Here's five of the best, from the demure 1950s version to the freewheeling 21st-century incarnation. These fictional mamas may have set the bar high for generations of real ones, but they did something in return: kept families entertained so they'd give mom a break, if only until the next commercial. No Mother's Day card is necessary, but let's give each of these TV moms a big hug for her holiday:
— June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), "Leave It to Beaver," 1957-63. Yes, June wore pearls around the house. And high heels. But her real trademark was her loving but no-nonsense approach to rambunctious sons Wally and Beaver. She met misbehavior with a knowing look and even tone, making surrender the only option.
— Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), "The Cosby Show," 1984-92. With five children and a husband who's a great partner but a big kid himself, what's a mother to do? Clair's answer: Be the calm center of a whirlwind of activity, while tending to a legal career and reminding Cliff (Bill Cosby) he's a lucky, lucky man.
—Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr), "Roseanne," 1988-97. There are many ways to be a good mother and Roseanne's was unmistakably hers, with bark and loving bite (and definitely no pearls). She was funny and rowdy and unfailingly committed to keeping her family afloat through tough times, whether financial or emotional.
— Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), "The Gilmore Girls," 2000-07. A young, fiercely devoted single parent, Lorelai had her own growing up to do. But she always put daughter Rory's needs first as, in tandem, mom and teenager stumbled uncertainly toward making the best life—and brightest future—possible.
— Gloria Pritchett (Sofia Vergara), "Modern Family," 2009-present. If young Manny is a mama's boy, then he's keeping ideal company. Gorgeous, exuberant, devoted Gloria kept their dreams alive when the pair were on their own. New stepdad Jay is in the picture now and wants to weigh in, but this savvy mother knows best. And remember, guys, these are Mother's Day hugs.