As much as we love our own parents, turning on the television and escaping into the lives of America’s greatest families was the ultimate salvation sometimes. Some of the greatest tv parents made us want to model ourselves after their characters and gave us a break the tedious troubles of reality. Whether they’ve passed on or just don’t grace our small screens anymore, these are tv parents we miss the most.
If you don’t miss the subtle charm and words of wisdom that came from the most loyal tv dad of all time, then we don’t think you payed enough attention to Full House every week. Danny Tanner may have been a little nauseating at times, but he was the perfect remedy for his audience’s sweet tooth. He loved his girls unconditionally and always put them first, even if it meant putting his own love life on hold and tending to their needs first. Besides, we think it’s a hoot that in real life Bob Saget is the opposite of his tv dad character – rude, crude, and all-around inappropriate!
Peggy Bundy was the coolest mom on the block. She was racy, controversial, and rocked her own personal style until the day Married… With Children was unjustly cancelled. We loved Peggy’s satirical contrast to the classic television moms of the 1960’s, even if she wasn’t necessarily the best role model for young women. However, at the end of the day, she loved her children dearly and was ridiculously faithful to her husband, and showed them in her own special way that she truly did care and needed them more than anyone else.
Let’s go back to a time when the name Bill Cosby wasn’t a social taboo. One of the most endearing tv dads of all time, Heathcliff Huxtable, knew just how to make a point to his children when they didn’t want to listen the old-fashioned way. He had a creative way with words and instilled the values of work ethic and moral responsibility in his children, even if he wasn’t exactly what you’d call “fashion forward.” His crazy sweaters and cartoon voices melted our hearts, but what we cherished the most was his insatiable craving for his wife and best friend, Claire Huxtable. Those two were the definition of relationship goals.
Carol Brady was the “hot mom” of the 1970’s. She was blonde, stylish, and strong. The character of Carol was bullied as a child, lost her husband in a freak accident (though, we don’t find this out in the series’ run), and raised 6 children before becoming a real estate agent in the sequels. Carol was a woman of her time, but she had that special bit of extra charm no other tv mom of the 70’s had. Sure, the Brady’s may have been a little too corny for us sometimes, but that’s what we loved about them. We’ll miss Carol Brady on our small screen and in real life – Rest in peace, Florence Henderson.
Roseanne Barr played one of the most controversial tv moms of all time. The hit-show Roseanne ran for 10 years and Roseanne was the tv mom to turn to when you needed to deal with life’s most stressful problems. She overcame poverty, addressed human sexuality and teenage drug use, and took any of the show’s characters when they had no place to go. She was a sarcastic, imperfect, and at times rather difficult person, but she showed just how hard motherhood can be while loving her family to the ends of the earth. Except for her mother, but who didn’t have a problem with Bev?
We’re movin’ up to the Jeffersons! George Jefferson was a clever and ambitious, hard-working father and husband. Sure, he made you want to pull the hair out of your head on a rare occasion (or two), but his opinionated and over-zealous nature was what made him the tv dad we all grew to love. Over the years, we watched George transform from a stubborn, sometimes rude man and into a softer, more accepting person that could maintain friendships and share his success. We like to think his wife, Weezy, had something to do with the eventual change of heart.
Wow, Morticia Addams. If ever a black rose ever smelled as sweet, it was certainly Morticia. The Addams family stepped on the small screen scene in 1964 gave audiences everywhere a breath of fresh air… although, Morticia would probably rather see us choke on gassy fumes. Regardless. Morticia was the sensitive, eccentrically morbid and darkly unique tv mother we wish we had every year on Halloween. It’s impossible not to admire her glamorous style and mysterious poise, but she’s truly one of kind for her devotion to her children and husband. She also puts the perfect spin on being a witch – perhaps, the best contrast to Bewitched character, Samantha Stephens.
Now that the world has binge-watched the Netflix revival of The Gilmore Girls and presumably finished it within the span of a day, we can go back to missing Lorelei Gilmore now. Lorelai is the spit-fire best friend you always craved in your own mother, not that we don’t already love our own an exhausting amount. But, there’s something about the quick-witted and non-judgemental Lorelai that makes us want to embody her when we have children of our own. She’s also reformed rebel, who owns a successful business and that just makes us worship her more.
