The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Simpsons, Friends, The X-Files; Seinfeld- Photo credits: NBC/courtesy Everett Collection; ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection; NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Everett Collection; ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett CollectionNBC

(Photo by NBC/courtesy Everett Collection; ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection; NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Everett Collection; ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection; NBC)

The 100 Best ’90s TV Shows

The ’90s — when things were whack if they weren’t rad and you bounced from a lame party full of capital-L losers … yadda, yadda, yadda. Some of our favorite TV stars are responsible for that fly vernacular. Their favorite catchphrases were seared into fans’ brains and survive to this day on the lips of moms everywhere because those dorks starred in some of the best TV of the decade.

We’re talking the Fresh Prince, Mulder and Scully, Jerry, Elaine, George, Kramer, Bart and Lisa, Captain Picard, Buffy, Angela Chase, and, of course, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, and Phoebe to name just a few of the characters that we came to love and left a lasting impression.

Feeling nostalgic, we decided to rank the top ’90s shows below based on their popularity at the time they aired, their cultural resonance today, their Tomatometer score (where available), and an aggregation of editorial lists published by reputable media outlets. You’ll find ’90s sitcoms, ’90s cartoons, ’90s Nickelodeon shows, ’90s hospital dramas, ’90s police procedurals — sensing a pattern?

We’re saving The Sopranos (1999–2007) and other titles that aired the bulk of their seasons primarily in other decades for other lists; however, long-running shows that ran through the majority or all of the 1990s did make the list, even if they’ve had many seasons in other decades, too – shows like Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Unsolved Mysteries. (You may also see those on our “Best TV of the 1980s” list — coming soon!) You’ll also note that these are primarily U.S. titles, though the occasional British series was able to cross the pond in the age before streaming and make a major impression in the ’90s.

Did your favorite not make our list of the best ’90s TV shows? Tell us in the comments which ’90s series you think should have made the list or should have been ranked higher or lower.

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#100

#99
Synopsis: A four-part miniseries tells the horror story of King's "The Stand." A supervirus that leaked from a lab kills most... [More]

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#98

Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: With The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Bruce Campbell brings his campy charms to the small-screen in an inventive, genre-bending Western.

Rocko (1993)

#96
Synopsis: Rocko is a wallaby who has moved from his native Australia to the United States. But life in the United... [More]

Doug (1991)

#95
Synopsis: Meet Douglas Yancy Funnie, who just moved to Bluffington with his parents, Phil and Theda, and his sister, Judy. When... [More]

Aeon Flux: Season 3 (1995)
80%

#94
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: Reaching a beguiling conclusion, Aeon Flux solidifies its status as a startlingly mature animation curio that is equal parts disturbing and sexy.
Starring:

Picket Fences (1992)
82%

#93
Synopsis: Set in Rome, Wis., this drama/mystery series revolves around a small town where strange things happen. The central focus is... [More]
Directed By: David E. Kelley

Synopsis: Texas Ranger Cordell Walker kicks posterior -- usually in slo-mo. Because of his martial-arts skills, he has a competitive edge... [More]
Directed By: Len Katzman

JAG (1995)

#91
Synopsis: Harmon "Harm" Rabb Jr. is a former pilot turned lawyer working for the military's JAG (Judge Advocate General) division, the... [More]

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#90

#89
Synopsis: Based on the EC Comics series of the same name, this campy and stylized anthology series recounts a string of... [More]

Blossom (1991)

#88
Synopsis: Blossom Russo is a highly intelligent and spunky teenager. The youngest of three, she lives with her divorced musician father,... [More]

#87
Synopsis: The fictional version of comedian Drew Carey is a hapless employee for Cleveland's Winfred-Louder department store, which becomes an Internet... [More]

The State (1993)
83%

#86
Synopsis: Produced by MTV, "The State" is a sketch comedy show, a la "Saturday Night Live" with more elaborate productions. The... [More]

Kenan & Kel (1996)

#85
Synopsis: "Aw, here it goes!" Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were among the original cast members of the popular Nickelodeon sketch-comedy... [More]

Synopsis: Forced by evil scientists to watch bad "B" movies until he breaks, a host and a bunch of captive robots... [More]

Synopsis: Another incarnation of the Superman legend, this series puts a 1990s spin on the standard story. This time, the focus... [More]
Directed By: Robert Singer

