Four sisters-in-law struggle to deal with small town life and their overbearing mother-in-law.




1995   1994  


Complete series cast summary:
 Alexandria 'Alex' Buchanan (17 episodes, 1994-1995)
 Delilah Buchanan (17 episodes, 1994-1995)
 Vivian Buchanan (17 episodes, 1994-1995)
 Bree Buchanan (17 episodes, 1994-1995)
 Mother Emma Buchanan (17 episodes, 1994-1995)


Set in fictional Mercy, Indiana, this comedy centers around four completely different women who have only two connections to each other: they each are married to a Buchanan boy, and they each cannot stand their mother-in-law. Alex, married to Roy, is a Jewish feminist from New York City. Vivian, married to Ed, is a frumpy Hoosier housewife with two children from hell, twins Lyndon and P.J. Delilah, married to preacher Charles, is a somewhat ditzy former stripper from Corpus Christi, Texas. Bree, newly married to Jesse, is a perky Californian who used to work with her mother. They constantly are trading barbs with the cruel but hilarious Mother Buchanan, who tries as hard as she can to make their lives a living hell through meddling and manipulating, her two specialties. Written by Jason Hones <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of 4 daughters-in-law...And the mother of all mothers-in-law







Release Date:

24 September 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Five Mrs. Buchanans  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When producers were casting for the part of her character's husband, Harriet Sansom Harris suggested Richard Poe, who won the role. See more »


Vivian: Oh my God, Alex. The twins have gotten hold of your cat.
Alex: Why do they have her blindfolded?
Vivian: They're playing "International Terrorist" again. It's a little game they made up.
[turns off-screen, shouting]
Vivian: Lyndon! P.J.! What have I told you about taking animals hostage?! Let her go... What?... I don't care if your demands haven't been met yet, let the kitty go!
See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Angels Revenge (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

A light precursor to Desperate Housewives
18 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Four sisters-in-law with little in common share deep friendships, thanks in part to their dealings with Mother Buchanan, their cantankerous mother-in-law. Alex is a quick-witted, sharp-tongued Jew who is married to eldest son Roy, a school principal. The den-mother of the group, she delights in trading barbs with Mother Buchanan. Delilah is a ditsy, busty former stripper who fell in love with crusading preacher Charles. Status-conscious Vivian is continuously exasperated by her twin sons and is stuck in a passionless marriage to stuffy Ed. New to the group is Bree, a beautiful, self-involved, seemingly-airheaded former Disneyland employee, who's naive concerning her new marriage to Jesse, but seems to have more going on in her head than she's credited for. Mother Buchanan is a stoic, gravely-voiced passive-aggressive (sometimes without the passive part) nightmare of a woman who intentionally tries to make the people around her miserable, but she has occasional flashes of humanity.

Co-creator Marc Cherry worked on a handful of failed sitcoms before finding success with "Desperate Housewives," but this is probably the closest to his big hit in terms of tone and story. We have a group of vastly different women living in suburbia, dealing with various real-life issues, experiencing bizarre adventures and spouting off venomous insults. Aside from the murder-mystery angle, the biggest difference in the two shows is that the Buchanan husbands, who were often spoken of, were seldom seen. Not surprisingly, several cast members went on to appear on the later series. Everyone expected the Buchanan ladies to have a hit on their hands... except CBS, which buried the show on Saturday nights.

Interestingly, Eileen Heckart admitted she wanted the role of Mother Buchanan because it gave her the opportunity "to play the bitch," but the renowned stage actress had difficulty adjusting to the fast-paced world of sitcoms, where dialogue can be changed in an instant. You'd hardly know judging from her wonderfully campy performance, in which her every syllable seems deliberately and appropriately punched. She and the rest of the cast all had remarkable chemistry, and each of their characters were uniquely lovable.

Looking at the show more than 20 years later, it's a little dated. Life was simpler before everyone was digitally connected which, by today's standards, makes some of the gossipy situations and revelations seem unnaturally slow to pass. There's the occasional pop-culture reference or discussed incident (such as Alex's stint streaking) which date the show to another time, and it suffers from hideous mid-90s color schemes and fashions.

Those minor nitpicks aside, there's really sharp writing, incredible characterizations and a lot of heart. It's really quite a shame that CBS didn't have more faith in it because it certainly had the potential to have been a long-running hit.

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