Where do we begin with Kitty Forman? Kitty is our drunk mother on Christmas, except she stays that way year round and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Kitty is overly-supportive, gives entirely way too much information (all the time), and worries way too much about pretty much everything. In other words, she’s the perfect tv mother with an endless amount of entertainment value. Our favorite thing about Kitty is that she’s always on her children’s side, no matter how bad they mess up. She continuously roots for her children when they oppose Red, her foot-in-the-butt kicking husband, and we have to give her props for that. She’s also extremely adorable, isn’t she?
Tony Soprano wasn’t the best husband. He also wasn’t the best business associate. And, he definitely wasn’t the easiest therapy client to have. He was a darn good father, though. Tony Soprano was the one of the most iconic television characters to ever exist and his tv dad status will go down as legendary. He has an exclusive soft spot for children and animals (as most sociopaths do), and he always made sure Meadow and Anthony were safe and accounted for. Tony wanted them to succeed and live a lifestyle different from his own. That has to count for something.
Buffy the Vampire Slayers brought us many great characters but it also brought us one of tv’s most memorable moms. Joyce Summers may have been shocked by her daughter’s ability to hunt and fight vampires (wouldn’t we all), but handles it like a true champ. She becomes Buffy’s lifeline and main source of support for not just her, but her friends as well. Joyce’s ability to cope with the dangers of her daughter’s gift was as miraculous as Buffy’s powers, considering she had to live with the possibility of losing her child on a daily basis. This tv mom’s death was one of the most difficult to see and sent viewers into mourning for the remainder of the show’s run.
Frank Costanza was one of the finest tv dad cliches we’ve ever come across. He had the greatest collection of quirks we’ve ever seen – a paralyzing fear of rodents, his love for vinyl Latin-American music, and how could we ever forget his invention of the male bra, the “bro.” We truly miss this visionary’s presence on our television sets almost as much as we miss the entire Seinfield cast themselves. His ability to speak fluent Korean and his meeting with the strangest cult leaders known to man are just a few of things that make him such an interesting character. Frank was the funniest tv dad the world has gotten to know since Archie Bunker, but we’ll talk more about him later.
While we’re on the topic of cliche tv parents, let’s get down to talking about Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. This passive-aggressive tv mom made us laugh our butts off everytime she interjected herself into a family conversation. The way she favored Ray over Robert, her child-coddling habits, and her constant disputes with Debra (clearly a result of personal insecurity), were enough to make us remember her for a lifetime. Her eccentric actions came from a place of true love, and this, is something we have to respect the tv mother for.
Poor, poor Carl Winslow. He had to put up with so much during his tv dad time, and not even from his own children! Anyone tv dad who can withstand the fore of Steve Urkel and still manage to run a well-functioning household is okay in our books. He’s priceless tantrums and erratic behavior are completely justified, but what we treasure most are the show’s moments when he proves to be a humble, caring father. He’s a hard-worker and a handy man to have around, even if his ego did get in the way of his common sense at times.
Everyone smiles when think about Edith Bunker! The All in the Family alum was a peppy and at times ditzy lady, but had a heart bigger than we’ll ever be able to comprehend. Edith made Archie a better man and often played the voice of reason, always offering an understanding ear or offering a piece of insight other people would tend to overlook. She was as tough as she was kind, and successfully portrays some of the greatest struggles women endure in their lifetime – breast cancer scares, menopause, and physical assault. Edith Bunker’s death rattled everyone to the core, especially Archie, who grieved her loss in his first emotional outpour.
Bernie Mac is sorely missed, in both life and in entertainment. He made the most astounding tv dad, but only becoming so after accepting his nieces and nephews as his own. Similar to Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (we’ll get to him later), Bernie learned how to love and appreciate another member of the family as if you were responsible for their creation. He became the children’s guiding light and began to soften his own demeanor, later developing a paternal mindset. Bernie Mac proved that being a father isn’t always about biology, it’s about taking care of the ones you’re meant to be with.
Caroline Ingalls was a traditional tv mom, and we’re not talking about your standard housewife from the 50’s. She lived a modest lifestyle and was a sincerely generous person with a virtuous soul. She was loyal to her husband and showed each and every one of children an equal amount of love. Caroline was a non-confrontational mother, was still protective of family. Caroline Ingalls is in the world of tv mothers is easy to overlook, but once you remember her, she’s immediately regarded as one of the classic greats.