Dinosaurs (1991)
91%

#82
Synopsis: Dinosaurs live like humans in this 1990s sitcom set in 60,000,003 B.C. in Pangaea. Blue-collar dinosaur Earl Sinclair tries to... [More]

#81
Synopsis: Long before Neil Patrick Harris portrayed the skirt-chasing Barney Stinson in "How I Met Your Mother," he was a favorite... [More]

Synopsis: This animated talk show is hosted by not-so-superhero Space Ghost and set in deep space. The show is often disrupted... [More]

#79
Synopsis: Sleep tight, America! Your fate lies safely in the hands of Dexter, a child genius who whips up dazzling, world-saving... [More]
Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky

7th Heaven (1996)

#78
Synopsis: Eric Camden is a reverend and the father of numerous children who faces the challenges of raising a family during... [More]

Synopsis: Superman battles evil while trying to conceal his alter ego, Clark Kent.... [More]

Synopsis: Mutant heroes live in New York sewers and train in martial arts to protect the city from crime.... [More]

Synopsis: Sabrina Spellman is a teenager with magical powers who comes from a long line of witches. Until going away to... [More]
Directed By: Paula Hart, Bruce Ferber

#74
Synopsis: Doug Heffernan puts in a long day's work delivering parcels and comes home each night to his loving wife, Carrie;... [More]

Xena (1995)

#73
Synopsis: Xena is a reformed warrior princess who travels around fighting evil. Gabrielle -- bard and friend -- keeps her company... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert

Synopsis: Former NBA player Mark Cooper becomes a dedicated teacher and basketball coach in Oakland after his playing career ends. When... [More]

Babylon 5 (1994)

#71
Synopsis: Creator J. Michael Straczynski's ambitious and complex futuristic space opera charts five years in the lives of those aboard the... [More]

Mr. Bean (1990)
100%

#70
Synopsis: The misadventures of a bumbling loner.... [More]
Starring: Rowan Atkinson
Directed By: John Birkin

X-Men (1992)
85%

#69
Synopsis: Professor Charles Xavier and his band of courageous mutants strike back against corrupt and bigoted government agencies as well as... [More]

Rugrats (1991)

#68
Synopsis: "Rugrats" reveals the world from a baby's point of view. Everything looks bigger, more mysterious and uncontrollable. Angelica, the oldest,... [More]

Pinky & the Brain (1995)
75%

#67
Synopsis: The odd buddies have many strange adventures.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

The Tick (1994)

#66
Synopsis: People dressed in tights and capes set out to save the world.... [More]

#65
Synopsis: This series uses reenactments and interviews to retell the circumstances of mysteries that are unsolved. Covering crimes, tales of lost... [More]

#64
Synopsis: When violent monsters descend upon Earth to destroy humanity, a reluctant young man joins a small squad of pilots under... [More]
Directed By: Hideaki Anno

Stargate SG-1 (1997)

#63
Synopsis: A team of explorers made up of soldiers and scientists travels through a Stargate, an ancient portal to other planets.... [More]
Directed By: Brad Wright

Synopsis: Beavis and Butt-head are, as one of the early preshow disclaimers read, "dumb, crude, ugly, thoughtless, sexist, self-destructive fools. But... [More]
Starring: Mike Judge
Directed By: Mike Judge

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#61

Ellen (1994)

#60
Synopsis: Ellen works in a Los Angeles bookstore called Buy the Book and hangs around with her friends discussing lovers, work... [More]

The Nanny (1993)

#59
Synopsis: When she appears on the doorstep of wealthy widower Maxwell Sheffield's New York home, cosmetics saleswoman Fran Fine unexpectedly gets... [More]

Martin (1992)

#58
Synopsis: Stand-up comedian Martin Lawrence drives this irreverent sitcom as a sexist, cocky and wisecracking radio station talk show host. His... [More]

Full House (1987)

#57
Synopsis: When Danny Tanner's wife dies, the San Francisco sportscaster gets support in the form of two new roommates: brother-in-law and... [More]

#56
Synopsis: Lovable schemer Zack Morris leads his pals on adventures at California's Bayside High School. The friends navigate relationships, final exams,... [More]

