Thank You to the 20 Best Moms on TV

Mothers are not only the underappreciated heroes of our real lives; they are undersung on the small screen as well. These doctors, spies, Queens, and generally overburdened women are nevertheless always there for their kids, even if they turn into monsters to protect their young (we’re looking at Laura Dern as much as Lena Headey). Don’t fault them for what is only their evolutionary instinct, after all. And let’s not forget that there are plenty of bad mothers out there on TV too. Just ask Jack Donaghy about Colleen, or Sally Draper about Betty. So be glad that these moms are willing to trample everything in sight to lay the world before their children. Their mothers probably did the same for them, too. In honor of Mother’s Day, but also because we love them on any day, here is a list of the most maternal, most loyal, most accomplished, and most beloved mothers on TV. Thanks, moms.

Danielle Levitt/SHOWTIME

Frankie Shaw as Bridgette Bird and Rosie O’Donnell as Tutu, SMILF As one of the scrappiest single moms in Boston, Bridgette Bird—mother of Larry, daughter of Tutu—is the driving force behind SMILF, a subversively feminist love letter to motherhood. And while Tutu may be struggling with her own unresolved trauma, that doesn’t mean she is overwhelmed with a very deep love for her daughter and grandson.


Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel She’s a mother, a fiery comedienne, and a socialite about town. Is there anything the eponymous Mrs. Maisel can’t do?


Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne, aka Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale Even while she’s forced to deal with, you know, adjusting to her new life as an enslaved concubine, June’s No. 1 concern remains the wellbeing of her daughter, Hannah, who was taken away from her when things really started getting dystopian.


Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay, Westworld Does an artificially intelligent robot still count as a mother? We think so—Maeve’s maternal instincts are programmed so deep that not even an army of humans could stop her from protecting her child.


Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson, Black-ish A mother of five, Rainbow is the backbone of the Johnson family, with a liberal heart of gold—and a killer wardrobe to boot.


Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin It wasn’t by immaculate conception, but Jane Villanueva is mother to baby Matelio thanks to a slight medical mishap that left her the blessing of a lifetime, and us a wonderful TV mother.


Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman, Laura Dern as Renata Klein, Zoë Kravitz as Bonnie Carlson, Big Little Lies

The sheer force of five Monterey moms dressed head-to-toe as different incarnations of Audrey Hepburn at a PTA-sponsored trivia night—wow. These well-heeled power moms might be accused of murder, but they could not be accused of bad mothering.


Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Game Of Thrones A mother’s love is not to be tested—and if you don’t believe that, just ask Cersei Lannister, Westeros’s merciless mother of three.


Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, The Americans If you think your mom is good at snooping, you haven’t met Elizabeth Jennings, the KGB spy with a soul of gold who’s raising two kids undercover in the American suburbs during the Cold War.


Constance Wu as Jessica Huang, Fresh Off The Boat With pragmatic zingers for her kids, husband, and just about everyone else who crosses her path, Eddie Huang’s mother, Jessica, is the No. 1 mom keeping it real on TV.


Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, Better Things A single, working, actress-mom juggling three girls—all of them incredibly different, and incredibly frustrating in different ways—plus a mother-in-law who lives next door, Sam’s life (which is based on star and creator Pamela Adlon’s own) is all about the small victories, which, when they come, feel like the gushiest waterfalls of joy and love. Worth it.


Sutton Foster as Liza Miller, Younger Even though she’s living a double life as a hip 26-year-old literary agent’s assistant, Liza still finds time to be the actual 40-year-old mother her college-aged daughter knows, needs, and loves.


Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets, Baskets A large male comedian playing the mother of two hapless adult sons both played by Zach Galifianakis could’ve felt broad or easy, but the warmth, humor, and care Anderson put into his performance as Christine Baskets won him an Emmy in one of the most underappreciated shows on TV.


Justina Machado as Penelope Alvarez and Rita Moreno as Lydia Riera, One Day At A Time This Army vet is joined by her own mother (played by Rita Moreno) in raising her two kids as they deal with the day-to-day ups and downs of life together.


Jane Fonda as Grace Hanson and Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein, Grace and Frankie Equal parts bitter (Grace) and sweet (Frankie), these two moms (and business partners) are the odd couple pair of moms everyone wishes they had. They’re also grandmas, which means they’re each twice as cool.