Sandy Cohen was bound to show up on this list, wasn’t he? Who doesn’t miss the bushy eye-browed, defender of youth who stole our hearts on The OC? Sandy wasn’t just a family man, he was a man of the people who pursued the positive characteristics over the negative – who wanted to see change for the better, and that’s a tv dad we have to respect. He took in troubled teens and accepted them as their own, with their care and guidance they so deserved from the parents who weren’t there all along. Too bad he couldn’t save Marissa…
We need to give Norma Arnold serious praise for dealing with her husband, Jack, all of those years. The Wonder Years to be exact. Anytime Kevin was taking some serious heat for something so small, we could rely on Norma to show her son some mercy and kindness after the hostility he received from Jack. Norma was the sweet tv mom who gave us a sense of relief when she entered the room and was the type of confidante a son could talk to. She may have been characterized as a stereotypical housewife, but her heart is what made the home what it was.
Tony Micelli was the beating heart of television sitcom Who’s the Boss? He was a former baseball player, forced to retire after sustaining a shoulder injury and took the ultimate descent of masculinity by becoming a live-in housekeeper for a divorced female attorney. Tony makes a remarkable father to not just his own daughter but Angela’s son, and becomes a monumental support system for everyone in the home. It’s hard not to mention his Italian demeanor that offsets a twinge of humor in the show’s script-writing; it’s too funny to ignore.
Elyse Keaton was the old school flower child turned tv mom on Family Ties. Her contrast to the Reagan dynamic which had consumed her own children was the hilarious offset to the show’s main theme, and we truly appreciated her love for the hippie counterculture as she saw it vanishing before her eyes. Elyse wasn’t just the cool mom because of how she treated her children, she was the cool mom who had been cool all of her life! She understood the teenage experience and wanted her kids to have their very own, even if if their perceptions of a “good time” were vastly different from one another’s.
Step by Step’s Frank Lambert was warm-hearted and fairly rational. These are usually the most coveted characteristics we look for in a tv dad. However, we most enjoyed the realistic aspect of having Frank as a father. He was laid-back and a total sports fan, a macho-man without being too aggressive. He was a waking contradiction of cool and not cool – someone who we wanted to hang out with on a Friday night, but we refused admit his flannel collared shirts were fashionable. Regardless, Frank Lambert was a great tv dad and we could use more just like him.
Lois Wilkerson was the quintessential tv mom you absolutely loved to hate! We loved Lois for her iron fist mentality that always perpetuated by the poor behavior her 3 sons often displayed. She was a prideful woman who often engaged in vindictive antics against her family and was quite the control-freak, if we do say so ourselves. Lois’ love for family shone through in most difficult of times, but otherwise, her yelling and over-bearing set of rules was the primary testament to truly caring for her children. We don’t necessarily miss the tv mom because we wish she was our mother, but because she was just way too funny to watch once a week.
Oh, Shirley Partridge. How do we begin to describe the impact this tv mom had on families and the music industry combined? Not only is she the original stage mom, but the first single mother on national tv to challange the popularity of Carol Brady. We miss Shirley Partridge for her stance as an “independent woman”, who had to keep her family together after her husband suddenly passed away. Shirley was a charismatic leader of the family pop-rock group and tried to give her children a future that was more extraordinary than others of their time. Her freckled-face and red hair had the nation in awe for all four seasons of the show.
Dick Van Dyke set the standard for would-be modern tv dads everywhere as Rob Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Rob Petrie is sort of a sad character, but in the most funny of ways. He knew how to take a unfortunate circumstance and make it light-hearted with his endearing energy, all while balancing the mundane elements of work, parenting and marriage. The Dick Van Dyke Show was a staple of American television and Rob Petrie became the nation’s favorite tv dad for his satirical relationship with his growing son.
Lily Munster may have been a short-lived tv mom, but that doesn’t make her any less missed in our lives. Lily was the matriarch of the Munster family and was married to Herman, a frankenstein-like character. She was a fierce vampiress with a hot temper, although, she proved to be sentimental when it came to her family and household duties. The tv mom was an unofficial rival of Morticia Addams, partly in due to their dark nature, but had was the prime representation of fictional gothic style and was the daughter of Dracula.
Phillip Banks was the tv dad that also proved his worth as the world’s first greatest tv uncle. Uncle Phil reluctantly took his nephew Will (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, obviously), into his home to escape a bad crowd in Philly. The two men had their ups and downs, but Uncle Phil was more of a father to Will than his own dad ever was. We can never forget the scene when Uncle Phil comforts a crying and shattered Will after his birth father walks out on him for the second time in his life. The series ends with Phil assuring Will that they’ll begin a new family children with the children,and they be having Sunday phone calls so they never feel an absence from each other’s lives. Long live Uncle Phil.