Synopsis: The high commander of an alien expedition lands on Earth -- what he considers to be the least-important planet --... [More]

#54
Synopsis: Denise Huxtable is in "a different world" -- predominantly black Hillman College -- in this popular "Cosby Show" spinoff. A... [More]

Murphy Brown (1988)

#53
Synopsis: Murphy Brown is the star reporter of "FYI," a newsmagazine series. Murphy is sarcastic, ambitious, often self-involved and bossy --... [More]

Ally McBeal (1997)
61%

#52
Synopsis: Ally McBeal is a young attorney who joins a prestigious law firm with a highly sexual environment and whose staff... [More]

Star Trek: Voyager (1995)
76%

#51
Synopsis: Kathryn Janeway is the captain of a starship that is lost in space and must travel across an unexplored region... [More]

NewsRadio (1995)
95%

#50
Synopsis: "NewsRadio" showcases the hilarious antics of staffers at WNYX, the fictional No.2 news radio station serving New York. The characters... [More]

#49
Synopsis: A show brilliant in its uncensored bad behavior and satirical humor, this series features Edina and Patsy, two hard-drinking, drug-taking,... [More]
Directed By: Jon Plowman

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#48

Synopsis: This series is composed of surreal sketch comedy pieces dealing with everything from politics and religion to popular culture. The... [More]

Quantum Leap (1989)

#46
Synopsis: Former scientist Sam Beckett finds himself trapped in time due to an experiment gone awry, leaping into the body of... [More]

Felicity (1998)

#45
Synopsis: Felicity Porter is a shy girl who finds out what life on her own is really following her high-school graduation.... [More]

Party of Five (1994)

#44
Synopsis: After their parents die in a car accident, the five Salinger siblings are forced to live on their own, with... [More]
Directed By: Chris Keyser, Amy Lippman

Chicago Hope (1994)

#43
Synopsis: Dr. Phillip Watters heads the hospital administration and often butts heads with dedicated doctors and surgeons who take issue with... [More]

L.A. Law (1986)

#42
Synopsis: The high-powered law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak handles both criminal and civil cases, usually for high fees.... [More]

#41
Synopsis: Live from New York for more than four decades, celebrity hosts join an award-winning ensemble cast to perform comedic sketches,... [More]
Directed By: Lorne Michaels

Daria (1997)

#40
Synopsis: Brainy, sardonic Daria Morgendorffer tries to fly under the radar at Lawndale High School, and she's doing a pretty good... [More]
Directed By: Karen Disher

Mad About You (1992)

#39
Synopsis: In this comedy, married New York couple Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt) share their lives and offer... [More]
Directed By: Danny Jacobson

Synopsis: Ren, a psychotic Chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a dimwitted Manx cat who goes by the nickname Stimpy, have a... [More]

Melrose Place (1992)

#37
Synopsis: This sudsy drama from Aaron Spelling focuses on the lives and loves of young adults in an apartment complex in... [More]

Synopsis: One of the definitive shows of the 1990s, "90210" originally follows the lives of Brandon and Brenda Walsh, who both... [More]
Directed By: Charles Rosin, Darren Star

#35
Synopsis: This drama series chronicles the lives of wannabe filmmaker Dawson Leery, his best friend Joey (female), who has been in... [More]
Directed By: Greg Berlanti, Paul Stupin

Wings (1990)

#34
Synopsis: Two brothers, Joe and Brian Hackett, run a one-plane commuter service from a small Nantucket airport. Along with Joe's on-again/off-again... [More]

Spin City (1996)
69%

#33
Synopsis: New York Mayor Randall Winston needs help running the city. So, for much of the series, he counts on Deputy... [More]

Roseanne (1988)
76%

#32
Synopsis: Explore life, death and everything in between through the relatable, hilarious and brutally honest lens of the working-class Conner household,... [More]

#31
Synopsis: This series provides a platform for the many members of the comedic Wayans family. Popular recurring sketches include Homey D.... [More]

Synopsis: Ray Barone is a successful sports writer and family man who deals with a brother and parents -- who happen... [More]

#29
Synopsis: Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, host of the home-improvement show "Tool Time," definitely is not as handy at home as he... [More]

Sports Night (1998)
90%

#28
Synopsis: Casey McCall and Dan Rydell are two sports anchors and best friends both on and off the screen. At "Sports... [More]

