16 Legendary TV Moms We Admire for Always Keeping It Real

Jacqueline Burt Cote | Oct 25, 2016 TV

roseanneSome iconic TV moms are memorable because they fulfilled our childhood fantasies: They were the perfectly cheerful types who always had a tray of freshly baked cookies and never let the house get even the tiniest bit untidy. Our favorite TV moms, however, were way more relatable: Gritty, no-nonsense ladies who could shut down a rebellious kid or a clueless husband with little more than a look -- and who were more likely to call for takeout than cook a meal from scratch (without burning it, that is). 

They're the classic characters who inspired such current small-screen matriarchs as those found on American Housewife and Modern Family. And, even though their shows have been off the air for years, we still channel them when we need a little parenting inspiration (and we still stream them when we need a laugh!). 

 

Image via ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

  • Elyse Keaton

    1

    Baby boomer mom Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) had a lot on her plate in Family Ties -- and by a lot we're mostly talking about her conservative, Reagan-loving son (Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton). Still, she stayed true to her hippie ideals no matter what she had to deal with -- even her alcoholic, vanilla extract–drinking brother (so memorably played by Tom Hanks)!

  • Clair Huxtable

    2

    It's a shame that we'll never be able to enjoy The Cosby Show in quite the same way ever again. But we will always admire Phylicia Rashad's brilliant portrayal of OG no-nonsense working mom Claire Huxtable, who still gives us #ParentingGoals!

  • Roseanne Conner

    3

    Roseanne Barr gave overworked, underappreciated women everywhere a voice (and a snarky one at that) as the title character in Roseanne. Admit it, you've used this memorable line on your own children: "This is why some animals eat their young."

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  • Peggy Bundy

    4

    Katey Sagal turned the dutiful mother and housewife stereotype upside down -- and then stepped on it and set it on fire -- in her role as Married With Children's Peggy Bundy. Cooking? Nah. Cleaning? Definitely no. Getting off the couch? Maybe tomorrow. (But probably not.)

  • Kate McArdle and Allie Lowell

    5

    As single moms (and BFFs), Kate McArdle (Susan Saint James) and Allie Lowell (Jane Curtin) both kept it admirably real in Kate & Allie -- just in two very different ways. Parenting: It's all about the yin and the yang!

  • Angela Bower

    6

    In Who's the Boss?, single professional mom Angela Bower (played by the talented Judith Light) proved that simply bringing home the bacon is enough -- especially when you've got a guy like Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) around to fry it up in a pan.

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  • Ann Romano

    7

    One Day at a Time's Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) was a pretty progressive character back in the day: a divorced mom making her way in the world with two teenage daughters ... and a really weirdo handyman. As the theme song goes: "So up on your feet. Up on your feet! Somewhere there's music playing. Don't you worry none, we'll just take it like it comes."

  • Sophia Petrillo

    8

    Proof that parenting is a job that never ends, The Golden Girls' Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) never stopped giving her daughter Dorothy (and her pals) unflinching old-school advice. Who needs a filter? Certainly not Sophia.

  • Maggie Seaver

    9

    Nobody's ever grounded a kid with quite so much panache as working mom Maggie Seaver (Joanna Kerns). Sure, she could get a little flustered, but at the end of the day we all know who ran that Growing Pains household ... and it sure wasn't Alan Thicke.

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  • Marge Simpson

    10

    A photo posted by Gramps McPauley (@bluecammo) on

    Okay, fine, Marge (with the voice of Julie Kavner) is a Simpsons cartoon character. But she also said stuff like this to her kid:

    Lisa, I apologize to you. I was wrong, I take it all back. Always be yourself. If you want to be sad, honey, be sad. We'll ride it out with you, and when you get finished feeling sad, we'll still be there. From now on, let me do the smiling for both of us.

    Blue hair, don't care!

  • Caroline Ingalls

    11

    Life on Little House on the Prairie was no joke: If your Ma was Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle), it wasn't enough to get all your chores done -- you also actually had to be a good person, because she would say things like "When you love somebody, it's worth putting your pride behind you," and "I hope that being right is enough for you, because you sure are paying a high price for it." (No pressure, sheesh!) Oh, and the way she dealt with haters like Mrs. Oleson? Pure class.

  • Mrs. Garrett

    12

    Technically, Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) wasn't a mom -- but she was the closest thing Jo, Blair, Natalie, and Tootie had to a mother for most of the year in The Facts of Life. Luckily she could handle just about anything, from risqué modeling gigs to underage drinking to Jermaine Jackson obsessions (and so much more).

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  • Florida Evans

    13

    A photo posted by Edward Otto Zielke (@edwoz) on

    Raising a family in the Chicago projects wasn't easy for Good Times' Florida Evans (Esther Rolle), but she was keeping her head above water, you know? And she was making a wave when she could. (Except sometimes, like when she got the heartbreaking news that her husband died, she had to just throw her hands in the air and say, "Damn, damn, damn!")

  • Thelma Harper

    14

    Let's just say that Mama Harper (Vicki Lawrence) didn't suffer fools gladly in Mama's Family, a spin-off of The Carol Burnett Show. Because if you did something foolish (which, unfortunately, her family members did in almost every episode), she would most certainly tell you so: "You ain't right in the head! I think somebody blew your pilot light out." 

  • Alice Hyatt

    15

    Make no mistake, Linda Lavin had some serious pluck as the title character in Alice: A recently widowed aspiring singer starts a whole new life with her son as a waitress at a greasy spoon? Kiss her grits! (Oh wait, that was her friend Flo's catchphrase.) But whether she was dealing with her son Tommy or difficult customers at Mel's Diner, she always had a snappy comeback at the ready. Like the song says, there's a new girl in town, and she's looking good! 

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