played by Jerry Fogel and Deborah Walley.
Throwing two brassy broads like Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard together was inspired casting. The series was originally developed for Eve Arden and Ann Southern, but it was decided that the two actresses were too closely matched, so Ballard was brought in for ballast.
The scripts were strong overall, but the sponsor complained about them being "old-hat", which they were.
Ratings were respectable for the first year, but NBC was set to cancel the show after year one. When the network learned that ABC was interested in picking up the show, the sponsor and the network decided to renew. They would order 22 new episodes with one caveat - they weren't willing to pay any increases in budget or salaries, customary as a show enters each new season.
Even though their contracts called for raises for the second year, the producer and all of the actors agreed to forego salary increases in order to keep the show on the air.
All but Roger Carmel, who announced he would quit unless he received a second season raise.
"Desi called me and put it on a personal basis." Carmel stated at the time, "I didn't feel it should be done that way - it was very unfair of him. Then Desi and the Morris Agency threatened I would be replaced. Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden also called me and asked me to go along, but I wouldn't."
"Where else is he going to make two thousand dollars a week?" was Desi Arnaz's take. Arnaz knew that if Desilu gave one cast member a raise, they would all have to be compensated so he had no choice but to recast the role of Roger Buell.
Richard Deacon (bald-headed Mel on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show') was brought in to be the new Roger Buell, but there is no question that the change severely damaged the show. Viewership fell, catapulting 'The FBI' into the top-twenty for the first time.
'The Mothers-in-Law' was canceled after the second season, the last series Desi Arnaz produced.
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