TV’s Wackiest & Unusual Moms of The 1960s

1960s TV Moms collage
Everett Collection

In TV-land of old, most moms were cut from the same pattern, beaming with love for their kids, adoring their husband and making bag lunches for them all. As the years went by, though, some TV moms were allowed to let their hair down, getting weirder and stranger. Like these …

Morticia (Carolyn Jones)

The Addams Family (ABC, 1964-66)

ADDAMS FAMILY, [standing] John Astin, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Blossom Rock, (aka Marie Blake), [sitting] Lisa Loring, Carolyn Jones, Ken Weatherwax, 1964-1966

Everett Collection

Inspired by the cartoons of Charles Addams, members of  The Addams Family live in a creaky museum of a house filled with dangerous oddities. The matriarch glides witchily about in a tight-fitting black dress with a trailing fringe resembling octopus tentacles. She tends to the children Wednesday and Pugsley with an arched eyebrow while clipping the buds off the roses. Whatever chaos is underway, Morticia is ever the calm in the middle, with a half-smile, arms folded and floating effortlessly from room to room. No wonder the kids had their quirks, too. Lisa Loring, who played daughter Wednesday on the show, said once that Jones was a good offscreen mom, helping her break the morose spell she was required to keep on-camera by cracking her up with jokes. — David Cohea

Dr. Maureen Robinson (June Lockhart)

Lost in Space (CBS, 1965-68)

LOST IN SPACE, (from left): Angela Cartwright, June Lockhart, Billy Mumy, 1965-1968.

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection

After six seasons playing Timmy Martin’s mother, Ruth, on Lassie, June Lockhart’s next regular TV role found her portraying another iconic mom in this sci-fi drama. Maureen was the smart and compassionate matriarch of the Robinson family, which also included her husband, Dr. John Robinson (Guy Williams), and their children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright) and Will (Billy Mumy). The Robinsons, along with Maj. Don West (Mark Goddard), Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) and a robot (Bob May/Dick Tufeld), became stranded deep in space on their mission to colonize worlds off the Earth. In the show’s unaired pilot, Maureen’s status as a brilliant biochemist with “Dr.” in front of her name had more of a focus than in the series, which, despite its setting in the far-off future of 1997, usually featured her in a maternal role similar to that of earthbound ’60s TV moms; she was frequently shown doing things like preparing food or working in a garden. Still, given that she was raising her kids on other planets, Maureen did face unique mothering challenges, and she could be cunning and brave at protecting them from the occasional extraterrestrial antagonist that showed up while she was watching over their camp. — Jeff Pfeiffer

Lily Munster (Yvonne De Carlo)

The Munsters (CBS, 1964-66)

THE MUNSTERS, Butch Patrick, Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, 1964-66

Everett Collection

When it came to playing Lily Munster in this sitcom, Yvonne De Carlo was inspired by another movie star who also later played a TV housewife and mom: Donna Reed. In many respects, Lily Munster was as traditional a homemaker as Reed’s Donna Stone, even if Lily, her family and their creepy home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane were not traditional in their appearances. Vampire Lily was matriarch of a household that included her husband, Frankenstein’s monster-like Herman (Fred Gwynne); their werewolf son, Eddie (Butch Patrick); Lily’s father, Sam Dracula, better known as “Grandpa” (Al Lewis); and their human niece Marilyn (Beverley Owen and Pat Priest). While she could have a fiery temper, Lily was similar to other sitcom moms as often the most level-headed family member, and as a supportive mother to Eddie. The show’s setup allowed The Munsters to also upend family sitcom tropes, especially in Lily’s role. For instance, she was as diligent in dusting her house as any TV housewife — even if her idea of “dusting” meant actually spreading dust around the house. And, in treating the conventionally-attractive-in-a-human-way Marilyn as her own daughter, Lily worried that her niece’s “hideous” appearance might cause the poor young woman to end up a spinster. — JP

Carolyn Muir (Hope Lange)

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (NBC, 1968-69; ABC, 1969-70)

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, Edward Mulhare, Kellie Flanagan, Hope Lange, Harlen Carraher, Charles Nelson Reilly, Scruffy, Reta Shaw, 1968-1970

Everett Collection

She’s an independent late 1960s single mom; he’s a chauvinistic sea captain who died in the late 1860s — can they ever make it work? The decade that brought us beloved sitcoms based on fantastical elements, like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, ended with this similar series that, if not as well remembered, was still endearing. Based on a 1945 novel and its 1947 film adaptation, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir starred two-time Emmy winner Hope Lange as Carolyn Muir, a widowed writer who decides to start a new life by renting a cottage in Maine with her kids, Jonathan (Harlen Carraher) and Candace (Kellie Flanagan), housekeeper Martha (Reta Shaw) and dog Scruffy. Unfortunately, the cottage’s owner, Claymore Gregg (Charles Nelson Reilly), neglects to tell her that it is haunted by his ancestor, 19th century sea captain Daniel Gregg (Edward Mulhare). At first, the captain doesn’t take kindly to the intruders, but he warms up to them, and they begin learning how to live together in an odd family dynamic amid the wacky situations that ensue. Carolyn finds the old salt overbearing yet attractive, but even as a romantic tension develops between them, the devoted mother places a priority on her children and her writing career. — JP


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TVs Top Moms

May 2022

Celebrate top TV moms from the ’50 to the ’90s including 8 things you didn’t know about Donna Reed plus weird and wacky TV moms.

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