TV Parents

With the recent losses of Happy Days' Tom Bosley and Leave It to Beaver's Barbara Billingsley, we're reminded of the on-screen mothers and fathers who virtually helped raise Americans. See prime time's most iconic caretakers!

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Howard & Marion Cunningham of Happy Days

Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this idealized working-class family of the 1950s and 1960s was headed by hardware salesman Howard ( Tom Bosley), and take-no-crap wife/mom/homemaker Marion (Marion Ross). The family had three biological children—Richie (Ron Howard), the show's naïve protagonist, and his younger sister Joanie (Erin Moran), and the mysterious disappearing Chuck; plus, one de facto son in ladies man Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). Howard was a laid-back father who spent most of his time reading the paper in his recliner, while Marion was quite the firecracker. She was, for example, the only one on the show allowed to call The Fonz by his real, full name. Though Bosley sadly passed away due to lung cancer this week, his fatherly archetype lives on beyond the Nick at Nite reruns. "He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten," Winkler told TMZ.

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June & Ward Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver

The Cleavers were the happily married, conventional suburban parents of the 1950s. They had two children: Wally (Tony Dow), a pre-teen who did well in school, and "Beaver" (Jerry Mathers), a trouble-making 7-year-old (when the series began). The perfectly coiffed June (Barbara Billingsley) was usually outfitted in formal, party hostess attire, and spent most of her time in the kitchen, while her husband Ward (Hugh Beaumont) was typically seen on the couch reading the local Mayfield Press and puffing a pipe. The show's formula usually involved one of the two boys—typically Beaver—causing a minor fiasco, and then being given a stern moral lecture by Ward, and a nice, hot meal courtesy of June. Sadly, the iconic TV mom passed away this week at the age of 94, but not before leaving her mark. "Her portrayal not only became a cultural touchstone," Jeff Bliss wrote for The Daily Beast, "but she also served as a strong and lasting role model."

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Homer & Marge Simpson of The Simpsons

In the fictional town of Springfield, the Simpson clan is held together by even-keeled, blue-haired matriarch Marge and constantly thrown into disarray by her husband, the lovably dim-witted (and short-fused), donut-and-beer obsessed Homer. The couple has three children—troublemaker Bart, sax-playing wunderkind Lisa, and baby Maggie. Homer and Marge represent a satirical take on the American working class, with Homer as the incompetent, pudgy, lazy worker at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and Marge as the goody two-shoes, secretly sexy homemaker who tries—usually in vain—to keep her children out of trouble.

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James & Florida Evans of Good Times

At first glance, there seems to be anything but good times at the heart of this 1970s sitcom—over the course of six seasons, the series dealt with death, evictions, gang warfare, financial problems, unemployment and discrimination. Good Times aimed to show how important family could be to make it through the tough spots—and Florida (Esther Rolle) and James (John Amos) Evans were just the right fit for that message. They had three children: teenagers J.J. (Jimmie Walker) and Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis) and pre-teen Michael (Ralph Carter). The show not only was one of the first to feature African-American family life, but it also depicted real-life problems and pressing issues of the day.

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Archie & Edith Bunker of All in the Family

Working-class World War II vet Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) was a stubborn, ignorant, equal-opportunity bigot who has a strong distaste for anyone who was not a politically conservative, straight, American WASP like himself. When his prejudiced arguments blew up in his face—as they often did—he responded by unleashing a raspberry. His wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), on the other hand, was a sweet, terribly patient and understanding woman who usually kowtowed to Archie (he often calls her a "dingbat"). But on the rare occasion when she stood up to her misguided husband, Edith revealed just how wise she really was. The couple had one child, Gloria (Sally Struthers), who often got caught in the middle of arguments between her husband, liberal-minded college student Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), and her closed-minded father, Archie.

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Dan & Roseanne Conner of Roseanne

Dan (John Goodman) and Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) Conner became household icons in 1988 when Barr's self-titled show premiered. The series featured a nuclear family that included daughters Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Alicia Goranson, Sarah Chalke), son D.J. (Michael Fishman), and Roseanne's sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). Although they often joked about abandoning their children and made sarcastic jokes at their expense, Roseanne and Dan tried to do right by their offspring. The two worked a series of blue-collar jobs throughout the show, struggling to pay their bills. Entertainment Weekly called the series, "the most groundbreaking kitchen-sink sitcom since All in the Family" and said, "Goodman's portrayal of a belching, poker-playing man's man who's a flop at breadwinning (drywaller, motorcycle-shop owner) yet a loving, sensitive husband and father has been remarkable for its thrown-away subtlety."

