TV

Mom's the word! TV's greatest mothers -- and a few who need retraining

May 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM ET

Ah, Mother's Day. Have your flowers? A card? Dinner reservations? Well, if you'd been brought up by some of TV's best mother figures, you'd be all prepared for Sunday.

On the other hand, there are some TV mamas out there who never got the memo on raising kids right. According to a recent Harris Poll, June Cleaver (of "Leave it to Beaver") may remain the iconic image of television motherhood -- she's topped their list for the second year in a row, followed by "The Cosby Show's" Clair Huxtable and "The Brady Bunch's" Carol Brady -- but we came up with our own list of favorites. Plus a few whose methods leave much to be desired.

Enjoy, and call your mother!

The Best

Clair Huxtable, 'The Cosby Show'

She hasn't been on TV for 20 years, but her shoulder-padded, 1980s-jumpsuit-rocking self remains the mom who tops all moms, the queen who will never be dethroned. She was beautiful, yes, and had an angel’s voice (just watch her sing solo in the “Hillman” episode). She was smart -- though we didn’t see as much of Clair’s lawyering as we did Cliff’s baby-delivering -- and she could take down Theo’s junior-high bluster with the same devastating debate tactics you imagine she used in the courtroom. She loved her kids like a lioness, but was never afraid to tell them when they were being idiots. And that went for their significant others, too -- Sondra’s bozo boyfriend-eventual-husband Elvin learned quickly never to make assumptions around his soon-to-be mother-in-law, as in a classic clip where Clair explained the give-and-take of marriage while at the same time blasting his anti-feminist attitudes. Do not mess with Queen Clair. -- Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Roseanne Conner, 'Roseanne'

With her loud mouth, blue-collar clothing and no-nonsense attitude, Roseanne Conner was certainly no June Cleaver. Yet like the idyllic TV moms that came before her, Roseanne was attentive, caring and would do anything necessary to take care of her family, whether that meant taking a mind-numbing job at a plastics factory or wearing a ridiculous waitress outfit to serve burgers at the mall. She gave everything she had to her family, including the occasional snide remark or snarky comment, and made sure they knew they were loved, as in the "Mall Story" episode, episode where she explained to Becky that they couldn't afford an expensive dress for her to wear to the dance ... and then got Dan to return a pair of shoes he spent the day shopping for so that ultimately they could pony up for Becky's special night. -- Ashley Majeski

Tami Taylor, 'Friday Night Lights'

Tami made all women look bad because she was so gosh-darned perfect. As the loyal, loving wife of a high school football coach, Tami was the heart and soul of her household and a generous mother who always put her two daughters first -- and backed them all the way. When she took daughter Julie to visit Boston College and Julie snapped that it was Tami's dream, not her own, Tami reminded her that her dream already came through because she had her family. Beautiful, sexy, witty and always present, Tami is the one Taylor the household never could do without. -- Maria Elena Fernandez

Kristina Braverman, 'Parenthood'

Kristina Braverman's valiant fight against cancer this season only served to show what an amazing mother she is. Despite rigorous chemotherapy treatments and a life-or-death struggle in the hospital, Kristina made sure her eldest daughter was worry-free at college, her autistic son got some undevoted attention, and her baby girl got plenty of cuddle time. Kristina is the epitome of a selfless mother who loves unconditionally. -- MEF

Alicia Florrick, 'The Good Wife'

Despite the show's name, "The Good Wife" is also about a good mom in Alicia Florrick, who has proved to be a terrific role model for her two teenaged children. After being cheated on, she dusted off her law degree, got a job and in a matter of years was made partner at her firm. But beyond that, she's a mom who actually listens to her kids and treats them -- however hesitantly -- like the adults they're slowly becoming. When her daughter Grace develops an interest in religion, she's not thrilled but keeps a watchful eye to ensure it doesn't turn into a cultlike devotion, and when her son Zach stands up to a corrupt police officer she's there to back him all the way into court. -- Randee Dawn

The Not-So-Good

Gemma Teller Morrow, 'Sons of Anarchy'

Oh sure, Gemma may have killed Jax's dad, but she had her reasons. (At least, better reasons than Queen Gertrude in "Hamlet," on which "Sons" is loosely based.) Jax wouldn't be president of SAMCRO without its matriarch's help, and her mama grizzly protectiveness extends to her grandsons. Her methods may be unorthodox (like forcing Jax's baby mama to attempt suicide), but no one can question her fierce devotion to her family. -- Dru Moorhouse

Betty Francis, 'Mad Men'

Let's be real: Betty Draper Francis will never win the Mother-of-the-Year Award. That was established early in season one, when she expressed more concern about her clothes than her daughter potentially suffocating in a dry cleaning bag. She's selfish, childlike and connects more deeply with other children (like the creepy Glen) than her own. However, as January Jones told TODAY before the start of season six, Betty and Sally shared a "very sweet" moment last season, "when Sally got her period and she went to her mother. You see that they do have a connection -- it's just a work in progress." -- DM

Sarah Linden, 'The Killing'


Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) from "The Killing."
Frank Ockenfels / AMC
Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) from "The Killing."

Clap. Clap. Clap. Linden, you are unofficially the the worst mother currently on scripted TV. For this obsessed detective, the job always came first, and she routinely handed off her son to anyone who would have him. As a single mom she always ensured Jack had some kind of shelter (even if it's a shabby hotel) and food (even if it came out of a snack machine). Fortunately (for Jack's sake), her routine neglect -- including abandoning the 13-year-old alone at a motel with a 103-degree fever -- will apparently find her losing custody in the upcoming third season. -- DM

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