#27
Synopsis: Dr. Joel Fleischman graduates from Columbia University medical school and is assigned to work in the tiny Alaskan town of... [More]

Synopsis: A spinoff of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" is set on a space station near the planet... [More]

#25
Synopsis: With the help of true love Topanga, best friend Shawn and teacher Mr. Feeny, Cory Matthews juggles school, friends and... [More]

Sex and the City (1998)
70%

#24
Synopsis: A sex columnist, Carrie Bradshaw, and her three friends -- Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda -- explore Manhattan's dating scene, chronicling... [More]

NYPD Blue (1993)
83%

#23
Synopsis: This Steven Bochco-produced series pulls few punches in portraying the day-to-day lives of cops in New York's 15th Precinct. Characters'... [More]

Murder One (1995)
91%

#22
Synopsis: High-powered attorney Theodore Hoffman defends Neil Avedon, an arrogant young actor with a track record of drug-and-alcohol problems, in a... [More]

#21
Synopsis: "The Wonder Years" tracks life in the turbulent late 1960s and early '70s through the eyes of the increasingly less... [More]
Directed By: Bob Brush

Synopsis: The antithesis of the loving "Cosby Show" family, "Married ... With Children" focused on the Bundys, a suburban Chicago family... [More]

#19
Synopsis: Sarah Michelle Gellar takes on the role of Buffy Summers in this TV version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," based... [More]

Oz (1997)
92%

#18
Synopsis: Inmates and correctional officers inside the Oswald State Correctional Facility, nicknamed "Oz," battle for power and survival amid warring factions... [More]

Synopsis: This animated series conveys the dark mood of the original "Batman" comic books. Unlike the light action "Batman" show of... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Altieri

Synopsis: Accused by some of misinforming its core audience of young adults about international news, this series doesn't hide the fact... [More]

Synopsis: This fast-paced police drama portrays the brutal detective work of a homicide department in Baltimore. Dealing with the numerous murders... [More]

Freaks and Geeks (1999)
100%

#14
Synopsis: Growing up circa 1980, a misfit high-school student and his pals are probably destined to become new media millionaires, but... [More]
Directed By: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan

My So-Called Life (1994)
95%

#13
Synopsis: "My So-Called Life" is a bastion of teen angst. Angela is a high schooler in constant turmoil over her exposure... [More]

Prime Suspect (1992)
100%

#12
Synopsis: After a colleague suffers a near-fatal heart attack, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison takes over an investigation into the murder... [More]

#11
Synopsis: Hey now! This series offers a behind-the-scenes look at late-night talk show host Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling) and the production... [More]

Law & Order (1990)

#10
Synopsis: Filmed on location in New York, the drama showcases the sometimes-complex process of determining guilt or innocence, while lives hang... [More]

ER (1994)

#9
Synopsis: Set in Chicago, this medical drama deals with the personal and professional crises of the doctors in the emergency room... [More]

Twin Peaks (1990)
82%

#8
Synopsis: A crime drama mixed with healthy doses of the surreal, this series is about FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who travels... [More]

Synopsis: Will Smith more or less plays himself in this good-natured NBC sitcom. As the show's popular theme song explains, fictional... [More]

Frasier (1993)
93%

#6
Synopsis: Dr. Frasier Crane, a successful Boston therapist, moves to Seattle to get a new start on life; he has a... [More]

Synopsis: Featuring a bigger and better USS Enterprise, this series is set 78 years after the original series -- in the... [More]

The Simpsons (1989)
85%

#4
Synopsis: This long-running animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the town of Springfield in an unnamed U.S. state. The... [More]

The X-Files (1993)
74%

#3
Synopsis: In one of the longest-running science fiction series in network TV history, FBI special agents investigate unexplained, mind-bending cases known... [More]
Directed By: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan

Friends (1994)
82%

#2
Synopsis: Three young men and three young women -- of the BFF kind -- live in the same apartment complex and... [More]

Seinfeld (1989)
89%

#1
Synopsis: Four single friends -- comic Jerry Seinfeld, bungling George Costanza, frustrated working gal Elaine Benes and eccentric neighbor Cosmo Kramer... [More]


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FRIENDS -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

(Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

FALL 2019 TV SURVEY: 20 TV Shows That Defined the 1990s

For Rotten Tomatoes’ annual Fall TV Survey, we asked thousands of our users what they’re most looking forward to in the coming TV season and to reflect on the best shows from seasons past.