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Mike & Carol Brady of The Brady Brunch

The story of a lovely lady and a man named Brady was broadcast for nearly 120 episodes over five years and introduced audiences to one of the first blended families on television. The three songs of widower Mike Brady (Robert Reed) and the three daughters of widow Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) made up The Brady Bunch, which debuted in 1969, a time when divorce and blended families were sweeping the nation. But the Bradys almost never touched on any social issues—instead, the show focused on good old-fashioned family values and Mike often ended each episode with a touching lesson for his family. The series became a cultural phenomenon—running in syndication daily for nearly 40 years. Many cast members reportedly considered Reed to be like a surrogate father to them and were devastated by his death in 1992 to AIDS. Henderson, however, continues to captivate America with her far more saucy side now that she's reached 76—the former Mrs. Brady recently ended her stint on Dancing With the Stars.

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Murphy Brown of Murphy Brown

In perhaps one of the most metaphysical moments of a U.S. presidential campaign, prime-time hit series Murphy Brown became the subject of a 1992 campaign speech by Vice President Dan Quayle. Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) spent the show's first three seasons as a single, hard-nosed television reporter, but the creators made the controversial decision to have her become pregnant in the series' fourth season. The father of her baby, her ex, chose not to change his lifestyle and left her alone to raise their child. Quayle criticized the show, calling Murphy "a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of a father, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another "' lifestyle choice.'" The controversy spread like wildfire, with Hillary Clinton speaking out against Quayle. The show aired a one-hour special responding to his comments titled " Murphy's Revenge". Where would Lorelai Gilmore have been without Murphy?

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George & Louise Jefferson of The Jeffersons

George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford) Jefferson reared their family only a few years before the Huxtables on The Cosby Show, and although they were located on the other side of the East River in New York, they occupied a completely different universe. The Jeffersons was a spinoff of All In the Family, where the couple were the Bunkers' upwardly mobile black neighbors in working-class Queens. But George hit it big and the family moved on up to Manhattan's storied Upper East Side for the spin-off. With their son Lionel (Mike Evans, Damon Evans), the Jeffersons brought their working-class values to the neighborhood—George was often called a black Archie Bunker, invoking similar family values to his predecessor's. Still, son Lionel survived and eventually became successful in business.

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Al & Peggy Bundy of Married… With Children

Fed up with traditional "perfect" families on television, TV creators Michael Moye and Robert Leavitt used their "anti-family" approach for Married … With Children in 1987. Al (Ed O'Neill) and Peggy Bundy (Katey Sagal) were nothing like their television comrades. Trapped in a loveless marriage, shoe salesman Al often said he was forced to marry by Peggy's father and his shotgun. He spent most of his time in front of the TV or trying to think up get-rich-quick schemes, all of which failed. Peggy refused to work or cook and often let her family (which included daughter Kelly and son Bud) go hungry as a result. The Bundy motto? "When one of us is embarrassed, the others feel better about ourselves." The show premiered on the then-little-known Fox network, didn't develop much of a following—until one Michigan housewife organized a boycott and attempted to get the show canceled. But, her plan backfired when the boycott brought more attention to the series, proving there's no such thing as bad publicity for a show about bad taste.

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Elyse & Steven Keaton of Family Ties

"Hip parents, square kids" was the tagline for Family Ties, the 1980s sitcom of the seemingly traditional family with Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter) Keaton at the helm. But the roles were reversed for the Keatons: Steven and Elyse were hippie rebels, while son Alex P. (Michael J. Fox) and daughters Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer (Tina Yothers) were conservative and traditional. The kids often mocked their parents' idealism, but the show featured lessons that were rooted in family togetherness. Alex, a Reagan Republican, emerged as the star of the show after only a few episodes—and the type of values were so widespread that the show became a favorite of President Ronald Reagan himself.

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Cliff & Clair Huxtable of The Cosby Show

The Huxtables were emblems of the perfect parents: doctor Cliff (Bill Cosby) and lawyer Clair (Phylicia Rashad) were professionally successful, but still made time for their family. They had five children—daughters Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam) and son Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). The show was not only one of most successful television shows of all time, it was also groundbreaking for its portrayal of an upper-middle-class African-American family. The problems the Huxtables faced were most often those of upper-class Americans—for example, Denise decided college was not the right fit for her, and Theo suffered from dyslexia. Cosby based the show off of his comedy routine about being a father of four daughters and a son.


Cameron Tucker & Mitchell Pritchett of Modern Family

When Modern Family debuted in 2009, it was hailed as one of the best new shows of the season—and it highlighted all the trappings of a family unit in the 21st century. In the first episode, Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) adopted a Vietnamese baby girl and named her Lily. voted Cameron and Mitchell two of TV's current best dads and the couple has found a balance between their polar-opposite personalities in order to raise their daughter. With legendary TV dad Ed O'Neill playing Mitch's father, the hit series is following Married… With Children's example by painting a new picture of family. PopEater says Mitch and Cam "represent one case in which television has crafted a couple that is both relatable and ultimately realistic, no matter your sexual preference."