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Moms From “Family Ties”, “The Wonder Years”, “Friday Night Lights”, and “Gilmore Girls”

by Dawn on July 18, 2008
category: Pop culture,Video

I like to watch a lot of t.v. (no shock there).  Some of my favorite television shows are about families, so I get to see a lot of unique mother-child relationships play out.   And though you may think of Donna Reed or Marion Cunningham when you think “t.v. mom”, I have no Nick-at-Nite classics on my list.  Go figure.

My favorite four t.v. moms, in no particular order:

  • Elyse Keaton, Family Ties (played by Meredith Baxter-Birney).  I grew up with the Keatons, and I loved Michael J. Fox as much as the next girl.  Looking back at clips of it now, I am taken aback at how simple and low-key it was – yet it still makes me laugh.  The show was consistently funny and well-made.  You just don’t see them on t.v. like this anymore.  Anyway, Elyse Keaton is a normal working mom, with wit, a sense of responsibility, and an easy relatability with all of her kids.  I like Elyse because she’s just so normal, which is refreshing in an ironic sort of way.  Here’s the first bit of the show’s pilot episode, dating all the way back to 1982.  I was six! 

  •  Norma Arnold, The Wonder Years (played by Alley Mills).  Another show that I grew up with, The Wonder Years is an all-time classic.  Norma was a great, compassionate mom.  Most of the time, we saw her making dinner for the family, trying to keep the peace between Kevin & Wayne (her two sons), or between Karen & Jack (her somewhat rebellious daughter and her hardworking husband).  Every now and then, an episode would focus on her, which gave us a new perspective of who she was.   I distantly recall that she enjoyed sneaking away every now and then just to do something for herself, like take a pottery class.  We often saw the family overlook her or take her for granted.  I like Norma because she is the classic American housewife who only occasionally reveals subtle layers of wistfulness and frustration. Here’s a clip from an episode when Norma took a job as a secretary at Kevin’s school.  Lots of great stuff in this, what the show did best, in fact: highlight Kevin’s selfish tendencies and teach him important lessons about the people in his life.

  • Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights (played by Connie Britton).  I wrote about this great mom character a couple of months ago, and my opinion of her has not changed; therefore, she gets a spot on the list.  Season two added another baby to Tami’s busy world; it was refreshing to see such a realistic portrayal of a stressed-out mom.  Summer is a great time to check this show out on nbc.com; it needs more viewers!
  • Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls (played by Lauren Graham).  No modern t.v. mom list would be complete without Lorelai.  The greatest thing about her is not her excellent wardrobe, her quick-wittedness, or even the way she cares for her daughter Rory.  What Lorelai’s character does best is show us that she makes mistakes.  A lot of them.  There have been lots of times I wanted to shout at Lorelai through the t.v. screen, saying, “Be honest, you fool!”  or “Stop acting like such a baby!” It’s a good thing the writers made her as flawed as she was, or she’d be a completely unrealistic mom character, in my opinion.  No mom is that pretty and cool, no matter how hard they try, but it’s probably safe to say there are plenty of immature, self-centered moms gracing our fallen world.  Despite her frequent bouts of immaturity, though, wouldn’t we all want to get some coffee with her at Luke’s?  I’d love to see if I could keep up with her in one of those quick, back & forth conversations she seems to have with everyone.  I like watching Lorelai because she’s just plain entertaining.

Wanna dig deeper?

What do you think?  Do you agree with the choices on any of these lists?  Who would you add as your favorite t.v. mom? 

7 Responses to Moms From “Family Ties”, “The Wonder Years”, “Friday Night Lights”, and “Gilmore Girls”

  • Comment by Amanda
    July 18, 2008 @ 7:16 am

    I (heart) Gilmore Girls 4 Evah! Lorelai certainly had bout of immaturity. I don’t want to get married, let’s go for a drive! But really, I never thought of her as realistic, since my mom was polar opposite of Lorelai. Dawn, you want to see if you can keep up with the dialogue and I want to see if I can keep up with their eating. :)

    Hmm.. I can’t think of a favorite TV mom… I could think of a few “worst” TV moms though.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by brittany
    July 18, 2008 @ 8:39 am

    Great list, I fancy myself a mix between Lorelai and I Love Lucy.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Vered
    July 18, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

    I like Raymond’s mom from Everybody Loves Raymond… I like strong female characters and while she is nosy and overbearing, she is also hilarious!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Urban Panther
    July 18, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    Good list. This made me think of T.V. moms I would never want to be:
    1. Ruth Fisher from 6 Feet Under – can we say completely dysfunctional?
    2. Edith Bunker form All in the Family – poor Edith. I would have killed Archie right from the get go.
    3. Peg Bundy from Married…with Children – who dresses like that?
    4. Jill Taylor from Home Improvement – actually I really like Jill, but trying to parent 3 boys…and a husband? Whew! Wouldn’t thank you for that job.

  • Comment by Dawn
    July 20, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Urban Panther, I’d love to see a post on those 4 moms! I haven’t seen enough of any of them to respond in any kind of intelligent way, except that Jill Taylor was kind of cool. Plus she kept up with her hubby’s crazy sense of humor and started taking classes later on! ps. See our resident contributor Amelia, mother of 3 sons! :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by San Diego Momma
    July 20, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

    Wow, Family Ties brought back so many memories! (Sounds like they changed the theme song a bit after the pilot…it was faster tempo for subsequent episodes, wasn’t it?)

    Anyway (I’m a geek), watching that episode reminded me too of how much “simpler” TV was then — and I wish it were again.

  • Gravatar May 8, 2009 @ 2:56 am

    [...] Lights”) all made the list, as I highlighted them in my own “Favorite T.V. Moms” article last year.  As expected, the editors at EW cleverly chose several wacky moms, too, to spark [...]

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