They’ll be there for you — unless you’re assembling a giant TV survey, in which case Jennifer Aniston, Courteney CoxLisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlancMatthew Perry, and David Schwimmer are nowhere to be found! (That joke has never been made before.)

Friends celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, so we couldn’t help but give a little cheer when you voted the comedy as the defining series of the 1990s. The cast also took top spot in our list of stars who ruled the decade.

The series won 64% of your vote. Seinfeld came in second with 51%, then The X-Files with 50%, ER came in fourth with 47%, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer took 44%.

The show’s cast nabbed 32% of the vote when we asked which star ruled the decade, followed by Jerry Seinfeld with 17%, Will Smith with 10%, the ER cast with 7%, and the Beverly Hills, 90210 cast came in fifth with 6%.

Disagree with the survey results? Tell us in the comments who you think should have made the list or have been ranked higher.

Synopsis: Featuring a bigger and better USS Enterprise, this series is set 78 years after the original series -- in the... [More]

Will & Grace (1998)

#19
Synopsis: In the original eight-season run of this groundbreaking sitcom, best friends Will, a meticulous corporate lawyer, and Grace, a neurotic... [More]

South Park (1997)
80%

#18
Synopsis: The animated series is not for children. In fact, its goal seems to be to offend as many as possible... [More]

Baywatch (1989)

#17
Synopsis: Lt. Mitch Buchannon is the dedicated leader of a group of lifeguards at Malibu Beach in Los Angeles. Although this... [More]

Full House (1987)

#16
Synopsis: When Danny Tanner's wife dies, the San Francisco sportscaster gets support in the form of two new roommates: brother-in-law and... [More]

#15
Synopsis: Live from New York for more than four decades, celebrity hosts join an award-winning ensemble cast to perform comedic sketches,... [More]
Directed By: Lorne Michaels

Ally McBeal (1997)
61%

#14
Synopsis: Ally McBeal is a young attorney who joins a prestigious law firm with a highly sexual environment and whose staff... [More]

Roseanne (1988)
76%

#13
Synopsis: Explore life, death and everything in between through the relatable, hilarious and brutally honest lens of the working-class Conner household,... [More]

#12
Synopsis: Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, host of the home-improvement show "Tool Time," definitely is not as handy at home as he... [More]

Synopsis: Will Smith more or less plays himself in this good-natured NBC sitcom. As the show's popular theme song explains, fictional... [More]

Synopsis: Ray Barone is a successful sports writer and family man who deals with a brother and parents -- who happen... [More]

Synopsis: The antithesis of the loving "Cosby Show" family, "Married ... With Children" focused on the Bundys, a suburban Chicago family... [More]

Frasier (1993)
93%

#8
Synopsis: Dr. Frasier Crane, a successful Boston therapist, moves to Seattle to get a new start on life; he has a... [More]

The Simpsons (1989)
85%

#7
Synopsis: This long-running animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the town of Springfield in an unnamed U.S. state. The... [More]

Synopsis: One of the definitive shows of the 1990s, "90210" originally follows the lives of Brandon and Brenda Walsh, who both... [More]
Directed By: Charles Rosin, Darren Star

#5
Synopsis: Sarah Michelle Gellar takes on the role of Buffy Summers in this TV version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," based... [More]

ER (1994)

#4
Synopsis: Set in Chicago, this medical drama deals with the personal and professional crises of the doctors in the emergency room... [More]

The X-Files (1993)
74%

#3
Synopsis: In one of the longest-running science fiction series in network TV history, FBI special agents investigate unexplained, mind-bending cases known... [More]
Directed By: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan

Seinfeld (1989)
89%

#2
Synopsis: Four single friends -- comic Jerry Seinfeld, bungling George Costanza, frustrated working gal Elaine Benes and eccentric neighbor Cosmo Kramer... [More]

Friends (1994)
82%

#1
Synopsis: Three young men and three young women -- of the BFF kind -- live in the same apartment complex and... [More]


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

BETTER THINGS "Sam/Pilot" Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, September 8, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (L-R) Pamela Adlon as Sam, Olivia Edward as Duke (photo: Colleen Hayes/FX)

Defining what makes a mom great is a complicated undertaking. No mother — or human, for that matter — is perfect all the time. Keeping that in mind and in honor of Mother’s Day, Rotten Tomatoes made a list of some of our favorite fictional TV moms.

