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[May 10, 2014]
Moms on TV have changed, but wise ones still win [Naples Daily News, Fla. :: ]
(Naples Daily News (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 10--They were about good times, happy days and one day at a time.
Television mothers have made their mark since the 1950s, each bringing unique traits to the dinner table.
As moms everywhere reflect on Mother's Day, here's a look at the role TV matriarchs played in popular culture.
Melinda Isley, owner of MCreative PR public relations and marketing firm in Fort Myers, said she always enjoyed Bonnie Franklin's character of Ann Romano on "One Day At A Time." The CBS situation-comedy ran from 1975 to 1984.
Romano was a single mother of two teenage daughters, Julie and Barbara Cooper (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli).
QUIZ: From 'Bewitched' to 'Breaking Bad' do you know your TV moms? "I had an older sister, so the angst she caused her I could relate to," said Isley, 44, who said her own mother was a single mom. "And the pettiness and the fights." A Naples Daily News poll since earlier in May asked readers: What TV mom would you like to have as your mom? Of more than 60 votes cast, Clair Huxtable of "The Cosby Show" received the most votes. Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University in New York, said he was not surprised.
"If I had to give the award for the top mother of all time from television, it would have to go to Clair Huxtable," said Thompson, also director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse.
"You always knew who was the boss. She always seemed like the coolest mother possible. She's head and shoulders above the rest." Actress Phylicia Rashad played Clair Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," which aired from 1984 to 1992 and also starred comedian Bill Cosby.
With the Huxtable parents, Thompson said, the show promoted intergenerational communication in the family.
"It was really about the parents and kids talking to each other as if they're human beings," he said.
Other TV moms who fared well in the Daily News poll included Samantha Stephens (actress Elizabeth Montgomery) of "Bewitched" and Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross) of "Happy Days." Even so, Thompson said, women should not look to TV to learn how to be good moms.
"In the end, I really don't think the way people mother in our culture is significantly impacted by the way they mother in sitcoms," he said.
"I think mothering is such a complex act. If people are looking at television to learn how to be a better mother is like looking at 'Grey's Anatomy' on how to be a surgeon." The 1950s began with TV moms who seemed almost too perfect, Thompson said. June Cleaver, Harriet Nelson and Donna Reed often wore dresses -- sometimes even pearl necklaces -- while they vacuumed and performed other household chores.
"The really good ones from the 1950s almost had that robotic feel to them," Thompson said.
Mothers changed through the 1960s and '70s, with the more casual Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) of "The Brady Bunch." Other moms of note during that time included Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones) of "The Partridge Family"; Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) of "All in the Family"; and Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) of "Good Times." Then came the '80s. Actress Katey Sagal starred as the obnoxious Peggy Bundy on "Married ... With Children" that aired from 1987 to 1997. Through Wednesday, Bundy had receive no votes in the Daily News poll.
"What made a comedy a comedy" was often bad parenting, Thompson pointed out.
Even so, some of the more popular TV moms made America laugh. Isley didn't hesitate when choosing her favorite.
"How much fun would it have been to have Lucille Ball as your mom?" she asked, laughing.
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