The 5 Mrs. Buchanans

The 5 Mrs. Buchanans is an American television sitcom that aired on CBS from September 24, 1994 to March 25, 1995. Set in the fictional town of Mercy, Indiana, the show centers on the small-town misadventures of four diverse women with one thing in common: their loathing for their monster of a mother-in-law.

The 5 Mrs. Buchanans
Created by
ComposerSteven Cahill
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes17
Production locationFox Television Center
Running time30 minutes
Production companies
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 24, 1994 (1994-09-24) –
March 25, 1995 (1995-03-25)


The unofficial leader of the group is Alexandria (Judith Ivey), a Jewish, 1970s crusader from New York City, who settled down and had a son, Chris soon after marrying future high school principal Roy Buchanan (John Getz). Everyone regularly convenes in their home and at the thrift store that she owns. Vivian (Harriet Sansom Harris) is trapped in a stagnant marriage to used car salesman Ed Buchanan (Richard Poe), which is exacerbated by their hellion twin sons, Lyndon and PJ. Delilah (Beth Broderick) is a sweet, ditsy former Texas stripper who fell in love with church preacher Rev. Charles Buchanan (Mark Moses). These ladies are pulled together for various family and social functions, and they've forged deep bonds despite their distinctively different personalities. New to the family is Bree (Charlotte Ross), a Californian and former Disneyland employee who had a whirlwind romance with Jesse Buchanan (Tommy Hinkley) during his vacation at the theme park. And always meddling in their lives is Mother Emma Buchanan (Eileen Heckart), a gravelly-voiced, stoic, passive-aggressive gargoyle of a woman who commands the ceaseless devotion and adoration of her four sons.



  • Judith Ivey as Alexandria "Alex" Isaacson Buchanan – A former feminist from a Jewish family in New York City, she owns an antique store. She is married to Roy Buchanan, the eldest son and they have a grown son, Chris. She is the oldest of the four women, and usually the most level-headed and mature. Her relationship with Mother Buchanan ranges from the civil, to absolute hatred, which, when coupled with snide remarks on both parts, makes for an amusing battleground.
  • Beth Broderick as Delilah Buchanan – Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, she is portrayed as a blonde stereotype: ditzy, usually wearing lots of makeup and revealing clothing. She is married to Rev. Charles Buchanan, the preacher, and becomes Head of the Ladies Auxiliary. Her dimness often evokes exasperation in the other women, however, she maintains a close relationship with each. Her past as a stripper often causes obstacles, but her caring nature serves to resolve them.
  • Harriet Sansom Harris as Vivian Buchanan – A Republican housewife with hooligan twin sons, Lyndon and PJ from her marriage to her high school sweetheart, Ed Buchanan, she is shown as being rather neurotic, and narcissistic. She sometimes clashes with the politically liberal Alex but they generally get along. Her extreme antics (such as selling pints of her own blood to buy a dress for a Dan Quayle dinner) are often a point of humor. Her relationship with Mother Buchanan is shown to be the most antagonistic.
  • Charlotte Ross as Bree Larson Buchanan – A Californian and ex-Disneyland worker, her whirlwind romance and marriage to Jesse Buchanan serves as the opening of the series. Characterized as quite naive and childish, she displays overt vanity, which, when coupled with her superb performance skills and fascination with dead bodies, makes for comedy. Eventually becoming a core part of the family, she succeeds in gaining the ladies' respect by standing with them against Mother Buchanan.
  • Eileen Heckart as "Mother" Emma Buchanan – A former aspiring doctor who was forced to raise her four sons alone after her husband left her for a younger woman. She uses this as a vehicle to fuel her manipulation and dislike of her daughters-in-law to the point of buying them fake engagement rings to save money. While she is displayed as the hardened and merciless matriarch, her compassionate side is shown throughout the series, proving that under her tough exterior, she is ultimately a mother, something to which all the women can relate.



No.TitleDirected by [1]Written byOriginal air dateProd.
code [1]
1"Pilot"David TrainerJamie Wooten & Marc CherrySeptember 24, 1994 (1994-09-24)100
Alexandria, Vivian, and Delilah Buchanan, married to three of the four brothers, learn that the youngest brother, Jesse, is marrying his girlfriend after only knowing her six weeks. They welcome their soon-to-be sister-in-law, Bree, into the family. Their mean mother in law, Emma Buchanan, wants Bree to wear her wedding dress, like the others did, but she refuses. She has her first fight with Jesse about it and Alexandria explains the family dynamics to Bree and she and Jesse reconcile. At their wedding, Bree wears her own wedding dress with her new mother-in-law's veil.
2"The Other Woman"David TrainerJamie Wooten & Marc CherryOctober 1, 1994 (1994-10-01)101
After moving in with Alex and Roy, Bree comes to suspect that Jesse is secretly spending time with another woman. When it turns out to be Mother Buchanan, the ladies coach Bree to confront her.
3"Clyde and Vivian and Ed and Malice"David TrainerJohn Pardee & Joey MurphyOctober 8, 1994 (1994-10-08)103
Feeling that the romance is gone from her marriage to Ed, Vivian considers an affair with her cultured college boyfriend and gets caught by Mother Buchanan.
4"A Ring of Truth"Linda DayJohn PardeeOctober 15, 1994 (1994-10-15)104
When the stone on Bree's engagement ring becomes loose, Vivian has her visit her jeweler, and she is devastated after she learns the stone is fake. Afterward, Vivian's jeweler checks the others' engagement rings, and learn that they're fake, too. When they confront Mother Buchanan about it, she confesses that they're love tokens, because she didn't have the money to afford real diamonds.
5"Nothing on Delilah"Philip Charles MacKenzieDavid FlebotteOctober 22, 1994 (1994-10-22)102
Delilah's past as a stripper comes back to haunt her and Mother Buchanan is forced to intervene.
6"The Mothers-in-Law"Linda DayTracy Gamble & Richard VaczyOctober 29, 1994 (1994-10-29)105
Frances "Tink" Larson, Bree's mother, comes to visit, and butts heads with Mother Buchanan - especially after she wants Bree and Jesse to move to California to be with her. Bree and Jesse refuse and stay in Indiana.
7"Alex, Then and NOW"Linda DayJenny BicksOctober 31, 1994 (1994-10-31)107
Note: Aired on Monday. Alex is reunited with two former college friends, and decides to do something meaningful after feeling like a failure.
8"Spare the Rod, Spoil the Buchanan"John SguegliaNancylee MyattNovember 16, 1994 (1994-11-16)109

