Romantic relationships of all kinds work best between two people. When a third person is involved, life tends to become complicated. It becomes monstrously more so when that third person is the mother of one. TLC's strangely addictive I Love a Mama's Boy features men who are not so much tied to their mother's apron strings as chained – and there's nowhere they would rather be. Yet, being adults, they often have long-suffering girlfriends, and mothers who cow those girlfriends.
These are not the usual over-protective moms looking out for their sons, making sure they eat right, sleep enough and stay away from conniving females. I say this as a Jewish mother who knows a thing or two about this. The mothers in this show are on another level. They make me look as if I abandoned my son by the side of the road in a dirty diaper and tossed him a pack of unfiltered smokes and a scratch-off lottery ticket with which to make his way through life. Yet, when one episode or two would have sufficed, I could not stop watching.
While I Love a Mama's Boy may be easy to ridicule, the overriding emotional takeaway is that of the abiding love between mother and son.
Each season of this series follows four smother/son/girlfriend combos through their complex relationships. Currently, the threesome most viewers will likely relate to are Stephanie and Mike, both 26, and his mom, Liz, 50 (pictured below). Stephanie and Mike, producers for a syndicated talk show, and Liz, a paraprofessional at an elementary school, live 90-minutes apart. As expected on this series, Liz is a frequent visitor and she talks with Mike regularly -- very regularly.
The three recently chatted over Zoom with MediaVillage, and during the conversation Mike didn't need to pause to figure out if he ever feels caught in the middle. "All the time!" he shared, cracking up as he spoke. "This is the first time I have ever taken a relationship this seriously because this is the first girl that I have ever loved to this level. (Stephanie beamed when he said that.) We moved in together, and we've had a lot of firsts together. My mom is someone who I've always considered my best friend. There's a lot of times when Steph demands a lot of attention, and I feel I need to pull away from my mom a little bit. And sometimes, when I give my mom a mother-son day, Steph goes, ‘I missed you! Where were you all weekend?' So, there are a lot of times I feel like I need to balance and walk a fine line."
When Liz visits, she arrives with food, for she trusts no one else to feed her son. Mike's dad died when Mike was 8. Liz is determined to keep her son healthy, and that extends to what he eats. Before Liz arrives, Stephanie and Mike hide snacks Liz would deem objectionable. Mike also models and keeps exceptionally fit. Liz, who does not have an extra ounce on her, played basketball with her son. She kept him on track with workouts and diet through school and isn't thrilled that Stephanie has introduced him to more dangerous sports such as skiing.
Steph, though, knew what she was getting into when the relationship began. The two were work buddies before they started dating two and a half years ago. "He is the most charming person I have ever met in the world, and when he is with his mom, he is sweet and cute and childish almost," she said.
Liz had met Mike's previous girlfriends, and she says with the confidence of someone who knows: "I can tell the minute I meet them. I can tell that one's out." For the most part, he listened.
Mike works hard at appeasing both women. Some of the other sons on the show, though, listen way more to their moms than to their girlfriends. Those relationships result in some of the cringe-worthy scenes. A mother and son who get a couple's massage together. A mother and son who cuddle nightly as they watch TV. A mother who is so nasty to the girlfriend viewers will find her sadistic and the girlfriend a masochist.
Odds are, you will not only watch, you'll call friends and tell them they must watch. Or as I did, you'll text your son and tell him how wonderful you are because you don't do these things.
Among the other couples on the show are Kim and Matt, who are living with his mom, Kelly. She comes into their bedroom in the morning to give him coffee. The mother and son work, commute and get pedicures together. He even does her roots. On Valentine's Day, when Matt shops for Kim, Kelly accompanies him. It's too much of a spoiler to reveal who gets what for Valentine's Day, but even the lingerie shop owner was taken aback.
And there's Justina and Jason, who have a daughter together. Jason's mom, Annette, sings love songs to him and ignores Justina's wishes for planning their wedding. While Justina favors a sedate gray suit for her groom, Annette picks out a red tux jacket.
The scariest mom, Laila, tells her son Shekeb's girlfriend, Emily, how awful she is -- regularly. On the plus side, Emily never has to parse how Laila feels.
The series' overriding, but unsaid question, is: "Where is that line between mother and son?" I posed this question to Liz, Mike and Steph.
"I don't believe in having a line drawn," Liz replied. "That's my son, and I just want the best for him, so I am going to look out for him no matter how old he is or when he's married. I'm always going to be there to give my opinion, and it is from the heart because I love him. I'll always be there for him."
I Love a Mama's Boy is telecast at 10 p.m. Sundays on TLC.
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