Unforgettable TV Moms From Your Favorite ShowsPublished on May 6, 2016. Updated April 27, 2020
In every TV show there has to be a voice of reason or a cause of conflict for central characters, and in many cases that role is given to the parents, and a lot of the time mothers. From One Tree Hill to Sons of Anarchy, TV fans have seen almost every imaginable possibility of different types of mothering, as well as mother-child relationships, leading us to some of the most iconic on-screen moms. Check out 13 of the most awesome and awful mothers from hit TV series of recent years:
13. Best: Gloria Pritchett – Modern Family
Gloria Pritchett is one of the funniest moms on TV. She is gorgeous, feisty, fun-loving and loud-mouthed, but none of that stops her from being a caring and loving mom to Manny and Joe on Modern Family. Although her rough upbringing means she often resorts to violence and threats when faced with an issue, her temper and hot-headedness is also what keeps her fiercely protective of her family, and never lets her husband Jay getting away with trying to change Manny from being so “soft.”
12. Worst: Julie Cooper – The O.C.
Marissa Cooper was a difficult character to deal with on The O.C., and like many troubled rich kids, many of her problems can be focused back on her mother, Julie Cooper. Over the many seasons of the show, Julie Cooper had brief flashes of being a caring mother, but for the most part she was too shallow and materialistic and concerned about her own status to really worry about her kids. Between only focusing on herself and eventually hooking up with Marissa’s ex-boyfriend Luke, there were really no redeeming mothering qualities for Julie, and unfortunately, a true change in her was only seen after Marissa’s death.
11. Best: Lorlei Gilmore – Gilmore Girls
Lorlei and Rory Gilmore are arguably the most iconic TV mother-daughter duo ever, and for good reason. Lorlei is stong, intelligent, and funny, all things she made sure to instill in her daughter Rory. For every single situation, and every problem, Lorlei was always there for her daughter and, aside from being mother and daughter, they were also best friends. Of course, there were some rifts between the two, but Lorlei was loving and understanding and found the perfect balance between being a friend and a parent to her daughter.
10. Best and Worst: Gemma Teller – SOA
Some TV moms are much harder to label when it comes to being a good or bad parent as they often fall in one or the other depending on the situation. By the end of Sons of Anarchy, it is safe to say that Gemma Teller squarely falls in the worst moms category, but in the beginning, she was one of our favorite mothers on television. Gemma is one of the toughest women to ever be portrayed and her strongest code was that she would so absolutely anything to protect her family, specifically her son Jax and his sons Abel and Thomas. While this meant Jax and Gemma were extremely close in the beginning, Gemma took things much too far in “protecting” Jax and the boys, in a situation that quickly turned into one of the most horrifying family stories on TV.
9. Worst: Victoria Davis – One Tree Hill
An argument could definitely be made that Brooke Davis’s mother on One Tree Hill, Victoria Davis, became a better mother, but her overall attitude towards Brooke keeps her firmly as one of TV’s worst mothers. At first, Brooke’s role as the rich girl whose parents “throw money at” to keep her happy and out of their hair is a running joke on the show, but eventually becomes a source of very real personal issues for Brooke. Of course, fans weren’t really introduced to Victoria until season five where she is first portrayed as merely a shrewd employee who is essential to helping Brooke run Clothes Over Bro’s, and not until the end of the episode did fans find out she was in fact Brooke’s mom. That is how awful their relationship was and time and time again Victoria did or said something to make Brooke know she was not interested in being a mom. Although she did warm up and start to win fans and Brooke over, once again she ruined Brooke’s company, forcing Brooke to walk away.
8. Best: Tami Taylor – Friday Night Lights
Tami and Coach Taylor are the epitome of iconic parents in recent TV history. Tami Taylor was simply a fantastic person, so it isn’t too surprising that she was a great mom, even when her daughter Julie was a whiny and unappreciative brat. Aside from being there for her family first and foremost, she took on the mother role for almost every character and, as both the guidance counselor and a staple in the community, many of the teens took their problems to her knowing she would be patient, understanding and provide them with any assistance she could to help out.
7. Best and Worst: Lily van der Woodsen – Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl‘s Lily van der Woodsen is another TV mom who had both instances of being a very good mother, and also being a pretty bad mother. Although a bit more responsible and uptight, Lily van der Woodsen was in ways very similar to The O.C.’s Julie Cooper in that she was too focused on money and being a part of high society to realize what was going on with her children. Both Serena and Eric were involved in some extremely serious and dangerous situations as teenagers because they had too much money and too little guidance. Lily and Serena did have a good relationship, but the fact that much of the show’s drama surrounds Serena’s sordid and dramatic past as an out of control teenager points back to Lily’s lack of parenting.
6. Best: Claire Dunphy – Modern Family
Claire Dunphy is one of the most well-loved television moms because, as its title implies, Modern Family tries to show how families of all kinds actually work and deal with situations. Parents and kids alike love Claire because she is so much like a real mom as she deals with being a mom to Haley, Alex and Luke, three very different kids. For five seasons she was a stay-at-home mom and did everything to make sure her family was as perfect as possible, and is often the voice of reason and problem solver for the family opposed to her laid-back and easier to fluster husband, Phil. Claire is active in her children’s school and is very often the one that her brother Mitchell and his husband Cameron turn to for advice when parenting their daughter Lily. By all definitions Claire Dunphy is the image of a “supermom.”
5. Worst: Nancy Botwin – Weeds
Much like Gemma Teller in Sons of Anarchy, Nancy Botwin’s devotion and willingness to do absolutely anything to protect her family was taken way too far. In Weeds, Nancy becomes a pretty big drug dealer, burns down her suburb and becomes involved in numerous murders, and in the process gets her sons involved, which is a horrible parenting move. Like many of the other “worst” moms, it is her self-centered nature that causes her downfall, which then negatively impacts her sons, who all become a part of the “family business” and, as such, violent and crooked.
4. Best and Worst: Deb Scott – One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill fans will already know exactly why Deb Scott is another mom who lands somewhere between a good and bad parent. At first Deb is a strictly professional mom who unfortunately can’t spend too much time with her son Nathan because of work, and while she quits her job to be more present, it isn’t long before things go downhill. Deb’s marriage to Dan sends her spiraling into a prescription drug medication addiction, and then she starts carrying a gun which accidentally goes off in Karen’s Cafe. While she does get clean and Nathan welcomes her back into his life for the sake of his son Jamie, she promptly begins dating one of his best friends, Skills. Deb, you have to love her, but Nathan made the choice to emancipate himself for very good reasons.
3. Best: Kirsten Cohen – The O.C.
Of all the Newport moms in The O.C., Kirsten Cohen was the most level-headed, down-to-earth and responsible. Unlike Julie Cooper, she was very present in her son’s life and, as such, Seth Cohen was a much more balanced kid than many of his Newport peers who came from wealthy families. While drinking did become a problem with Kristen, she never turned on her family or Seth, and most importantly, became a mother also to Ryan Atwood, who needed strong parental influences in his life.
2. Worst: Betty Draper – Mad Men
Mad Men fans will not contest this ranking because, it is oh so true. Mad Men‘s Betty Draper was awful, which was made evident by several instances including the time she locked Sally in a closet or slapped her for cutting her own hair. Betty only became a mom because she was raised to believe that is what she was supposed to do and, as a result, seemingly disliked being a mother, had no natural maternal instincts and, in turn, treated her kids absolutely horribly, all of which was witnessed season after season.
1. Best: Karen Roe – One Tree Hill
Teen series fans and especially One Tree Hill fans still idolize Karen Roe. She was creative, smart, caring, strong, patient and basically everything that makes up an incredible single parent, and the main reason Lucas Scott was such a responsible and level-headed teenager. Karen not only raised Lucas on her own, but did so while running a very successful small business only to turn around and run another, Tric. No matter what she went through, Karen never faltered, and became a source of comfort and advice, for many of the Tree Hill kids, and it is unsurprising she has become one of the most beloved TV parents of recent shows.