After Vivian's twin sons hurt Bree while she's babysitting them, Vivian decides she's had enough of their monstrous behavior and spanks them. Unfortunately, she ends up in jail accused of child abuse.

Note: Aired on Wednesday.
9"Five Buchanans and a Baby"Linda DayTracy Gamble & Richard VaczyNovember 26, 1994 (1994-11-26)106
Emma Buchanan is upset that Bree is not yet pregnant, and Delilah wants one of her sisters-in-law to be a surrogate mother after learning she and Charles have only a 10% chance of becoming pregnant.
10"Emma in Love"John SguegliaTracy Gamble & Richard VaczyDecember 3, 1994 (1994-12-03)111
Emma Buchanan falls in love with the new town baker without knowing he's already married.
11"What Child Is This"Linda DayMichael Patrick KingDecember 10, 1994 (1994-12-10)112
Alex accidentally breaks Mother Buchanan's baby Jesus heirloom, and Bree decorates Alex's house for Christmas.
12"The Incredible Journey"Linda DayJoey Murphy & John PardeeDecember 17, 1994 (1994-12-17)113
Alex's beloved dog returns home to die years after he disappeared in the Grand Canyon, and she learns the shocking truth on how he escaped.
13"All About Bree"Linda DayLyn Greene & Richard LevineJanuary 7, 1995 (1995-01-07)114
Delilah wants to play Mary in the local stage version of "The Sound of Music," but Bree gets the part, and Mother Buchanan plays Mother Superior.
14"The Heart of the Matter"David TrainerNancylee MyattJanuary 14, 1995 (1995-01-14)110
Alex wants Roy to drop out of a football game because of his heart, but at Mother Buchanan's request, refuses and has a heart attack. Alex and Mother Buchanan fight over Roy at the hospital.
15"Becoming a Buchanan"John SguegliaNancylee MyattJanuary 21, 1995 (1995-01-21)115
Emma Buchanan has her sons and daughters-in-law pose with her for a family portrait. While waiting, Alexandria, Vivian, and Delilah share with Bree their horror stories on how they first met Mother Buchanan, with Delilah having the worst story of all. Afterward, everyone gets together to pose for the family portrait.
16"Never on the Road Again"Linda DayDavid FlebotteMarch 11, 1995 (1995-03-11)116
Emma Buchanan forces her daughters-in-law to join her at the funeral of Great Aunt Velma Buchanan, who died from weighing 650 pounds and being housebound because of it. Not only is it the road trip from hell, but the funeral itself showed a giant crate for a casket, and all five Buchanan women laughed hysterically at the funeral director's words.
17"Viv'acious"Linda DayDavid FlebotteMarch 25, 1995 (1995-03-25)108
The sisters-in-law throw a "naughty nighties" party to help Vivian improve her sex life with Ed.

The 5 Mrs. Buchanans regularly aired on Saturday nights on CBS, though one episode of the series aired as part of CBS's Monday night comedy lineup, and another episode aired on a Wednesday.


Original unaired pilot: The Four Mrs. Buchanans

The show was titled The Four Mrs. Buchanans in the original series pilot, referring to only the four daughters-in-law. The opening scene was completely revised and reshot and a pair of jokes about Delilah's skimpy dress were replaced with alternate one-liners about her heavy makeup when the pilot was broadcast as The 5 Mrs. Buchanans.

With an initial series order of 13 episodes, shortly after its premiere CBS announced it had given the series a five-episode pick-up. However, only 17 episodes were aired and are known to have been produced.

Eileen Heckart stated in an interview at the time that CBS had picked up more episodes of the show with the intention of moving it from Saturday nights, where it was faltering, to Mondays following Murphy Brown. The network ultimately changed its mind after ordering Cybill as a mid-season replacement, though the seventh episode of The 5 Mrs. Buchanans did air once in this timeslot as a "special preview" on October 31, 1994.


  1. ^ a b From the United States Copyright Office catalog: "Public Catalog - Copyright Catalog (1978 to present) - Basic Search [search: "5 Mrs. Buchanans"]"". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved 2017-07-30.

External linksEdit