funny matriarchs
January 26, 2008 10:11 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of family sitcoms that don't adhere to the funny dad, nagging mom stereotype?

It seems to me that the majority of modern comedies feature hilarious and goofy husbands married to dull, repsonsible women. Examples include Everybody Loves Raymond and Knocked Up. Where are all the funny wives? I'm looking for suggestions along the lines of I Love Lucy and Roseann.
posted by emd3737 to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Grace Under Fire
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:12 PM on January 26, 2008

New Adventures of Old Christine, maybe. Two and a half men. Are you looking for two parents?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:17 PM on January 26, 2008

(Oh, sorry -- need to read question -- "funny wives.")
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:19 PM on January 26, 2008

Presumably this will depend on what you mean by "Family".

So would "Full House" count? "Two and a Half Men"? Or other sitcoms about "non-traditional" families? (I think of the Dad in Alf as being the "straight-man", but the funny one isn't his wife it's Alf.) Or are you just looking for sitcoms about mom/dad/kids that don't feature the above stereotype.

You might find a broader array of roles also in sitcoms that focus more on the kids than the adults.
posted by Jahaza at 10:24 PM on January 26, 2008

Ok... I guess I need to read the question more carefully too.
posted by Jahaza at 10:25 PM on January 26, 2008

Response by poster: To clarify, I'm looking for funny Full House and Two and a Half Men don't count. Particularily interested in funny female characters who are in a mother/wife type role (So, Elaine from Seinfeld doesn't count, but New Adventures of Old Christine does.)
posted by emd3737 at 10:29 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: Married With Children?

I certainly wouldn't call Peggy "responsible".
posted by krisjohn at 10:33 PM on January 26, 2008

Would Golden Girls be an example of what you're looking for?
Here is a list of sitcoms from wikipedia.
posted by hooray at 10:35 PM on January 26, 2008

the war at home did have the "funny dad" but i thought the mom was not the stereotypical mom in sitcoms.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:36 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: Dharma and Greg?
posted by MegoSteve at 10:39 PM on January 26, 2008

Malcolm in the Middle? Jane Kaczmarek was badass as Lois, the mom. I suppose she could be pretty nagging at times, but she always struck me as a very no-nonsense, domineering presence in an all-male household. And while her husband was a funny and comical character, the comedy stemmed more from his subservient relationship with Lois.
posted by diggerroo at 10:42 PM on January 26, 2008

If movies are fine, then Yours, Mine, and Ours seems to be a good fit - it's a reversal of the stereotypes.
posted by divabat at 10:43 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: Damon Wayan's "My Wife and Kids." The entire cast is hilarious ...and Tisha Campbell who plays the wife gets to play funny and quirky as much as Damon's character does.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:43 PM on January 26, 2008

A few months ago, David Denby had an piece in the New Yorker that talked about the history of what he terms "slacker-striver" romantic comedy (in movies, of course).
posted by milkrate at 10:44 PM on January 26, 2008

Absolutely Fabulous, Good Times, Murphy Brown, Our Miss Brooks, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Kath and Kim
posted by maryh at 10:45 PM on January 26, 2008

Two and a Half Men?
posted by longsleeves at 10:46 PM on January 26, 2008

posted by maryh at 10:47 PM on January 26, 2008

I apologize for not reading your 'more inside.' All of my examples are dated.
posted by maryh at 10:52 PM on January 26, 2008

Life With Bonnie
posted by softlord at 11:16 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: Mama's Family
posted by HotPatatta at 11:20 PM on January 26, 2008

The Nanny

They aren't contemporary, but: Burns and Allen, All in the Family
posted by auntietennis at 11:22 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: I dream of Jeannie
posted by HotPatatta at 11:26 PM on January 26, 2008

posted by crazycanuck at 11:36 PM on January 26, 2008

Best answer: Um, Arrested Development. As far as you can get from that.
posted by disillusioned at 1:52 AM on January 27, 2008

"That 70s Show". The father (Red) is most definitely not goofy, and his wife (Kitty) is an excellent comic role.
posted by essexjan at 5:45 AM on January 27, 2008

Bumbling dad, domineering mom. Throw in a wily servant (the Bradys had one, but now it is generally a friend or neighbor)and some love stuff, and you've got great, time-tested, comedy.

Why mess with the perfect formula?
posted by hexatron at 5:52 AM on January 27, 2008

All in the Family
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2008

I think the parents on Everybody Hates Chris break that mold. They both nag to an extent about different things, but both are allowed to act silly too.
posted by stefnet at 7:29 AM on January 27, 2008

Still Standing is one of my favorite sitcoms. Sadly, almost no one has heard of it and it is now only in re-runs. One of the reasons I like it is because it doesn't have the same old formula. Mom (Jamie Gertz!) and Dad are both funny and irresponsible. The dad is played by Brit Mark Addy with an American accent that is surpassed only by House's Hugh Laurie. The kids are an integral part of the show, and not just trotted out when needed for the plot. The writing is smart. Dang, I miss that show.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:32 AM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dead moms are to sitcoms what missing fathers are to Spielberg movies.

Even though they aren't married, the parents in Sister, Sister have reversed comedic roles.

And don't forget Alice from the Brady Bunch. She took care of the kids and the house while Carol Brady did her thing, whatever that was.
posted by billtron at 7:38 AM on January 27, 2008

Well, no one is Lucy or Roseanne, that's for sure. They are the best.

Clair Huxtable was a very strong mother character on The Cosby Show. My favorite moments from that show were all hers. And Cliff Huxtable wasn't exactly the typical fat slob husband, either. While they may have VERY loosely fallen into male comedian/female straight man roles, both were funny, smart, educated folks with very competitive, lucrative jobs. Fairly rare on family sitcoms.

