Happy Mother’s Day! ’80s Sitcom Mothers

Here is an article I wrote in the first year of my blog. Many of you may not have seen this yet. Since, today is Mother’s Day, I will repost this. I also added a new mother at the end of the list.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a list of great ’80s sitcom mothers. These are listed in no particular order:

1. Happy Days – Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross)

Oh, happy days. A perfect name for a perfect show, Happy Days showed us what it was like to be in high school in the days of Ford Fairlanes and poodle skirts. And when you have bad boys like “The Fonz” having a negative (but still so wholesome by today’s standards) influence on your boy Ritchie, you’d better hope your motherly skills are top notch. And if you were Marion Cunningham, you had nothing to worry about!

Marion ran a tight ship and a tidy house. The kitchen was always clean, the living room could pass the white glove test, and if anyone stopped by unexpectedly Marion always had here nicest close on. Everyone’s favorite mom, Marion takes us back to simpler times where a good meal and sound advice can solve any crisis in under 30 minutes. Marion is known for her witty comments, raising wholesome kids and even dancing with the FONZ. She is the mom every kids wants to have.

Our Favorite Quotes:
Marion: [the family has found out Joanie smokes and Howard is getting ready to lecture her] “Tell her that smoking is a disgusting and filthy habit.”
Howard: “I’ll get to that Marion…”
Richie: “…and it leads to heart disease and lung cancer…”
Howard: “All right Richard…”
Marion: “…and tell her that kissing someone who smokes is like kissing an ashtray!”

(Episode 214)
Howard: Marion, the kids are gone, we can do anything we want, we
can even watch tv naked.
Marion: Oh not that again, Howard.

(Episode 16)
Marion: Are we buying a new house
Howard: What do we need a new house for, what’s wrong with this one?
Marion: Well, we don’t have enough closet space, life would be so
much more pleasant if we just had more closet space

2. Cosby Show – Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad)
 For 8 years, no one taught us as many mother lessons as Clair Huxtable did on NBC’s hit comedy The Cosby Show. As Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable’s lovely wife, and mother to their children Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy. The classy Clair managed to hold a very esteemed career as an attorney, in addition to teaching her children good moral values and education (and putting up with her comical husband in the process).

Successful attorney, mother of five, and wife to Cliff which is a full-time job in itself, Clair managed to bring us humor and good moral values each week. Her assertive no-nonsense nature allowed her children to grow up happy and healthy and even have their own spin-off.

Our Favorite Quotes:
Cliff: “I don’t understand why it is that you get to rant and rave and I’m the one that has to be calm.”
Clair: “Because, Cliff, that is my baby in there!”
Cliff: “Well, that’s my baby, too!”
Clair: “No, Cliff, you did not have that child. I had that child. I was the one who was lying on that table screaming “take it out.” And if it takes the last breath in my body, Sondra IS going to become a lawyer!”

Cliff: “I’m just saying that a woman can have babies longer than a man can play football.”

Clair: “Go to sleep, Cliff…’cause you’re gonna need a helmet if you keep talking.”

3. Mama’s Family – Thelma Crowley Harper (Vicki Lawrence)

A TV mother’s list just wouldn’t be complete with out a mention of Mama’s Family. Thelma Harper, the blue haired outspoken widow (the “mama”), was in charge of keeping her son Vinton and his two children Sonja and Buzz, along with her sister Fran rounding out the household. While originally canceled after one season, the show would continue to evolve through syndication and be a constant throughout the 1980’s.

Thelma Mae Harper was raised a small town farm girl with a healthy dose of attitude. She reminds us of everyone’s favorite grumpy aunt or grandmother. Despite her propensity to start arguments, give attitude, and be a all-around general pain in the rear, Mama loved her family and looked out for him with her sharp tongued smart mouth. She was crude, wisecracking, and wasn’t afraid to slap her children silly. Mama wasn’t always the greatest mom, but she always made us laugh with her over the top antics.

Our Favorite Quotes:
“I tell ya, a guy selling brains could clean up in this family”

Thelma ‘Mama’ Harper: Good lord, Vinton, what in the hell do you think you’re doing?
Vinton Harper: Well Mama… I’m trying to guess your weight…
Thelma ‘Mama’ Harper: I’ve got a better idea Vinton… how about you guess which hand I’m gonna smack you upside the head with.

4. Who’s the Boss? – Angela Bower (Judith Light)
 There’s a good reason why this hit 80’s sitcom was entitled Who’s the Boss?. The show featured star Tony Danza as Tony Micelli, who moves into the Bower residence as a live-in housekeeper with his daughter Samantha. While Tony tends to the house during the day, Angela is the one out working the corporate life to support her son Jonathan. The role-reversal proved to be not only popular with the shows fans, but offered a different glimpse of family life (compared to the tried-and true “stay at home” mom approach of many comedies.

Angela Bower helped to show the world that there is more than one way to be a great mom. She is a high powered advertising executive with a live in male housekeeper. Although she doesn’t cook or do any of the cleaning, she adores her son and will do anything for him. The gender reversal on this show proved to be a hit with ratings and working moms

Our Favorite Quotes:
Tony: “I’m Tony Micelli. I’m here about the job.”
Angela: “Oh, I’m sorry. There must be a mistake. This job is for a housekeeper.”
Tony: “That’s me, Mr. Goodmop!”
Angela: “Well, my mother’s screening everyone. Did you meet her?”
Tony: “Yeah yesterday. She gave me the once over, kicked me in the tires, put me up on the rack…”
Angela: “Well, she should’ve checked under your hood, ’cause you’re the wrong sex”
Tony: “Oh, wait a minute; she said that wouldn’t be any problem.”
Angela: “My mother didn’t think World War II was a problem.”

