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The 5 Mrs. Buchanans 

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




1995   1994  


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Complete series cast summary:
Judith Ivey ...  Alexandria 'Alex' Buchanan 17 episodes, 1994-1995
Beth Broderick ...  Delilah Buchanan 17 episodes, 1994-1995
Harriet Sansom Harris ...  Vivian Buchanan 17 episodes, 1994-1995
Charlotte Ross ...  Bree Buchanan 17 episodes, 1994-1995
Eileen Heckart ...  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 an uptight, wannabe socialite 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 at Disneyland. 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 <onedones@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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









Release Date:

24 September 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Five Mrs. Buchanans See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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: Alex, I want to thank you again for letting me bring the twins by here tonight... you ever need a favor, just ask.
Alex: Actually, I do. Could you ask the twins not to play on my brand new patio furniture?
Vivian: Of course.
[turns off-screen, shouting]
Vivian: Lyndon! P.J.! If you won't stop jumping on that chaise longue, you're gonna break it! And you know you're Aunt Alex doesn't have a lot of nice things!
[turns back to Alex, smiles sweetly]
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 VinnieRattolleSee 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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