Moms on TV May Change, But One Thing Stays the Same: Their Love

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With Mother’s Day this weekend and nary a brunch to be found, we at Plugged In thought it might be an opportune time to look at great TV mothers. But how to choose?

The website Ranker—which, true to its name, ranks everything and anything that its readers care to rank—was no help at all. Kitty Forman from That ‘70s Show ranks as the site’s all-time greatest mother. It’s not the worst choice, I suppose, and while some might agree, there’s only so much Plugged In can do with a mom who once said, “Well, you know I love my family: It’s just sometimes I want to get in the car and run ’em all over.”

Of course, Mrs. Forman never would actually run over anybody. Morticia Addams, No. 2 on Ranker’s list, just might—if only to foster quick reflexes in her children. Oh, The Addams Family matriarch loved her children, no question. One might even say she was a bit overprotective.

“Mother, can we go out and play?” Wednesday Addams once asked her in the original television show.

“In this weather?” Morticia says, aghast. “With all that blue sky and sunshine?”

Two redheads followed on Ranker’s list: Wilma Flintstone and Lucy Ricardo. Both seem odd selections, given that Pebbles Flintstone and Ricky Jr., respectively, were latecomers to their respective TV sitcoms (The Flintstones and I Love Lucy), and they were hardly part of the action when they arrived.

The internet, clearly, doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

Who does? Me, that’s who.

So with my credentials now firmly established, let me give you a personal rundown of some of my favorite TV mothers through the ages—starting in the golden age of black and white. (And note, we’re talking about the moms here … nothing on this list should be taken as an automatic endorsement of the shows they’re in.)

June Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver, 1957-63): Eddie Haskell aside, Mrs. Cleaver doesn’t get a lot of respect these days. She’s a little too staid, a little too traditional, a little too old-fashioned for most folks today. But listen, raising Wally and the Beav while Ward was off at work smoking his pipe, that was no easy task. June was gracious, funny, unflappable and wise. And what else would you want from a mom?

Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969-74): As the straight-laced Eisenhower era gave way to the flower-power age, Carol Brady took the best-mom-on-TV mantel. She was the matriarch of a blended family, something largely unseen on TV in June Cleaver’s age but rapidly becoming common in the unsettled 1970s. A widow with three daughters (the youngest one in curls), Carol married hip architect Mike Brady, took three more children (all boys) under her wing and made it all work—with, admittedly, the help of a do-it-all maid named Alice. Still, her love for her family was unquestioned and her wisdom was often right on point. Mike and Carol Brady showed viewers how raising kids is a partnership—and they did it as well as anyone.

Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show, 1984-92): Listen, I know anything related to Bill Cosby comes with baggage these days. But let’s give Clair Huxtable her props: She was awesome. Like when Denise announces that she’s going to use her money to buy a car,and her parents can’t do anything to stop her, Clair tells her,“If you ever take this attitude with us again, you can take whatever is in that bank account of yours and go discover America.” Or when Vanessa moans that she might as well be in prison, Clair retorts, “One day you’ll have children, and you’ll have a lifetime sentence.” Clair, like a growing number of mothers in the 1980s and the majority of moms today, worked outside the house. But she never let the job take priority over her primary gig as a mother. And her authority in the house, while sometimes questioned, was never threatened.

Marge Simpson (The Simpsons, 1989-present): Motherhood, as all mothers know, is a job that never really ends, and Marge is the living (if animated) embodiment of that truth. She’s been handling her eternally youthful brood of kids (Bart, Lisa and Maggie, of course) for 30 years now—as well as handling her man-child of a husband, Homer. While she’s worked an outside job a time or two (pretzel vendor, police officer, Springfield Mayor, etc.), she’s in some ways a throwback to good old June Cleaver—a stay-at-home mom who loves her kids and tries to do what’s best for them in every wacky circumstance they find themselves in.

All of these moms are as different as different can be, of course. But they share one thing in common—something that they might share with the moms in your life, too: their love. These moms might sometimes get exhausted, but their love never does. They may get mad or sad, but only because they love so much. And when their epitaph is written, these characters know what they hope they’re best remembered for: being a great mother.

Who did I leave off the list? Let me know below.

But in the meantime, to all you moms out there, whether you have blue hair or no, we salute you. We appreciate you and all the sacrifices you’ve made. We, in fact, love you. And we’d take you all out for brunch if we could.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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