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The Best TV Moms

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Highlighting the Greatest Mothers in Television History

Mothers are all over the small screen, and they have been since the beginning of television, so today, we will count down our picks for the best TV moms in history. The moms on our list come from all eras of television from beginning to end. They encompass the TV women who have helped raise children in their own families and on the other side of the screen. So, to celebrate these characters and wonderful mothers everywhere, let’s talk about why these ladies are our favorites.

9. Marion Cunningham – Happy Days

Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross) was a 50s mom whose face was rarely seen without a smile, and not in a false way–she was just a happy lady! Marion loved her kids and offered them all the love in the world. She even unofficially adopted Fonzie (Henry Winkler) or “Arthur” and treated him like her son. Marion offered this too-cool biker as much love as her own children and, as a result, won his love in return. Marion loved her kids, but they were often so great that she didn’t have to do too much parenting, which freed her up to be a funny, fun-loving lady. Nor did Marion’s life end with her children or husband. She loved to dance and had interests of her own, and, at a couple of points, made it very clear to her family that she was not their servant but a free-thinking and acting individual, despite the systematic sexism of her world.

8. Jessica Huang – Fresh Off the Boat 

Jessica Huang

Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) wanted her kids to find success in life, no matter what. She had all of their lives planned to the peak level of success, which didn’t exactly take their opinions into account and wasn’t necessarily what was best for them, but it at least showed her pride in her children and her high hopes for them and what they could achieve. This also means that she was a good disciplinarian and wouldn’t let her kids stray too far from a respectable path, which is a good thing, especially these days. Jessica can be a lot at times, but this hilarious mom could also see when she was wrong and when her kids needed a little leeway to be themselves, even though this could be difficult for her to swallow at times. Jessica also just wanted to spend time with her boys. When the world moved too quickly, she just wanted to take some time and spend it with them

7. Carol Brady – The Brady Bunch

Carol Brady

Carol (Florence Henderson), a single mom with three daughters, remarried Mike Brady, a single dad with three sons, to create their big, loving family, The Brady Bunch. Aside from making six lunches with Alice (Ann B. Davis) at her side, Carol was a wonderful mother who cared for all her children equally–stepchildren or not. She was kind but fair, wanting to understand her children’s problems, but she knew when it was time to ground someone. Carol worried about her children as she worried about Greg playing football, but she could be persuaded to let them explore their interests anyway because she knew they loved it. Possibly this is because Carol had so many interests of her own. From sculpting to dancing and singing to social activism, Carol Brady demonstrated to her kids that various interests and activities are good. Carol Brady was a stay-at-home mom, and on top of taking care of the kids, she always kept her own interests alive

6. Dr. Rainbow Johnson – Black-ish 

Rainbow Johnson

Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) was a fun-loving, light-hearted mom who kept things real and told her kids. This down-to-earth matriarch understood that yelling is rarely the best tool in the disciplinary toolbelt and that reasoning with her children is often more effective. She loved her kids but had no trouble telling them when they were wrong or needed to give other people a little more respect. When Junior (Marcus Scribner) felt bad for himself because his girlfriend was going away to Yale, she was there to teach him that when you love somebody, you have to have their best interests at heart. This is the law by which Bow mothers. She “cut the cord” with Junior even though it hurt her, but she knew it was best for him. Bow also displayed that she could have it all as a mother of five. She was a doctor, had an incredible fashion sense, and was one of the best mothers on TV.

5. Elyse Keaton – Family Ties 

Family Ties

Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) was a feminist, social activist, architect, and an incredible mom. Elyse and her husband Steven (Michael Gross) were generally calm and highly tolerant of their three frequently shallow children. Still, they were also focused on pushing their children to do their best in school and in their kindness to others. That being said, Elyse didn’t have unrealistic expectations for her kids and just wanted them to be themselves. Even though Mallory’s (Justine Bateman) boyfriend Nick (Scott Valentine) was less than ideal, she always found it in her heart to be kind to him and to welcome him into the family, even when Steven did not. Elyse didn’t demand too much from her kids, but in “It’s My Party,” Elyse lost her temper with Jennifer’s (Tina Yothers) blatant disrespect and disregard for other people. Jennifer was not being herself and was instead running with a mean-girl crew. This sort of thing would make Elyse step in and ground her daughter. 

