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TV's misunderstood mothers

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Many grew up watching apron-clad sitcom moms with perfect beehive haircuts and unlimited poise and patience (though some of us saw that watching reruns, or DVDs, or whatever of shows from long before we were born). But not all mothers are June Cleaver, Carol Brady, or Marion Cunningham, and many TV shows today feature mothers of a more complicated sort.

From antiheroes to the comically flawed, here are some of the most underestimated mothers in recent television history in honor of Mother's Day. These matriarchs may defy the phrase "mother knows best," but they often mean well — and like our own mothers, we've got to love them for it.

Cersei Lannister, 'Game of Thrones'

Cersei gave birth to one of TV's most notorious villains, King Joffrey, and she's certainly not the warmest person herself. But the former queen is willing to fight tooth and nail for her children and is loyal to family first. You could find worse mothers in Westeros (try the Vale).
 
Frankie Heck, 'The Middle'

Like many middle-class mothers (including Claire Dunphy of "Modern Family" and Kitty Foeman of "That '70s Show"), Frankie is often crabby and sleepless, doesn't buy organic, and might forget a PTA meeting or two. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a Midwestern mother more accepting of her kids' every quirk.
 
Skyler White, 'Breaking Bad'

Skyler makes some distinctly not-so-motherly decisions — smoking while pregnant, committing adultery, and covering up her husband's meth business, to name a few. But to be fair, she does have a tough job at hand: protecting her family "from the man who protects this family."
 
Violet Crawley, 'Downton Abbey'

The dowager countess of Grantham may have old-fashioned ideals and a stubborn streak, but she delivers a motherly reality check to every lord, lady, and servant who crosses her path. And really, who hasn't wished Maggie Smith was her long-lost mother or grandmother?
 
Norma Bates, 'Bates Motel'

Norma takes the term "helicopter parent" to a creepy new level, and it's hard to condone a serial murderer as a mother. But deep-seated psychological issues aside, Norma is hard as nails, and she is the voice of reason in her son's head.

Lori Grimes, 'The Walking Dead'

Infamous for continually losing track of son Carl in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, Lori seems more focused on managing the aftershock of her extramarital affair than parenting. Still, Lori pays the ultimate price to deliver baby Judith — and some tear-jerking final words to Carl.

Mary Cooper, 'The Big Bang Theory'

Sheldon's mother (whom he refers to as a "religiously fanatical, right-wing Texan with a mild Dr. Pepper addiction") doesn't share her son's scientific mind. But when the eccentric Sheldon gets too irrational, Mrs. Cooper's unique wisdom has a curing effect that only a mother could provide.


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