Moms are totally having a moment on TV. Go ahead and tell your mom that.
Television's greatest scene-stealers this season are all mamas and we wouldn't have it any other way. From the drama mamas with the zippy one-liners and takedowns to the utterly absurd comedic tour de forces, it's never been a better time to be a TV mom. These aren't your Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) carbon copies. Those days are pretty much long gone. And that's a good thing.
By next season it's safe to say when somebody says "cookie" you will think of Cookie Lyon, Taraji P. Henson's breakout Empire character, before you think of the delectable, sweet treat.
The rise of Empire on Fox is TV's hottest story, but it's safe to say it would not have been quite as meteoric without Henson as Cookie. She IS the show. Her one-liners immediately seeped into pop culture—she brought back the term/nickname Boo Boo Kitty after just one episode!—and she's already garnering Emmy buzz for the role. And Henson ad-libs a lot of the lines! It doesn't get better than that. The character is totally flawed—remember when she ordered a murder?—and just a bit absurd, but it's in all the right ways. There would be no Empire without Cookie and there would be no Cookie without Henson. It's a tour de force and fearless performance that is not to be missed.
On the flip side of drama performances, Elizabeth Hurley made her debut as Queen Helena in E!'s first scripted series The Royals, and she is just everything you want in a primetime soap leading lady. Cold, calculating and equipped with a razor-sharp tongue, Hurley's Queen Helena is so deserving of that title: Queen. Let's be real: Hurley makes the show. She leaves you wondering what she's up to when she's not on the screen. What kind of mischief is she cooking up or quashing when Prince Liam (William Moseley) is chatting away about getting coffee with his American girl? When you say "yas queen!" or "slay queen!" you will now think of Elizabeth Hurley.
It's not just drama where moms are totally flourishing. On the comedy side of things, Fresh Off the Boat gave us the gift that you know as Constance Wu. Her character, Jessica Huang, is basically the perfect sitcom mom. Her delivery is outstanding and her advice unflinching. Just look at the scene above where she decides to talk to her son about date rape.
Wu is rightfully heralded as the best part of the Fresh Off the Boat. A polar opposite—but equally amazing comedy mom—is Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline Voorhees in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
It would be easy to just write off Krakowski's Jacqueline as just a retread of 30 Rock's Jenna Maroney thanks to the comedic stylings of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, but she's not. And so what if she was? Jenna was great and Krakowski owned that role, just like she owns Jacqueline. But Jacqueline is a little more aware of the world outside of her head, despite her best efforts to ignore it. She is out of touch in all the right ways and often the best part of whatever scene she's in. This happened when she went to Kimmy's (Ellie Kemper) house for the first time:
Jacqueline is mom to Buckley, a Stewie Griffin-esque potential sociopath, and stepmom to Xanthippe. She might not be the best mom, in fact she's far from it, but she is a hilarious one.
TV's new class of moms don't have to be likable. They don't have to be caring. They don't have to be anything they don't want to be! But by being brash, calculating, opinionated and just darn entertaining, these TV moms are serving up just what we needed on TV. By being characters—truly well-rounded characters and not just background fixtures to agree with fathers or give hugs when needed—these TV moms are just the best.