We’ve included some obvious recent choices like characters from Jane the Virgin and Parenthood — programs that, in their very premise, address the concept of parentage and what that means to different people. We’ve also included older series like Leave It to Beaver — series that may not seem as relevant in a world in which many moms juggle career with home life, but that still shaped the role for a generation of viewers. And there are also shows that aren’t necessarily about motherhood all the time, but have certainly offered some thoughts on the subject; Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen, for example, will fiercely protect and avenge her “children,” and Catelyn Stark made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. (No, Cersei — just no.)

One thing’s true for all of these shows: These characters may not be the best moms all the time, but their imperfections sometimes make them best in the role.


#1

Tami Taylor (Connie Britton)
Friday Night Lights 97%

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Connie Britton as Tami Taylor (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

(Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

It wasn’t just that Tami Taylor was a great mom to two her daughters — which she most certainly was — but she was also the de facto parent for so many other kids in Dillon, Texas, when they needed advice on everything from how to handle colleges or their own parents or even more serious issues.


#2

Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez)
Jane The Virgin 100%

Jane the Virgin - Gina Rodriguez (The CW)

(Photo by The CW)

It may not have been Jane Villanueva’s plan to have a kid when she was still a virgin — especially since she was artificially inseminated with her old crush’s sample — but it turned out that she’s  pretty good at it. Probably because she had such great role models in her mom, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll).


#3

Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross)
black-ish 92%

BLACK-ISH - TRACEE ELLIS ROSS, MARSAI MARTIN, YARA SHAHIDI (ABC/Eric McCandless)

(Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless)

One of Dr. Rainbow Johnson’s greatest acts is her ability to talk to her kids like adults and put them first even when she’s going through her own stuff (like, say, when her marriage is falling apart).


#4

Sharon Morris (Sharon Horgan)
Catastrophe 98%

Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)

(Photo by Amazon Prime)

The circumstances under which Sharon and Rob (Rob Delaney) accidentally became parents and partners could have been catastrophic (one-night stands can have that effect on people’s lives), but she’s handled issues like redefining herself after children and fighting with a spouse in front of the kids with impeccable comic timing.


#5

Penelope Riera Alvarez (Justina Machado)
One Day at a Time 99%

One Day At A Time (Mike Yarish/Netflix)

Penelope Riera Alvarez leads an exceedingly stressful life. A war veteran coping with her own issues of depression and anxiety, she’s also a nurse to a fairly incompetent doctor (Stephen Tobolowsky) and lives with her extremely vivacious mother (Rita Moreno). But she always has time for her kids.


#6

Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad)
The Cosby Show

THE COSBY SHOW, Phylicia Rashad, Raven-Symone, Yr.7, 1990-1991. (c)Carsey-Werner Co. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

The epitome of “having it all” just as the phrase was permeating the lexicon, Clair Huxtable was a successful attorney, a mother of five, and a patient saint who was able to keep up with her family’s antics.


#7

Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham)
Gilmore Girls 85%

GILMORE GIRLS - Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

Lorelai Gilmore is there for her daughter Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) many, many mistakes with a smile and a quick-witted pop culture reference. In fact, she loves her so much that she’ll even attempt to play nice with her own mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), no matter how infuriating those encounters can be.


#8

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)
Game of Thrones 89%

Game of Thrones moms: Daenerys, Catelyn, Cersei (HBO)

Daenerys might be the Mother of Dragons, but she also feels a maternal duty toward her ever-increasing army of soldiers and followers. Catelyn Stark’s final act was a (failed) attempt to protect her first born. And then there’s, erm, Cersei (Lena Headey). Say what you will, the woman loved her children — mostly. Bye, Tommen!


#9

Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon)
Better Things 97%

BETTER THINGS -- Pictured: (l-r) Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, Olivia Edward Duke, Hannah Alligood as Frankie, Mikey Madison as Max. CR: Pamela Littky/FX

Single mom and working actress Sam Fox knows she doesn’t always have a good work-life balance. But she’s raising three kids who don’t begrudge her for it and that says something.


