When it comes to moms on TV, we left the land of Donna Reed and Leave It to Beaver a loooong time ago. • Still, every roster of cool TV moms I see in media on or about Mother's Day — even the trippy, ganja-laced list cooked up Thursday by my Stuck in the '80s pals Steve Spears and Sean Daly — has the same names. Roseanne. Claire Huxtable. Marge Simpson. • All wonderful ladies, to be sure. But television has way more fun with gender and family roles these days, making moms out of the kinds of characters that would have been played by a crusty Robert Mitchum or Charlton Heston years ago. • Forget about men of a certain age: in the go-go aughts, the coolest TV roles belong to mom. • So, to pay tribute, here's my list of TV Mom Types for the New Millennium. Happy Mother's Day.
The action hero mom
V's FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and alien queen Anna (Morena Baccarin): Who says a mom can't be a gun shootin', angst-spewin', relationship-avoidin' action hero? ABC's V remake gained an instant, contemporary sheen by changing the 1984 series' intrepid male hero into a conflicted FBI agent mothering a rebellious teen son — setting up a catfight for the ages with alien queen Anna, who has her own rebellious daughter to handle.
The scorned mom
The Good Wife's Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), Mad Men's Betty Draper (January Jones): Be honest. The one thing you really want to know about Elizabeth Edwards, Hillary Clinton or any high-powered wife with a cheating man can be summed up in four words: How could she stay? Margulies' Alicia answers that question by asking it herself, in every episode. Jones' Betty capped Mad Men's last season by having an affair of her own and leaving town.
The doofus mom
Cougar Town's Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox), The Middle's Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton): The classic sitcom formula often paired a schlubby guy with a much smarter, much hotter wife. Today's family comedies twist that formula, turning mom into the clumsy awkward one (of course, she's still hot; this is TV after all).
The superdysfunctional mom (fictional edition)
Nurse Jackie's Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), United States of Tara's Tara Gregson (Toni Collette): On cable, it isn't enough to give a mom typical family challenges. Falco's character is a tranquilizer addict and mother of two cheating on her good-guy husband, while Collette's Tara juggles multiple personalities hiding whatever trauma created them in the first place. Both shows twist the typical family drama by handing mom such a gargantuan problem, whatever follows is bound to feel fresh.
The superdysfunctional mom (real life edition)
Jon & Kate's Kate Gosselin, Nadia "Octomom" Suleman, every single one of the Real Housewives: For most of us, it feels too icky to feed our sense of superiority by watching Jerry Springer, so we tune in to Gosselin yelling at her kid-like husband, or to see Suleman trying to explain the logic of giving birth to eight kids when she had six, and suddenly, we feel better about our lives. It's comforting to realize that, no matter how many overpriced settees the Housewives buy, they'll never get the class they need.