May 8, 2011

TV: The Best (And Worst) Mothers Around

 I've been watching early seasons of Grey's Anatomy and Mad Men lately, and it's shocking to see the parade of bad mothers marching through television. In many ways, a damaged, not-great mother makes for better television - more room for awkwardness, more room for drama. Still, on Mother's Day, I think it's also good to look at the positive maternal influences that have populated the airwaves for decades, beaming into our homes and influencing our lives. Who are the 10 best and some of the worst mothers in television? Well, check after the jump for my (somewhat biased) opinions.


Clair Huxtable played by Phylicia Rashād - The Cosby Show
Never has a mother been this cool under pressure nor this sassy. Clair has to deal with her children, her children's children, her child's husband's child, and her own husband, who is basically a child that can rock a sweater. She also is a full-time lawyer. She can do it all, and she can do it all with style.
Jean Weir played by Becky Ann Baker - Freaks and Geeks
Jean was a mother who never really understood her daughter, yet loved her all the same. Teenagers are dicks, and they put their parents through hell. Jean is a testament to all the mothers that love their butt-face kids in spite of teenage rebellion.

Laura Petrie played by Mary Tyler Moore - The Dick Van Dyke Show
Before Mary Tyler Moore charmed America as Mary Richards, she was Laura Petrie on the often goofy but also sweet classic The Dick Van Dyke Show. Laura was a kind, level-headed mother and devoted wife like many TV mothers of the fifties and sixties.  However, unlike the blander June Cleavers of the world, Laura was spunky, lively, and a bit off-beat. Sometimes she even matched her husband's quirkiness one-to-one, which is some feat considering her husband was Dick Van Dyke.
Bobbi Adler played by Debbie Reynolds - Will & Grace
Okay, probably not the best mother in the world, but if the point of motherhood is to have daughters spectacularly similar to oneself, then Bobbi Adler is a great success. Grace denies over and over that she is anything like her mother, but she doth protest to much.
Kitty Foreman - That 70’s Show - Debra Jo Rupp
Again, a working mother, this time a nurse. Sure, her son is completely high for most of the show, but with a father like Red who wouldn't be? Also, her bubbliness, which could be annoying/cloying, is instead infectious.
Sophia Petrillo played by Estelle Getty - Golden Girls
Sophia's just funny, which is an undervalued trait for a mother. However, she could just as easily be one of the worst mothers in TV history.
Lily and Vivian Charles played by Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene - Pushing Daisies
So many neuroses in two such tiny people, Lily and Vivian raised Charlotte Charles like she was their own daughter (which is actually half-true). Sure, they have trouble leaving the house, but they also created one heck of a kid. Plus, they are certainly the best surrogate mothers who are also synchronized swimmers.

Tami Taylor played by Connie Britton - Friday Night Lights
Tami's the best at everything, why should motherhood be any different.  Plus, she has very shiny hair.

The Mothers of Gilmore Girls (in particular Lorelai Gilmore) played by Lauren Graham, Melissa McCarthy, Kelly Bishop, and Emily Kuroda- Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls mothers are great because they aren't perfect, but they work so hard to be good mothers. Lorelai is the mother you want - the best friend - but not always the mother that can be tough. Emily Gilmore is all tough, very little love. Over the course of seven seasons, you can see their relationships change, the bonds of motherhood tested and challenged. It's the most nuanced portrayal of motherhood on television to date.


Betty Draper played by January Jones - Mad Men
While mothers on television were Laura Petrie-perfect, mothers in real life were apparently encased in frost bite and emotionally crippled. At least that's what Betty Draper makes it seem.

Ellis Grey played by Kate Burton - Grey's Anatomy
She is occasionally redeemable, but for the most part she is just terrible. 'Telling your daughter she's a disappointment' terrible.

Laura Bristow/Irina Derevko played by Lena Olin - Alias
Irina Derevko, ex-KGB-operative, is absent/presumed dead for most of her daughter's life, only to turn up occasionally to try to murder her. And, in the end, she chooses immortality over her daughter, and it ends pretty much like it did for the hot Nazi in The Last Crusade (hint: not well).

Leanne Mars played by Corinne Bohrer - Veronica Mars
Absent, drunk, and drug-addled, Leanne Mars takes her daughter's college money to check in to rehab only to check herself out and return immediately to the sauce. And that's hardly the worst thing she did to 'I'm not a victim' Veronica Mars.

Nora Walker played by Sally Field - Brothers and Sisters
Nora pretends to be a good mother, and the show pretends that she's a good mother too, but all she does is create hyper-dependent, needy, backstabbing children. She's the worst, and all the wine-soaked dinner parties in the world can't fix that. It's not Cougar Town.

Estelle Costanza played by Estelle Harris - Seinfeld 
Poor George didn't stand a chance.


Carla Tortelli played by Rhea Pearlman - Cheers
On one hand, she never sees her children, complains about their delinquency yet does little to correct it, and she just keeps having kids. On the other hand, she's hilarious, gutsy, and sticks up for her children like no other television mother. Lots of moms threaten violence - Carla delivers.

On this Mother's Day, let's salute the mothers on television, the BEST and the WORST. They may not always be everything to everyone all the time, but they are always entertaining.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...