4. Catelyn Stark – Game of Thrones

Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) was a stern but caring mother whose goal was always to protect her family. The only child she could not love was Jon Snow, and let’s face it, this is understandable since he was an ever-present symbol of her honorable husband’s supposed infidelity. But outside of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), whose bedside she did sit at when he was ill, Catelyn’s ferocious love for her children drives her and keeps her strong even after her husband’s death. Catelyn sticks by Robb’s (Richard Madden) side, advising him in war. She continues to give sage advice, even when it isn’t what Robb wants to hear, like when she foresees that Robb marrying to follow his heart will be their downfall. Catelyn also ignores the war effort if it means safety for her children. In an attempt to save Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) from doom, she makes a deal with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). She releases him from Robb’s captivity in order to see her daughter’s return. Catelyn is wise, fair, loving, and an all-around great mother.

3. Clair Huxtable – The Cosby Show

Claire Huxtable

Clair Huxtable was the original working mom. Even though their show was sullied by the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, it doesn’t change the fact that Clair Huxtable was the epitome of the modern mother. Clair was a mother of five but was also a Black lawyer in the 80s and was incredibly successful. She was clever, stylish, and hilarious. She was a great disciplinarian when her kids needed it, but she was also always ready to play. Not to mention, she had the best smile on TV. By words and example, Clair showed her children that they could have it all, be anything they wanted, and achieve incredible things. Clair’s character was about displaying that a mother can work and parent and should never feel guilty about that fact. Plus, she was still kind and caring and always there for her children. Indeed, Clair Huxtable could do it all. 

2. June Cleaver – Leave it to Beaver

June Cleaver

June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) may have represented the typical 50s mom, dressed in high heels and perfectly cut dresses. Her slender figure and blonde hair were the envy of all, and her primary roles around the house were to cook and clean. Even though this image isn’t exactly the most feminist representation of women, there is no doubt that June Cleaver was an incredible TV mom. She was friends with her kids, caring deeply for them and able to smile and laugh along with their quirks where father Ward (Hugh Beaumont) was unable. June did not yell but parented through love alone, and her Wally (Tony Dow) and the Beaver (Jerry Mathers) always wanted to please her. 

Additionally, whenever discipline was necessary, and Ward was either going to attempt to trick his children into some screw-up so he could catch them doing something wrong or just go upstairs and yell at them relentlessly without much cause, June always advocated for her boys, assuming the best of them and attempting to soften Ward when she knew he was wrong. June also always wanted to know why her boys chose a particular action if they did something wrong. She never assumed they just did it because they were bad. She knew she had good, kind children and was always around to offer them a smile, a hug, and a line of reason and defense against their quick-to-anger father.

1. Caroline Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie

Little House

Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle) is the best mother in television history. Caroline’s tiny country house was always packed with children; whether adopted or biologically hers, she loved them all equally. Caroline was a lot more than the prairie wife. She was a kind and loving mother, always kept on her toes by her children, her hot-headed husband, and her less-than-ideal circumstances. But Caroline never let anything get her down or get in her way. When the family needed more money, she was wise enough to know that she needed to swallow her pride and take a job working for Nellie Oleson (Allison Arngrim). When Mary’s blind school needed money to move to a new building, she increased her hours and took part ownership in the company. When their land needed to be farmed and Charles (Michael Landon) was away, Caroline got it done.

This hard-working lady was a cool-headed, rational, calm presence who did what needed to be done and stuck to the highest morals. Where Charles was frequently caught up in anger or pride, Caroline was there to talk some sense into him. And in addition to all that, Caroline gave the best advice in television history. Caroline was always right on the mark, explaining their hang-up to her kids and husband when they didn’t know themselves. Her kind heart, impeccable moral sense, rational mind, hard-working spirit, and endlessly sage advice made Caroline Ingalls the best mother if not the best parent in television history.


Little House on the Prairie 1974 NBC Remastered Trailer

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Source: Dead Talk Live

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Syd Sukalski
Syd Sukalski attends Sarah Lawrence College and studies television writing and production and fiction writing. Syd aspires to write novels that she will adapt into a television series. She recently finished a draft of her first novel and is hard at work on her second.