If I Dream of Jeannie counts as a family sitcom, then you must count the Golden Girls. They are all mothers, and one of them is another one's mother. All four masters of comedy, if you ask me. And don't forget Maude.

And also if I Dream of Jeannie counts, then you might as well add Bewitched in there. Basically the same format--uptight hubby, wife with powers she can't resist using. Samantha surely tries harder than Jeannie to fall into a traditional wife role, but I don't think there's any question that Darren's the straight man in that pairing.
posted by lampoil at 7:50 AM on January 27, 2008

King of the Hill
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:59 AM on January 27, 2008

King of the Hill? Peggy is NOT funny! Well, she is to the viewer, but not because she IS funny, but because of her hubris.

The Bob Newhart show (Susanne Pleshett), Dick Van Dyke.
posted by gjc at 9:40 AM on January 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone. I marked several as best answer just so people could get a better idea of what I was looking for (i.e. not Two and a Half Men).

Milkrate- interesting link- the "slacker-striver" is exactly the type of thing I'm tired of watching. Sure, Knocked Up had some funny bits, by overall, I found it sort of depressing, especially the dynamic between the older sister and her husband plot. Ideally, I'd like to find a modern twist on the female screwball comedy, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with the gender roles reversed. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to exist.

There were a couple of shows mentioned that I haven't seen (Maude and Still Standing), so I'll have to check those out. I haven't watched All in The Family in years, but I don't remember the mom being particularily funny.
posted by emd3737 at 12:18 PM on January 27, 2008

Jean Stapleton was actually really amazing as Edith in All in the Family - I think she's better than Carol O'Conner, and he was good too. I wouldn't say that Edith was a role-model or anything, but Edith and Archie Bunker certainly don't fit the current striver-perfect-straightman-mom/slacker-funny-dad trend. Edith was ditzy and submissive, on the surface, but the quality of the show was such that she really was much more.

Like you, I'm getting very tired of the slacker/striver, funny-man/straight-woman trend. I think it may be a half-way response to feminism - it's not politically correct to make fun of women for being women anymore, so we can't make fun of them at all. So instead of letting women be funny and imperfect as people, a lot of sitcoms now have them as paragons. Which I think is just as limiting as their previous roles, as well as creating a deficit of capable father roles in sitcoms. Roseanne is one of my favorite sitcoms for not falling into that trend, and for basing the humour off of the personalities of the characters, not their genders. Same with Grace Under Fire.

I think that Malcolm in the Middle subverts the stereotype. It does have a tense, striving mother, and a relaxed, somewhat ditzy father. But instead of the mother coming off as the voice of reason in the silly world, she is as often the butt of the joke as the father (leaving Malcolm as the voice of reason). It helps that it's also a lot more realistic than many other sitcoms - she works for not very much pay, is tired when she gets home, and tries to keep the house clean but is constantly struggling. And Jane Kaczmarek is, like Stapleton, a very good comic actress. It's interesting that apparently her character on Malcolm has been called "a female Homer Simpson" - Homer and Marge Simpson are perfect examples of the sensible wife/stupid husband trend (though again, done with more subtly and more allowance for Marge's funnyness than most shows).
posted by jb at 1:32 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm probably chiming in too late but great question!

Milkrate- interesting link- the "slacker-striver" is exactly the type of thing I'm tired of watching.

Heyyyy, me too! I've thought about having a go at writing an alternative. It's easy to just think about reversing the stereotypes, would it be hard to flesh out something new from there? Anyone up for an amateur collaboration? Drop me a line.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:46 PM on January 27, 2008

Sabrina the Teenage Witch? It's the first thing I thought of.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:03 PM on January 27, 2008

"Mad about You" did a pretty nice job of keeping the foolishness evenly distributed. The wife (Helen Hunt) was arguably the more intellectual one in the relationship but she had plenty of flaws and was responsible for a fairly equal share of the "jams" that they got into.

Not exactly husband/wife, but "Will and Grace" is a great example of a silly, irresponsible woman. She's obviously not Will's wife but they live together and share responsibilities in a similar way so it may fulfill your requirements (she does get married to Harry Connick Jr. in a later season and she is definitely the silly/irresponsible one in that situation. At times she is like a modern day Lucy.

"Who's the Boss" had an irresponsible, slutty grandmother and a responsible-but-comically-anal-retentive-and-naive mother.

"The Nanny" was sort of a de facto matriarch (and I think they might have gotten married later in the series?)

"That 70s Show"

It's been a while, but I think Mary Tyler Moore got plenty of goof-off time in the "Dick Van Dyke" show.

"The Addams Family" ?

And here are some others featuring funny women whose wife/mother/matriarch status may or may not fit your requirements:

"Scrubs" doesn't center around a family unit, but most of the lead girlfriend/wife characters are as goofy and flawed as the men.

"Third Rock from the Sun" -- Again, the sitcom family-unit idea is kind of turned on end but they mimic a typical sitcom family and the "mother" is as strange and goofy as everyone else.

"Murphy Brown," "Ellen," and "Laverne and Shirley" are funny single ladies

It's been a while but maybe "Green Acres"?

"Three's Company" certainly has funny women, but not really wife/matriarch-types.

I've never seen it but my wife likes "Absolutely Fabulous" and it centers around funny women. Not sure if any of the characters are in wife/mother roles.

"Designing Women" ? -- I think most of them were divorced/widowed and had grown children but I could be wrong.
posted by Alabaster at 5:08 PM on January 27, 2008

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