Some moms bake apple pie—others use their kids as paths to power, slap them, and have public meltdowns. From Betty Draper to Vivian Banks, TV’s perfect and not-so-perfect mothers.
Selina Meyer (Veep)
It's not easy being a mom, especially when you're the veep. And you're mulling a run for president. And you can't have your daughter's boyfriend factor into the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Betty Draper (Mad Men)
Some mothers yell when their kids won’t eat their vegetables. Mad Men’s Betty Draper goes postal. From stuffing sweet potatoes in her daughter’s mouth to slapping her when she cuts her own hair, it’s easy to wonder why this “perfect” '60s housewife had children in the first place.
Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Cersei Lannister is an evil queen of the highest order. The wicked matriarch was married to the late King Robert Baratheon, but carried on a relationship with her twin brother Jaime Lannister. She lied to install her son Joffrey on the throne when he was 13 years old, and misled all her children, never revealing to them that the man they think is their uncle is actually their father.
Skyler White (Breaking Bad)
From the beginning, this high-drama mama wanted to be a good mother and keep her family together—no easy task with Walt around, her lying and drug-producing husband. She's a protective mother with good intentions and despite her illegal behaviors, her true goal of protecting her son from knowing his dad is a criminal is admirable.
Claire Dunphy (Modern Family)
This eccentric soccer mom shows that it’s OK for moms to mess up sometimes—even often. From working through elections to crusading for a stop sign, at the end of the day a life lesson has usually been learned and the family loves each other all the more.
Vivian Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
This ’90s mother tried her best to raise her children to be respectable citizens, but her nephew made it nearly impossible. Being called on to bail Will and Carlton out of jail was only one of many examples.
Victoria Grayson (Revenge)
A Hamptons mother who just wants to live the good life, Victoria can't seem to escape her shady past. And lines like “Sometimes I wonder if having a second child was a mistake” won't win her Mother of the Year.
Kourtney Kardashian (Keeping Up With the Kardashians)
Lily Rhodes, a.k.a. Lily Woodsen, a.k.a. Lily Bass, a.k.a. Lily Humphrey (Gossip Girl)
The diva is on her third marriage and gets richer with each divorce. And although she's not the perfect role model—she was under house arrest earlier this season—everything she does is to protect her two children, Serena and Eric, and, just as fiercely, her inheritance money.
Amy Matthews (Boy Meets World)
With two teenage boys, Mrs. Matthews has a lot to laugh off as she works to tame her crazy son Eric, uplift/inspire her thoughtful son Cory, teach her little girl Morgan, and care for her newborn son Joshua.
Marion Cunningham (Happy Days)
Marion Cunningham—or “Mrs. C” as the Fonz kindly refers to her—was the picture perfect mid-20th-century housewife on Happy Days. Unlike Betty Draper, Marion’s appearance was not just an act: she was always there to lend an ear or an after-school snack to her son Richie (Ron Howard) and his friends. Marion was so lovely, in fact, we’re willing to ignore the fact that she let her oldest son Chuck simply vanish early on in the show's run. The disappearance coined the term, “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome,” which refers to when a TV child abruptly departs from the series without any explanation.
Teresa Giudice (The Real Housewives of New Jersey)
No one could ever accuse the stars of Bravo’s hit series The Real Housewives of New Jersey of being classy, so you almost have to admire Teresa for being able to snag the dubious honor of trashiest housewife to date. To wit—it’s probably not in the best of taste to invite your friend Danielle over for a dinner party, call her a “prostitution whore,” and try to flip over the dinner table…all in front of her horrified children.
Roseanne Conner (Roseanne)
Putting aside Roseanne Barr’s off-screen antics for a moment (though we admit her infamous rendition of the National Anthem certainly stays with you…), it’s hard to think of another TV mom who better represents real American moms, flaws and all.
Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show)
Clair Huxtable was not only the perfect mom, but also a great role model as someone who never sacrificed either her career as a high-power lawyer or her family life. And how was she repaid? All the Jell-O Pudding Pops she could eat.
Irina Derevko (Alias)
Irina Derevko, mother of Jennifer Garner’s superspy Sydney Bristow, has to win some kind of anti–Mother of the Century award for faking her death, spying for the KGB, plotting world domination, and—oh yes—shooting her own daughter. Which probably made family reunions slightly awkward.
Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest)
Fine, Mommie Dearest isn’t a television show, but let’s face it—Faye Dunaway’s electric turn as the worst mother ever transcends all mediums. Watch this clip, then send a bouquet of flowers to the nonpsychotic mother figure in your life.
Marge Simpson (The Simpsons)
Homer Simpson once called television “teacher, mother, secret lover.” We’re not necessarily on board with that last one, but as far as mother, think about it—there’s an entire generation of Americans who can’t remember a time when Marge wasn’t presiding over the unruly Simpsons clan, and with the show in perpetual reruns, who knows how many more generations will be raised under the shade of her iconic tower of blue hair.
Joyce Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
When your daughter’s extracurricular activities tend more toward demon-slaying than cheerleading, what do you do? If you’re Buffy’s mom, you live in denial for as long as you can, then you jump right into the fray yourself.
Morticia Addams (The Addams Family)
Most moms who condone torture and murder would get the “bad mommy” label, but for Morticia Addams, that’s just keeping up the family morale.
Nancy Botwin (Weeds)
When Nancy’s husband died, she did what any other caring mother would do—started selling pot to keep up her family’s affluent lifestyle. What, Nordstrom’s wasn’t hiring? In this clip, Nancy struggles to have the most awkward birds-and-bees conversation in the history of ever.
Lorelai and Emily Gilmore (The Gilmore Girls)
The title Gilmore Girls referred to the enviably close and quirky relationship between single mother Lorelai and her teenage daughter Rory, but we were more interested in the strained (and strange) dynamic between Lorelai and her seemingly frosty society doyenne mother, Emily.
Peggy Bundy (Married With Children)
Though we definitely wouldn’t want selfish, childish, surly Peggy Bundy as a mother, we’re more than happy to watch reruns of Katey Sagal’s uproarious performance in Married With Children. But don’t be fooled, her tight-pants-and-high-hair look wasn’t stylish, even in 1987.
Lucille Bluth (Arrested Development)
A clan as dysfunctional as Arrested Development’s Bluths would have to be headed up by an equally dysfunctional matriarch, and Lucille Bluth absolutely fit the bill. Alcoholic, narcissistic, self-involved… and did we mention hilarious?
Dina Lohan (Living Lohan)
Dina Lohan, mother to Lindsay, isn’t a fictional creation… we think. But she became a TV mom after inking a deal that dragged her remaining children (you know, the ones who haven’t yet been arrested for DUI) into the spotlight with the reality show Living Lohan. Opportunistic, self-centered—no one could actually write a worse TV mom.