#10

Nora Walker (Sally Field)
Brothers & Sisters 79%

Brothers & Sisters - Sally Field (ABC)

Sally Field, who played matriarch Nora Walker in this long-running series, said it best when she accepted an Emmy award for this part: “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”


#11

Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson)
This Is Us 93%

This Is Us - Mandy Moore, Lonnie Chavis; Susan Kelechi Watson, Lyric Ross (Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

We know that Rebecca Pearson had a strong better half in her husband, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) when it came to the emotional support necessary for raising triplets. But it’s how strong Rebecca had to become after Jack’s untimely death that proves she should not be underestimated. The series’ other standout mom is smart, successful, and sympathetic Beth Pearson.


#12

Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton)
Everybody Loves Raymond

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, Patricia Heaton, 1996-2005, © CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

That stereotype that housewives sit on the couch and watch soaps everyday? It doesn’t apply to Debra Barone. She’s relatable because she’s as overworked and stressed out as the rest of us. Plus, she has to put up with her meddling mother-in-law, Marie (Doris Roberts).


#13

Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter)
Family Ties

FAMILY TIES, Meredith Baxter (aka Meredith Baxter Birney), 1982-89, © NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

How did a feminist, free-thinking mom like Elyse Keaton end up with such materialistic and conservative kids? It’s a sign of the times and she made the most of it.


#14

Jessica Huang (Constance Wu)
Fresh Off the Boat 94%

FRESH OFF THE BOAT -Do You Hear What I Hear? - As head of the HOA Christmas committee, Jessica threatens to cut the neighborhood caroling this year due to last year's rocky performance. TUESDAY, DEC. 12 (8:30-9:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) CONSTANCE WU

Like many immigrants, Jessica Huang wants her kids to be successful Americans and remember their roots. And if she has to be a stern pragmatist to get them there, then so be it.


#15

Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross)
Happy Days

HAPPY DAYS, Marion Ross, from the opening credits, 1974-1984.©Paramount / Courtesy: Everett Collection.

Who doesn’t love Mrs. C? Marion Cunningham was the caretaker and mother everyone wanted in their lives — even those like Fonzie (Henry Winkler) who may have been too cool to admit it.


#16

Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter), Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham)
Parenthood 88%

Parenthood's Monica Potter (NBC)

This TV remake of the Ron Howard movie was loaded with strong examples of motherhood — be it Monica Potter’s Kristina, who overcame cancer and also turned her worries about her son’s development into a career that would help similar kids, or Lauren Graham’s Sarah Braverman, who may not be so good at adulting herself, but who moves back home because that’s what’s best for her kids.


#17

Harriet Nelson
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET, Ricky Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, 1952-1966 (ABC)

Before the Kardashians or the Partridges, there was this long-running comedy in which singer Harriet Nelson played a version of herself as the perfect small-town housewife and mother (even if she was nothing like this in real life).


#18

Linda Belcher (John Roberts)
Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers (Fox)

Wife, mother, and Tom Selleck fan Linda Belcher is husband Bob’s partner in life and at their restaurant. A little scatterbrained yes, but who can blame her? The lady hasn’t had a day off in years, and she has to put up with burger-themed puns.


#19

Harriette Baines Winslow (Jo Marie Payton and, later, Judyann Elder)
Family Matters

FAMILY MATTERS, JoMarie Payton, 1989-1998. ©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

Harriette Baines Winslow was proud to be a working mother with her own opinions. She was also patient enough to deal with Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) increasingly frequent visits.


#20

June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley)
Leave It to Beaver

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, (from left): Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, 1957-63.

With her pearls and immaculate kitchen, June Cleaver was the archetype of nuclear family matriarchs who always managed to have a handle on her two sons. She eventually finds a life for herself outside of her family; the follow-up series The New Leave It to Beaver sees her as a member of the city’s council.


#21

The Big Little Lies Tiger Mom Posse
Big Little Lies 89%

Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO)

If motherhood is about keeping your kids as innocent and safe for as long as possible, then all of the women on this miniseries deserve accolades. We’re especially impressed with characters like Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) and Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), who strove to keep their sons good even if genetics wasn’t working in their favor. The series also starred Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Laura Dern as Renata Klein, and Zoë Kravitz as stepmom Bonnie Carlson.

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