​Today's TV moms get real

Allison Janney with Anna Faris in the sitcom "Mom."

CBS

Donna Reed played the perfect mom in the 1960s TV show that bore her name -- a show that could have been titled "Mother Knows Best." So how do today's TV moms compare? Conor Knighton takes a look:

On the sitcom "Mom," Allison Janney plays Bonnie Plunkett, a recovering addict trying to reconnect with her daughter. Last year, she won an Emmy for the role, even though the character isn't exactly a role model:

Christy (Anna Faris): "Mom, I've watched you lick cocaine crumbs out of a shag carpet."
Bonnie (Allison Janney): "It's not a sin to be thrifty, dear."

"Nobody ever comes up and says, 'I wish Bonnie was my mother,'" Janney told Knighton. "Not the greatest mom. Probably the anti-mom."

Bonnie can be crass and selfish. She struggles with her relationships and her sobriety.

"She's very human," said Janney. "She's very flawed. She's very unapologetic."

And very funny.

Christy: "While other mothers were cooking dinner, you were cooking meth."
Bonnie: "Otherwise known as working."

"Mom" is a sitcom, after all, and Bonnie's anti-mom status is played for laughs.

"She's no June Cleaver, let's just say that," Janney noted.

More than 50 years after "Leave It to Beaver" went off the air, June Cleaver is still held up as the iconic sitcom mom.

"These kind of very chipper, very loving, never distracted, most of them didn't work outside the home, just these very cheerful, apron-wearing moms," said Mary McNamara, the Pultizer Prize-winning TV critic for the Los Angeles Times. "Those were the moms from the '50s. So was it reflective of the times? No. Women's lives have always been incredibly diverse. Women have always worked. And the woman who was able to just sort of hang out in pearls and heels waiting for her husband to come home, that was a rarity in reality."


But reality wasn't really the goal back then. This was the same era that brought us "My Mother the Car."

Eventually, TV began to allow for more complicated family dynamics. "The Brady Bunch" featured a blended family.

Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones turned down "The Brady Bunch": "Because I didn't want to be the mom taking the roast out of the oven."

Instead, Jones became the widowed, working mom on "The Partridge Family."

"Every other show had a little family staying home, raising their kids, going to school, coming home from school, doing their homework. And this was a whole new look at family. I thought it was something that should be seen," she said.

"I was not known as the perfect mother, 'cause I was a working mother and singing in the band and everything," said Jones. "But every mother on television then was the perfect mother. All the series, a perfect family."

In the late '70s and '80s, TV moms were beginning to look more diverse -- from divorced moms "Kate & Allie" to working mom Clair Huxtable.

Kngihton asked, "Do you think that there was a specific show or character that was a turning point in the way that moms were portrayed on TV?"

McNamara said, "Well, I think you would have to look at 'Roseanne.' That was a huge deal. She was angry. She was not beautiful. Her house was a mess. She didn't take any crap."