Mommy Dreariest: 8 Wild, Weird & Mean TV Moms

Wacky TV moms collage
Everett Collection

Good moms, bad moms … questionable moms: TV has seen them all! As much as we love a perfect, loving mother in real life, they can be rather uninteresting on screen — and because no one is truly perfect, it’s not a very realistic portrayal of motherhood anyway. In honor of Mother’s Day this upcoming Sunday, here’s a list of moms with attitude, moms with questionable boundaries, and moms with predilections for alcohol (what mom couldn’t use a drink at the end of the day, really?). Most importantly, they are moms who stick with you long after the show is over!

Marie Barone (Doris Roberts)

Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005)

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, from left: Ray Romano, Doris Roberts, Patricia Heaton, 1996-2005

Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond is the archetypal overbearing, hypercritical mother-in-law every bride hopes to avoid getting after they are married. Ray’s (Ray Romano) wife, Debra (Patricia Heaton), could do nothing right when Marie was around. Her passive aggressiveness combined with never-ending guilt trips makes her the perfect mom to kick off this list. She may not be very likable, but she sure is relatable to anyone with domineering in-laws.

Estelle Costanza (Estelle Harris)

Seinfeld (1989-1998)

SEINFELD, Estelle Harris, Jason Alexander, Jerry Stiller. 1990 - 1998

Seinfeld’s Estelle Costanza was quite the drama queen, and perhaps largely responsible for George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) blustering, awkward personality. Even as an adult, she shames, criticizes and belittles the poor man into compliance. She and Marie Barone are cut from the same cloth. But they sure do help keep television funny!

Peggy Bundy & Gemma (Katey Sagal)

Married… With Children (1987-1997)


She was perhaps as unfit for parenthood as her husband Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), more interested in watching daytime television, eating bonbons and primping in spandex slacks while making fun of Al at every turn than spending time with her two children. But hey, she looked awesome doing it! That hair is epic.

Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

SONS OF ANARCHY, l-r: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal in 'Family Recipe' (Season 4, Episode 8, aired October 25, 2011)

Katey Sagal has really honed her skills as a less-than-perfect TV mom, because she is on here twice! In Sons of Anarchy, she plays Gemma, a fiercely loyal but totally violent and slightly insane co-leader of a bike gang.

Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand)

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

THE SOPRANOS, Nancy Marchand, '46 Long', (S1.E2, aired Jan 17, 1999), 1999-2007.

You’ve gotta be one crazy lady to be scarier than a mob boss, and Livia Soprano did that without even trying. She was so bitter, toxic and vindictive that Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) needed protection from her. No wonder he was in therapy!

Lucille (Jessica Walter)

Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013, 2018-2019)

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, Jessica Walter, 'Unexpected Company', (Season 5, ep. 509, airs March 15, 2019)

As the matriarch of the Bluth family on Arrested Development, Lucille seems to like martinis more than her own children. She’s neglectful, mean and hypercritical — except with Buster (Tony Hale), who she coddles excessively, allowing him to behave like a forever man-child. I would not want her for a mother, but she sure is funny.

Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop)

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

GILMORE GIRLS, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop, Lauren Gilmore, 'The Inns & Outs of Inns', (Season 2), 2000-2007

WB/Ron Batzdorff, Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) is the queen of icy, stone-cold moms who you’d love to have a glass of wine with. Though she is critical, superficial and very set in her ways, it’s clear she loves her daughter. Their relationship is nuanced, honest and often very funny. Some of the best dialogue on Gilmore Girls comes from her sharp, biting one-liners. Kelly Bishop is also a pretty cool, feisty mom on the tragically short-lived teen comedy Bunheads, also written by Gilmore GirlsAmy Sherman-Palladino.

Carol (Ally Sheedy)

Single Drunk Female (2022-2023)

SINGLE DRUNK FEMALE, from left: Ally Sheedy, Sofia Black-D'Elia, 'Pilot', (Season 1, ep. 101, aired Jan. 20, 2022).

Another mom I’d love to drink wine with is Carol on Freeform’s Single Drunk Female, played by Ally Sheedy. Her coldness and inability to openly discuss emotions reminds me so much of my own Russian Jewish family members that she may as well adopt me too. (I told her this when we talked during this interview!)

On that note, Happy Mother’s Day!

TVs Top Moms
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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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