In honor of Mothers Day next weekend I present a four-part series of articles looking at sitcom mothers. Mothers on sitcoms have a lot of responsibility, they have to take care of a home while raising the kids and dealing with a husband who is usually a pain in one way or another. Some mothers are “perfect”, while others are downright awful. There are lots of mothers out there so narrowing it down to five was not easy. However, I managed to come up with my picks, and I can’t express enough this is just opinion.

 

#5 Marion Cunningham (Happy Days)

 

Happy Days is corny as heck, but the actors on it did a great job making their characters fun to watch despite the corny dialogue and silly stories. Marion is a prime example; Marion Ross gave a very memorable character who I wish had been seen a little more. Usually when you think of mom’s from the 50’s you think of the type played by Alley Mills in The Wonder Years. Perfect with a smile which never broke for anything. Marion was a little more realistic, believe it or not. She could be calm when she needed to be and tough when she needed to be. She was the only character who had the nerve to stand up to the Fonz, even calling him by his real name. She tended to be a mother to all the cast no just her kids. There is one moment where Chachi says he has to marry Joanie, and misunderstanding Marion goes over and starts to strangle him! Great mother played by a great actress.

 
#4. Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

What can I say about Claire that I haven’t said before? She was strong, intelligent, and never afraid to speak her mind. She was fun loving, but you sure didn’t want to cross the line with her. She was strict, but firm. The best example of her mothering probably comes in the episode about Vanessa wearing make-up after she had been told not to. Claire is very tough, but fair. First she gives herself a chance to cool off, and then when she does talk to Vanessa it isn’t yelling and screaming. She explains that she and Cliff make rules and expect them to be followed, simple as that. Phylicia Rashad bought enough class to the character so she didn’t come off as a snob. And it was the cool, calm way she would deal with her kids that was amazing. It shows her kids really respected her, and didn’t want to do anything to make her mad. Unlike previous mothers like Edith Bunker, Claire was smart and able to stand on her own.

 

 

#3.Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch)

You have to respect a mother who has to be in charge of six kids. Yeah, sure she had help with Alice, but still! Carol was the perfect mother, but you know she could lay down the law when she had to. In the episode where the kids chase Alice away after a series of misunderstandings, Carol really chews them out over it. I know I was hard on her in a previous article, but the truth is Carol really tries to be there for her family and Florence Henderson did a great job of creating a character that wasn’t just a cartoon cut out (despite what those dumb movies would have you believe). Yeah, she worried a lot but isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do? Besides I always thought Maggie on Growing Pains was worst, every time she whined “Oh Jason!” I wanted to tear my hair out. Carol may have worried about her kids but she also them them grow and evolve.

 

 

#2. Elyse Keaton (Family Ties)

This is the one mother I knew I wanted on this list. She does not get the appreciation she deserves because of course when most people think Family Ties they of course think of Michael J.Fox. But she was a great mother, always there for her kids. She was amazing at bringing Alex down to Earth when he started getting arrogant, pushing Mallory when she needed a little motivation, or being there for Jennifer as she dealt with growing up. She also had her husband, and Elyse was great at letting him go off the deep end and knowing when to reel him back. Unlike some sitcom mothers, she didn’t go running to her husband when problems arise she will deal with it directly. In one episode When Alex defies her she drives miles just to yell at him and bring him home. Or Take the episode where Mallory is seduced by a friend of the family, she literally hunts the guy down and comes close to beating him up! You don’t mess with her kids! In the series finale she is the only one who can’t handle her son leaving for New York. Her first baby leaving the nest, of course that would be hard. Why can’t other shows be as honest as that?

 

 

#1. Jill Taylor (Home Improvement)

What makes Jill special enough to be #1 on my list? Of all these women, she was the one mother who was allowed to have actual problems. I don’t just mean her inability to cook or keep a job either. She was a flawed person, with all kinds of personality quirks. She could never admit when she was wrong, had trouble dealing with her parents, and could often be a little over analytical. I think these flaws make her more real, and we relate to that. She also did the frustrated housewife bit great, being angry when she needed to but without it becoming her whole character (like a certain other mom named Debra who yelled so much it became a regular joke). She was a great mother who was always there for her kids, and when they did something to make her unhappy she had no trouble expressing that. Take the episode where Tim finds Marijuana in the house, Jill is protective of her kids at first but when Brad turns out to be the culprit she had no problem getting upset with him, even being the one to bust him. She is also honest with him in the scene, explaining that she had tried the stuff before which is why she didn’t want her kids doing it. How many moms are honest like that?

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver)

 

If anyone set the standard all these women follow, it’s Barbara Billingsley’s character on this classic sitcom. She was the quintessential TV mom.

 

Murphy Brown

It may be hard to believe, but Murphy Brown was a bit of a pioneer. In the past when we meet our single mothers, they are already single mothers and we accept that. With Murphy, we got to see her become a single mother, step by step, and had a front row seat at the controversy that can be caused in the public domain when a woman who is not married and has a high profile job has a baby. I’ll never understand why this is such a taboo, but it was enough for then Vice President Dan Quayle to mock it in a speech. Single mothers, and single fathers, are just as strong and important as mother’s who do have families. They have the same struggles and same hope for their children, and whether by choice or circumstance they are still mother’s in every sense of the word. That is what Murphy Brown reminded us.

 

Roseanne Arnold

 

Roseanne deserves special mention because she, like Murphy Brown, broke a taboo about mothers. In the past, only single mothers had to work. Roseanne was the first mother who had to work, she didn’t have a choice. This show was a much more realistic look at families then we had seen in the past, which is what makes it so memorable. Sure you can nitpick the way she picks on her kids (I have in another article), but deep down you know that she loves her family and would do anything for them.

 

 

I know people will comment on the mother’s not on here. Where’s Lois from Malcolm in the Middle? Or Samantha from Bewitched? Or Florence from Good Times? Or Peg from Married…With Children? Or Edith from All in the Family? Or even Marge from The Simpsons? There are lots of sitcom mom’s out there, but these are the five I like the best. Please free to comment if you think someone else deserves to be here.

 

Tomorrow we will broaden our definition of mother’s a bit as I look at my top 5 favorite aunt’s.

By richb

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