For years, TV sitcoms perpetuated the stereotype of the bumbling, clueless dad. It's only recently that moms are getting the same rank treatment. From Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) in Malcolm in the Middle to Jules (Courteney Cox) in Cougar Town to Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) in The Middle to Claire (Julie Bowen) in Modern Family, right up to Polly (Sarah Chalke) in How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life), today's TV moms tend to be oblivious, overwhelmed, inappropriate, or neurotic.
But in honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would jump in the Wayback Machine (thank you, Mr. Peabody) to honor some of the medium's great mothers
Most people of my generation go immediately to the comfort femmes, homemakers from the Eisenhower era who vacuumed with pearls on. That has no appeal for me. Donna Reed? I always worried about how domineering her husband was in her own house (and on her own show). Am I the only one who felt that Carl Betz had some serious anger issues?
June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver always seemed ready to strangle Eddie Haskell, so I doubt she would have liked me as a kid. I know the nuns didn't. Besides, for reasons I can't explain, I felt menaced by Barbara Billingsley's hair.
I have to throw out a lot of the TV mothers who would seem like perfect candidates. Mrs. Cunningham on Happy Days? Too fussy. Clair Huxtable? Too strict. Carol Brady? Honey, if you can't tell your spouse is gay, you're a suspect role model.
It should be obvious by now that this roster is grossly subjective, so let's call it what it is: TV moms I would like to have been raised by.
I was strongly drawn to Maggie Seaver on Growing Pains, but part of that package deal is you get Alan Thicke for a father. Ain't no way! And Shirley Jones on The Partridge Family was an angel, but having her as a mom would rule out my most cherished ambition: dating Susan Dey. And I never felt comfortable with Reuben Kincaid always hanging around. He set off my stranger danger alarms.
I often dreamed of being one of Suzanne Somers' stepsons on Step by Step, but for all the wrong reasons.
Honestly, there are only two sitcom moms with whom I bonded in a healthy way: Florida (Esther Rolle) on Good Times, whose presence I always found deeply reassuring, and Shirley Booth on Hazel. I'm sure it says something disturbing about me that the mother figure I craved most was a domestic who was paid to caretake.
I was going to throw in Roseanne just to shock you, but judging by my mail, most of you are already shocked by the fact that I still have a job.
Fire sale. With ratings in a free fall, they're talking about a purge on American Idol. Not just Mariah. A clean sweep.
"All four are gone," a Fox insider told the showbiz website TheWrap. "They feel they've lost their core audience and they want it back."
They're also reportedly making exit plans for Nigel. Lythgoe, that is, the Idol executive producer who has been jettisoned once before.
What a stunning miscalculation! Replacing all those figures is just switching stewards on the Titanic.
There's only one way to save Idol: Make a human sacrifice of Seacrest! The gods must be appeased.
Joke of the week. We're in the May "sweeps" period, when it's common to see weddings on TV. This week, Jimmy Kimmel toasted the tube's most bountiful bride and groom.
"Yesterday - in McIntyre, Ga., - Honey Boo Boo's Mom and Dad - Sugar Bear and Mama June - finally tied the knot. Isn't that beautiful?," Kimmel asked.
"Mama June and Sugar Bear met in an online chat room nine years ago and they made love so sweet it gave us a Honey Boo Boo - and now, at long last, they have been joined in holy matrimony . . . . Congratulations to Sugar Bear and Mama June. If you'd like to send them a gift, they're registered at 7-Eleven and the Hometown Buffet."