When I was a kid, my mom often complained about the shows my sisters and I watched. “The mom is always dead!” she’d say. And she wasn’t wrong. From Full House to Punky Brewster, the mom never seemed to be in the picture when it came to television.
But while mothers might have been missing from a lot of ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of our cultural landscape. So in honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday (and my own mom!), here are 10 of the coolest moms on TV:
1. Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
You can’t have a cool-mom list without including Lorelai; her relationship with her daughter Rory is envied by mothers everywhere. Lauren Graham’s fast-talking charm only adds to her character’s popularity. And while Lorelai might have struggled with mother-daughter boundaries, she will forever be one of the coolest moms of all time.
2. Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development
Look, I didn’t say this list was about good moms, just cool ones. And Lucille is definitely cool. Jessica Walter is perfect as the boozy, smothering, insult-wielding matriarch to the Bluth family. Sure, she won’t win any mother-of-the-year awards, but she’s certainly entertaining.
3. Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights
Tami and her husband Coach Eric Taylor have one of those realistic and special TV relationships that leave the rest of us with serious marriage-envy. Tami, played by the always amazing Connie Britton, is strong, sensitive, and loving without coming off as cheesy. Even when her daughter Julie is being annoying (seriously, why is Julie always so annoying?), Tami handles it with grace.
4. Morticia Addams, The Addams Family
Sure, she bought her kids dynamite and encouraged casual torture, but Morticia proved that moms don’t have to be wholesome to be awesome. In a time when most television mothers resembled June Cleaver, Carolyn Jones’s Morticia reinvented the mold when it came to cool moms on TV.
5. Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat
If you aren’t watching Fresh Off the Boat, then you’re seriously missing out. This year’s breakout sitcom is funny, original, and Constance Wu shines as self-described Tiger Mom Jessica. She’s tough, hilarious, and loving (in her own way). The show isn’t afraid to showcase her faults and her strengths, and the result is one of the strongest – and coolest – moms currently on TV.
6. Lois, Malcolm in the Middle
Sometimes being a cool mom is recognizing that your kids aren’t perfect little angels – and no one knows this better than Lois. Jane Kaczmarek’s portrayal of the high-strung but practical mom to four troublemaking boys is consistently hilarious. Those kids can’t get away with anything.
7. Harriette Winslow, Family Matters
Any child of the ‘90s remembers TGIF, and Family Matters was a Friday night must-watch. And who didn’t love Harriette Winslow, the no-nonsense, cool-headed foil to her more, uh, emotional husband Carl. While he’s busy losing his mind over Steve Urkel’s hijinks, Jo Marie Payton’s Harriette is rolling her eyes in the background.
8. Kitty Forman, That 70’s Show
That laugh! Kitty’s perpetually sunny attitude is the perfect foil to her husband Red’s gruff disposition. Debra Jo Rupp could have made Kitty just a ditzy, happy-go-lucky mother to Eric, but her comedic timing and hidden depth created a TV mom that is definitely one of the coolest around.
9. Sophia Petrolli, The Golden Girls
Who wouldn’t want to be the wise-cracking, sharp-as-a-tack Sophia when they get older? Disarmingly honest and too old not to speak her mind, Estelle Getty’s Sophia is pretty much the best part of The Golden Girls.
10. Roseanne Conner, Roseanne
Despite its backstage drama, Roseanne stands up as one of the best sitcoms of all time. The family dynamics are hilarious while still seeming realistic, and Roseanne Barr is an underrated comedic treasure. As a mother Roseanne is tough, smart, honest and sassy, with her own brand of familial love. Definitely a cool mom – even if the “winning the lottery” storyline in season 9 did get a little bonkers.
Who’s your favorite TV mom? Did we forget anyone you love? Let us know in the comments!
Relevant Reading: We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen (Sarah Crichton Books, 2012)
If your mother has always been interested in television, and particularly the rise of women on the screen, she’ll love this book. Chronicling the revolution that began in the 1950s “when comic success meant ridiculing and desexualizing yourself,” this fascinating history of comediennes is filled with legendary names. From Elaine May and Lily Tomlin to Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman, women have been making strides in comedy entertainment for decades. We wouldn’t have some of the ladies in this list without these trailblazers!