5. Growing Pains – Maggie Malone Seaver (Joanna Kerns)
 Another very popular ht 80’s sitcom, Growing Pains, taught us, well, about the pains that endure growing up. Luckily, those pains were often temporary (figure 30 minutes, minus some commercial air time), and were often made better from the warm motherly love from Maggie Seaver. Like Who’s The Boss, the show tackled the issue of a working mothers and stay-at-home father figure, where Maggie’s husband Jason helped raise their kids Mike, Carol, Ben, and Chrissy. The show probably did a lot for helping the concept of a working mother become more commonplace.

Maggie Malone Seaver was the quintessential working mom of the 80s. She has a high pressure job that occasionally kept her our late, while her husband worked from home and cooked. She showed us that the Marion Cunningham style of motherhood wasn’t the only way to raise happy kids.

Our Favorite Quotes:
Maggie: “Carol, how dare you disobey us!”
Jason: “I never thought I would ever say that but Carol Ann Seaver, you’re grounded.”
Carol: “Wait…”
Maggie: “No explanations. You are not getting a nose job.”
Carol: “I know.”
Jason: “What?”
Carol: “I’m not getting a nose job.”
Jason: “Don’t confuse us by agreeing with us, Carol.”

6. Family Ties – Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter)
 At a time when working mothers were finally becoming commonplace in America, Elyse Keaton made the role of professional and mom look almost too easy. As the mother of Alex (a young Michael J. Fox), Mallory, and Tina, Elyse spent each 30 min episode of Family Ties trying to juggle the life of a working mother along with her husband Alex. Elyse had the luxury of working from home as an architect, which made her dual roles seem a little easier on mom (although in reality, we all know this isn’t necessarily the case).

Our Favorite Quotes:
Steven Keaton: I love you, Elyse.
Elyse Keaton: No, I love you more, Steven.
[Elyse and Steven make kissy noises through the telephone]
Alex P. Keaton: [shouting from upstairs] Oh, for crying… will you hang up the phone?

7. Alf – Kate Tanner (Anne Schedeen)
 One thing Kate Tanner can hold over every mom on this list? She doesn’t have to take care of a wise-mouthed alien from the planet Melmac named ALF, in addition to children Lynn, Brian, and cat Lucky (whom Alf constantly tries to make a meal out of). With the constant hi jinks that Alf gets himself into (begin an alien who lives with a middle class family in suburbia is an obvious recipe for comedy), it’s a wonder how Kate ever slept at night.

Our Favorite Quotes:
Kate: “Don’t break that remote.”
ALF: “Kate, have I ever broken anything?”
[Kate stares at him]
ALF: “Well, lately?”
ALF: “This week?”
ALF: “Today?”
ALF: “Since breakfast?”

ALF: But why, why?
Kate: Why? Cause you’re irresponsible. You trashed the living room, blew up the kitchen, wallpapered the shower…
ALF: It was a rhetorical question.

ALF: Justice will not rest.
Kate: What if I gave justice a cookie?
ALF: Justice will think about it.

And now I present to you, the newest member of the ’80s mothers Hall of Fame – Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey)!!!

She may be the ultimate smother, but Beverly Goldberg always has her children’s best interest at heart. She may be very embarrasing to her children, but she can’t help herself – especially if anybody messes with her delicious snugglebunnies. Unfortunately, when Beverly injects herself into her children’s lives, things usually get worse. But, she makes things right by the end of the episode. The Goldbergs may be a current television show, but it not only takes place in 1980-something, but it has an ’80s feel to it – even including at least one music montage an episode. The Goldbergs has an incredible cast, and Wendi McLendon-Covey’s Beverly is one of the best parts of the show. She definitely deserves an Emmy Award!


Our favorite quotes:

Beverly: Birthday both sighting! Oh, it’s my little love muffin’s birthday. And how do I know? Because I grew your body in my body.

Adam: Will you stop bringing that up, we all know where I came from.


Virginia Kremp: Oh please, I’ve seen Adam doing horseplay when I have specifically requested no horse play. He’s no angel.

Beverly: Oh, he is an angel. He could literally sprout wings and take flight at any moment.


Beverly: $*@! me sideways. I have raised some thoughtful children.


Barry: Great news everyone. I’ve been personally selected to be a world famous model.

Beverly: Well, I think you’re limiting yourself at world famous, but continue.


Beverly: Do you know what could happen in four minutes? You could drown, choke, eat poison berrys. And if any of that happens, then I have failed as a mother.


Beverly: You focus on the music and leave the rest to us. By the time we’re done, Juliard will be begging you to go. Just trust, momma.

Erica: Nothing crazy.

Beverly: You got it, schmoopie. We gotta figure out how to get a white stallion down here.

Does anybody have any other ’80s moms they would like to honor?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!!


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4 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day! ’80s Sitcom Mothers”

    1. Thanks so much! I loved The Cosby Show too. Clair had a great ability to balance being a caring, loving mother, and being able to lay the smackdown on anybody who deserved it.

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