22 TV moms we love
In honor of the women who gave us life and lunch, we're celebrating Mother's Day on the small screen
Happy Mother's Day!
Today's the day to celebrate mom, so we've picked out some of our favorites TV matriarchs and honored them here. From Lorelai Gilmore to Marge Simpson, check out our favorite small-screen mothers.
Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore)
This Is Us (2016–present)
Jack Pearson gets all the love as the superhero of the Pearson tribe, but it’s Rebecca who quietly keeps it together with patience, understanding, and deep love. From offering hugs and a sympathetic ear to the Big Three as kids to continuing to be there for them as adults through highs (weddings, the realization of career goals) and lows (miscarriages, deaths, addiction), Rebecca preserves the Pearson motto of always having each other’s backs and pulling them up at their greatest moments of crisis. When Rebecca told Jack to “get in the car,” many dubbed her to be having a Jack Pearson moment, but actually she was just demonstrating what makes her one of our favorite TV moms — an unwillingness to give up on her fierce love for her family in even the bleakest, most difficult of times. In the words of Dr. K, Rebecca is the queen of taking lemons and making “the sweetest” lemonade. — Maureen Lee Lenker
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)
Stranger Things (2016–present)
Just ask yourself this: how many moms would literally travel to a hell/parallel dimension known as The Upside Down and be willing to battle an ugly-ass Demogorgon for their son? I mean, if he was as cute as Will, probably a lot, but still — credit to mamma Byers for never giving up and being able to communicate with her son through Christmas lights alone. We’ll skip over the part where she didn’t notice her son was missing until the next morning, okay? — Ruth Kinane
Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey)
The Goldbergs (2013–present)
While it might be slightly maddening to be constantly under the overly-watchful eye of this hall-of-fame smother, it’s hard not to love Beverly Goldberg. Because who cares about a little humiliation when you’ve got this sweater-loving, foulmouthed weirdo for a mom? Nobody messes with her schmoopies.
Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez)
Jane the Virgin (2014–2019)
Sadly, life isn’t always a telenovela — unless Jane Villanueva is your mother, that is. Mateo's been a bit of a nightmare growing up, but our once-virginal heroine has handled it all with astounding grace.
Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham)
Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
She's the mom entertainment junkies wish they had (and many hope to become), what with her endless pop culture references, her affinity for movie nights and repeat viewings (''We got us a Pippi virgin''), and her dog named Paul Anka. Lorelai, however, is also our hero because she found the ideal place to raise a child — Stars Hollow. It's a town that hosts a competitive dance marathon, a Festival of Living Art, and an elementary school production of Fiddler on the Roof starring a grown man (or Kirk) as Tevye. It's rare — and refreshing — to see an ''us against the world'' mother-daughter twosome so entrenched in a community. And eat that much.
Tami Taylor (Connie Britton)
Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
If there is such a thing as a perfect parent, Tami Taylor was it. She was not only mother to Julie and Gracie Bell, she was also a sort of pseudo-parent to half the students at the high school. She took fledgling town flirt Tyra Collette under her wing and guided her toward a brighter future, while rescuing her from an abusive rodeo hunk. She opened her home to both Tim Riggins and Lyla Garrity. But her finest moments came from her endless struggle to both protect and nurture her own teenage daughter — even when it means being the enemy. There have been few mother-daughter moments on the small screen more honest and heart-wrenching than when an emotional Tami confronts 15-year-old Julie about her plans to have sex with her boyfriend. We dare you to watch it without crying.
Marge Simpson (Voiced by Julie Kavner)
The Simpsons (1989-present)
Who wouldn't want to be Marge's ''special little guy''? She's endlessly patient, eminently forgiving, she can cook a three-eyed fish, and she hasn't aged a day in more than 20 years. She can turn a case of the mumps into domestic bliss, and anyone who can earnestly say ''I don't hate you for failing, I love you for trying'' earns a place on our list.
Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel)
Nothing humanized the genius anthropologist more than the birth of her child (in a manger, no less). We got to see new mom Temperance struggle with child care issues when she went back to work. There's so much more ahead. And think about how cool young Christine's show-and-tells will be thanks to all that stuff at the Jeffersonian.
Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter)
Family Ties (1982-1989)
She's a folk-singing, peace-lovin', former hippie. Her oldest son, Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox), is a Reagan-loving Young Republican who wears a tie every day. Oldest daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman) is a ditzy, boy-crazy fashionista. But a mother's love knows no bounds. And so, throughout the series' seven seasons, she supported Alex through a truly harrowing speed addiction; learned to accept Mallory's motorcycle-riding, boneheaded boyfriend; punched out a teacher; and went into labor on public television — while singing a folk song, no less. And she's an architect to boot. Was there anything this former flower child couldn't do? Most impressive, however, was her miraculous ability to birth a child who ages from an infant to a four-year-old practically overnight. What other TV mom can claim that?
Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty)
The oldest Golden Girl's sage stories are legendary: They usually begin something like, ''Picture it: Sicily, 1945...'' and offer biting, oddly moralistic advice to her daughter, Dorothy (Bea Arthur), and her roommates Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Rose (Betty White). Sophia's caustic wit — paired with a when-warranted tender touch — make her one of TV's most beloved matriarchs of all time.
Nora Walker (Sally Field)
Brothers & Sisters (2006-2011)
We applaud any mother who understands how many bottles of wine it takes to get through a family dinner and plans accordingly. But Nora's greatest gift (besides her apparently hereditary wit) is her unconditional love. She was devoted to her children whether they be divorced, gay, Republican, a recovering addict, or an embezzler. And nobody loves the embezzler.
Carol Brady (Florence Henderson)
The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
This lovely lady brought up three very lovely girls (and, later, a passel of boys) — and did quite a good job, if we say so ourselves. As the female head of a very large household, Carol managed to remain a positive force during her children's angsty teen conundrums, football-related injuries and trips to Hawaii. Plus, she did so with a contagious smile and an impressively unmovable hairdo.
Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen)
Modern Family (2009-2020)
If love means never having to say you're sorry... or you're wrong, then Claire is the sheer epitome of love. But seriously, her perfectionist, know-it-all manner is simply the gift wrapping on her maternal joy.
Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman)
Desperate Housewives (2004-2011)
Of all the moms on Wisteria Lane, Lynette has always been by far the most down-to-earth and real — especially when compared to divalicious Gaby (Eva Longoria), ice-queen Bree (Marcia Cross), and clumsy-silly Susan (Teri Hatcher). We'll always love her for ruling with an iron fist, and representing good, hard-working mothers everywhere.
Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan)
The O.C. (2003-2007)
A beacon of level-headedness in a sea of cookie-cutter Orange County socialites, The O.C.'s Kirsten Cohen manages to keep it under control while taking in a troubled teen and raising him as her own, running a successful real estate business, and not sleeping with her children's boyfriends (unlike some of her neighbors). There was that whole alcoholism thing, but not to worry — she worked it out.
Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy)
Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
The widowed matriarch of the Fisher clan, mild-mannered Ruth helps her children — Nate (Peter Krause), David (Michael C. Hall), and Claire (Lauren Ambrose) — keep the family funeral home business afloat, all while dealing with their frequently traumatic goings-on. Granted, the soft-spoken and sincere Ruth isn't always so sure of herself — how else could one explain her choice in men, from happy camper Hiram (Ed Begley Jr.) to the mentally unstable George (James Cromwell)? But it's the fact that she always has her kids' best interest at heart that made us want to give her a big hug every week.
Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2001)
A vampire and a former demon mourned her death, along with millions of viewers who still tear up at the very mention of ''The Body.'' Everyone loved Joyce. And not just because she once struck Spike in the head with an axe and told him to stay the hell away from her daughter. Or because she once hooked up with ''Ripper.'' It's because she always saw the best in people and knew what mattered most, particularly when it came to Buffy: ''Principal Snyder said you're a troublemaker, and I could care less. I have a daughter who can take care of herself, who's brave and resourceful and thinks of others in a crisis. No matter who you hang out with or what dumb teenage stuff you think you need to do, I'm gonna sleep better knowing all that.'' Tissue. Now, please.
Peggy Bundy (Katey Sagal)
Married with Children (1987-1997)
With a cigarette dangling from one hand and the remote control in the other, Sagal's sex-obsessed Peggy rules the suburban middle-class wasteland that is the Bundy household. It was the actress' own idea to outfit her character in '60s- and '70s-style TV-housewife garb — a hilarious move, as it further highlighted the divide between those women's devotion to homemaking and Peg's refusal to lift a finger, lest she chip a fake nail.
Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross)
Happy Days (1974-1984)
She may not be the most modern mom on our list, but Mrs. C was just right for her place and time: 1950s Milwaukee, to be exact. With her tidy upswept 'do, crisp white apron, and prim strand of pearls, she comes from the Donna Reed school of mothering; but when the situation calls for it, she finds her edge: Who else would dare tell Fonzie to ''Sit on it''?
Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter)
Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013, 2018-2019)
Just because she's one of our favorite TV moms doesn't mean she's a good one. Not only did Lucille frame her own child in a car wreck, but she also forced her grown son to compete in Motherboy, a disturbing mother-son dress-alike competition. But how can we not love her unabashed honesty, especially when it comes to poor Tobias? In Lucille's words, ''You are a worse psychiatrist than you are a son-in-law, and you will never get work as an actor because you have no talent.'' Now ''Zip me up, Buster!'' doesn't seem quite so bad, huh?
Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe)
Everything this ice queen does is for the betterment of her kids, even when it means having her firstborn brutally beaten in a jailhouse fight. For years she manipulated everyone who stood between her and her goal — and she looked damn good doing it.
The Missing Mom
Various '80s sitcoms
Disney doesn't have a monopoly on missing maternal figures: For a while there, family sitcoms were obsessed with absent mommies. Diff'rent Strokes, Punky Brewster, Full House, My Two Dads, Blossom, The Nanny — mamas, don't let your children grow up to be TV clichés. You know, without y