'bad' mums of tv

by rebecca varcoe

While the small screen tries pretty hard to sell us unrealistic standards of motherhood (I know! Hollywood setting unrealistic standards for women? Shocking!), sometimes, just sometimes, they lean all the way in and serve us the most questionably behaved mums of all time. To the bad mums everywhere, may we try not to be them.

bad mums of tv frankie peggy bundy
Oh, Peggy Bundy...

Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek: Nineties kids will remember Catherine O’Hara best as Macaulay Culkin’s mum in Home Alone 1 and 2, most likely for the iconic scene where she screams “Kevin!” in a Florida Airport. In the Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek, she once again takes up the mantle of ‘pretty-bad Mum’, playing Moira Rose – the mother to two adult brats who she raised and spoiled in exorbitant wealth, until the whole fam find themselves up, well, yes, Schitt’s Creek. A bit Lucille Bluth, Moira is wildly self absorbed and downright mean, but stick with the show and you may feel a bit of warmth creep in there, too.

Julie Cooper from The OC: The biggest no-duh of all time – Julie Cooper is the mother of bad mothers. Remember when Julie seduced her daughter’s boyfriend? Or when she tried to frame Ryan for a shooting by offering his brother $20k? Or when she tried to get Ryan to avenge her dead daughter by killing another teen? Julie, my fiery-haired temptress and psychotic purveyor of the finest things in life, you were just too wild for any child to manage.

Colleen Donaghy from 30 Rock: Elaine Stritch was not an American national treasure – she was a global, universal treasure. The late actress was known for many roles across her near 70-year career from the stage to the screen, but to me, she will always be Jack Donaghy’s nasty Irish Catholic mother on 30 Rock. Her lines are literally too nasty for me to have in my Google search history, so I’ll let you do that yourself. Viper-tongued even at age 85, her turn as Colleen is worth a 30 Rock re-watch.

Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development: “I don’t care for Gob” is a mainstay in my vocabulary and I don’t even have children (let alone one named Gob). Such is the icon status of the Bluth family matriarch. The line, uttered over a martini, refers to her magician son, Gob – a wildly selfish and unhinged man who fits right in with his dysfunctional family. From loathing Gob to participating in mother-son pageants with her co-dependent son Buster, Lucille very rarely makes a sympathetic move. Played so perfectly by Jessica Walter, it would be a crime to leave Lucille off a list of bad mothers.

Peggy Bundy from Married with Children: A gritty alternative to The Brady Bunch, Married With Children was a mainstay in my house growing up. Perhaps it was her fashion sense (or the laissez faire attitude of ashing your cigarette almost directly into the meal your children are about to eat), but I couldn’t help but love Peggy despite her obvious ‘bad mother’ status. A spicy antidote to the perfect, squeaky-clean on-screen mums, and now the Insta-mamas with their organic meals and blonde babies in neutral linens, Peggy embraced her shortcomings in a way that’s still extremely relevant today. Peg taught me you could be super-hot, hate doing the dishes, and still love your family – a lesson I took extremely to heart.

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