• Twenty Years, Twenty Top TV Moms

    by  • May 4, 2015 • Television • 14 Comments

    In honor of the PTC’s 20th anniversary and of Mother’s Day, we present, in no particular order, the 20 top broadcast TV moms of the last 20 years.

    TV moms have changed over the decades. On television today we seldom see the idealized mothers of generations past; whose hair was always perfectly coiffed, whose clothes were always pressed and pristine, who managed their home and family with ease and grace. And while critics complain that those TV moms of generations past were unrealistic and painted a picture of suburban, middle-class America that never really existed; they also gave us an ideal to aspire to.

    TV moms today may be working mothers, they may be step-mothers, adoptive mothers, widowed or divorced single mothers; their homes are sometimes messy, their kids aren’t always perfect, but the TV moms on this list are protective, they are loving, they are tough when they need to be, and they sometimes make mistakes, but they are constantly striving to do better.

    A couple of notes: Inclusion on the list is not necessarily an endorsement of the program generally, although many (not all) of the TV moms listed below are from PTC green-lighted shows; We also are not saying that these TV moms are perfect. They are flawed, as we all are.

    Agree or disagree with our list? Who are your favorite TV moms over the past 20 years? Of all time? Leave a comment to let us know. And to all the moms reading this, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!




    Jessie Beckett, Second Noah

    As adoptive mother to eight kids and as a veterinarian, Jessie shows compassionate concern for all living things. She helped the family stick together through adversity, and commanded – rather than demanded – their love and respect.


    JillTaylorJill Taylor, Home Improvement

    Usually the voice of reason and the calm at the center of the storm, Jill Taylor successfully juggled school, career and family over eight seasons on Home Improvement.’


    Harriette WinslowHarriette Winslow, Family Matters

    Harriette and husband Carl exemplify the positive impact of a loving marriage on the entire family. They present a united front in caring for and disciplining their children. 
    Jerri Peterson
    Jerri Peterson, The Parent ‘Hood
    Jerri Peterson helps to instill in her children that integrity, self-discipline, and a good education are the keys to a successful future.


    Dr. Quinn

    “Dr. Mike,” Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

    Michaela Quinn presents a picture of a confident, determined, independent and intelligent woman. A pioneering female doctor on the American frontier just after the Civil War, she confronts prejudice and chauvinism, but she holds her head high and does her job skillfully and with compassion. When her assistant Charlotte dies, Michaela adopts her children and raises them as her own, imparting to them the importance of family, and values like honesty, compassion, respect for parental authority, and a strong work ethic.


    Amy MatthewsAmy Matthews, Boy Meets World

    Although the central relationship in Boy Meets World is arguably that of Cory’s friendship with teacher-turned-mentor, Mr. Feeny; Amy Matthews is the calm, wise, and stable center of the family who only wants what is best for her children, while offering guidance and advice to husband and children alike.


    Dee Mitchell

    Dee Mitchell, Moesha

    Suddenly step-mother to a teenage girl, Dee could have taken the easy route of trying to win her over by being her buddy, but instead forges the more difficult path of being a mother to her, and helps to teach her sound lessons on morality and honesty; while helping to secure a strong family foundation for the children.


    Hilda and ZeldaHilda and Zelda Spellman, Sabrina the Teenage Witch

    Navigating the rocky teen years is hard enough for a normal teenager, but Sabrina isn’t a normal teenager. She’s a witch. Fortunately, aunts Hilda and Zelda are too; so they are able to dispense advice about school, crushes, friends – but they are also able to mentor and teach her to use her powers responsibly.

    7thHeavenAnnie Camden, 7th Heaven

    Annie is the kind of mom we all wish we could be more often. Wise, patient, understanding. She seems to always know the right words to say to soothe a heartache or hurt, she is gentle in her guidance, but firm when she needs to be; she is forgiving, but clear about the behavior she expects from them in the future.


    ClaireGreenClaire Greene, Promised Land

    When her husband loses his job, Claire picks up roots and takes the family out on the road. At the heart of this series was a family of individuals who were always willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of all. Faith in God and His plan and the importance of education are also integral to her character and woven into each episode.


    LoisLois, Malcolm in the Middle

    Motherhood rarely looks like the pictures on greeting cards. Lois provided a warts-and-all look at motherhood that may look dysfunctional and chaotic to the outside world; but is rooted in love, and a powerful will to keep her kids on the right path. She wasn’t perfect, but in the real world, who is?


    Marge SimpsonMarge Simpson, The Simpsons

    It’s unfortunate that Homer Simpson has become the poster child for the dumb, bumbling dad; because it makes Marge Simpson’s character the “good parent” by default. But even if Homer was “Father of the Year” material, Marge would still be noteworthy for her quiet understanding, long-suffering patience, and gentle nature.


    BonnieBonnie Malloy, Life with Bonnie

    Bonnie Hunt seems to have brought much of herself to the role of Bonnie Molloy; her TV alter-ego projects good humor, sensitivity and kindness. And the loving example she sets is also reflected in the tender concern and respect the children show for their parents and one another.


    Martha Kent, Smallvillemartha kent

    As Clark’s adoptive mother, Martha Kent is instrumental in forming the personality of the man who will one day become Superman. Martha’s kindness, intelligence, strong ethics and moral sense are reflected in the character of Clark.


    Helen GirardiHelen Girardi, Joan of Arcadia

    The family has just moved to a new town. As the new Chief of Police, her husband is fighting deep-seated corruption; she is grieving her star-athlete son’s recent paralysis; and even while she’s struggling with her own faltering faith, her daughter suddenly believes she is talking to God. Yet through it all, Helen stays strong to keep her struggling family together.


    Tami TaylorTami Taylor, Friday Night Lights

    A steel magnolia – charming, outgoing, and friendly; but also tough as nails. She is fiercely loyal and protective of her family, and mothered not only her own children, but many of her children’s friends, as well. She also provided wisdom, guidance and love to the many students in her charge as a high school counselor and principal.


    Frances HeckFrances Heck, The Middle

    As a wife and mom to three children, Frances “Frankie” is devoted to her family. She struggles to help make ends meet but her goal is always to do the best for her husband and children.


    BlueBloods Erin Reagan-Boyle, Blue Bloods

    A single mom raising an independent-minded teenage girl on her own; she is smart and career-minded (ADA), tough when she has to be, and not afraid to lay down the law to her daughter.


    BlackishRainbow Johnson, Black-ish

    A working mom of four, Rainbow is a sensible mom and supportive wife. In many ways, she’s the glue that holds her family together as they take on the challenge of adhering to their roots while breaking down barriers professionally and personally.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    14 Responses to Twenty Years, Twenty Top TV Moms

    1. Terri Keys
      May 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

      They’re not from last 2 decades, but June Cleaver, Harriet Nelson, and Donna Reed, Olivia Walton were ideal role models.

    2. T Jones
      May 9, 2015 at 4:17 am

      Out of the moms you picked that I am familiar with, and some others that have been mentioned from older shows, I agree they are good role models, however, I would like to add a name to that list. Kay Robertson from the Duck Dynasty series. She is loved and respected by her boys, her daughters in law, and her grandchildren!

    3. barbara
      May 8, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      some of the above 20 are a long stretch-BEST MOTHERS really?? Now u did state last 20yrs but there was no better realistic mother than Roseann–she loved her kids & though life kept pushing her & her husband Dan down they did what ever they could to keep a roof over their kids head & put food on the table…..Most noticeably forgotten mom BEVERLY GOLDBERG she stands behind her kids & SUPPORTS them NO MATTER WHAT! HER CHILDREN & HOME ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN HER LIFE & SHE IS DEVOTED TO CARING TO THEM

    4. Joyce Johnson
      May 8, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Excellent choices. If only we could package all that wisdom for real life moms today.

    5. C
      May 8, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Claire Huxtable from Cosby show, and Marion Cunningham from Happy days. There may be more.

    6. carol wesser
      May 8, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I’m for Michelle Dugger. A REAL mom and mother who shows grace and love and joy in her family.
      If it has to be a fictional mom, then I’d choose Marge Simpson–Lord knows her path has not been an easy one!

    7. David
      May 8, 2015 at 10:12 am

      These are not within the last 20 years: But don’t forget Michelle Learned as Olivia Walton the soft-spoken, hard-working, firm, patient, loving mother of 7 living children and one who died at birth. In real life, Michelle Learned had three sons, divorced and remarried three times, and struggled with alcoholism (c. 1977). Also, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable was the consummate modern professional woman and mother of five on the Cosby Show. In real life, she had a son and daughter, but married and divorced three times. So, real life is not always as ideal as television.

    8. Rob
      May 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      How about the mom on Leave it to Beaver? “Ward.” She cooked in the kitchen while wearing a dress and heels.
      Also, the Brady Bunch mom (and Alice) was loyal, kind, and and positive.

    9. Terry
      May 5, 2015 at 7:54 am

      You forgot the best of the best – Ozzie & Harriet, Father Knows Best.

      • Don
        May 8, 2015 at 4:52 am

        Come on; Everybody knows that the best TV Mom of all time was June Cleaver! (With Ozzie Nelson and the Mom from “Father Knows Best” as close seconds) And what about Mrs. Cunningham from “Happy Days” or Debra Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond”, if you want something more recent.

        • Wade
          May 9, 2015 at 11:28 am

          June Lockhart played in two mother roles and was great in both (Timmy and Lassie, and Lost in Space). Dorothy McGuire’s role in the movie Old Yeller is the absolute best.

      • Kate
        May 8, 2015 at 6:33 am

        Terry, those TV moms do not fit the time frame.

        • Anne
          May 8, 2015 at 10:32 am

          You’re right—June Cleaver and Mother Ingalls were not in the last twenty years—but so many of us still watch reruns (because many current shows are so offensive) that I wish the time frame had been the past 40-50 years.

          • Don
            May 9, 2015 at 5:26 am

            You must be a great Mom, Anne!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *