Fictional “historical” characters are celebrated over several U.S. holidays—Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Presidents Day, etc. Meanwhile, the very real creators of life, moms, receive only one annual nod: Mother’s Day, this year taking place on Sunday, May 12.
Fortunately, there’s television, the great equalizer. TV is where moms get their proper due, much more so than in movies. (The best-ever film about “motherhood” is 1983’s Mr. Mom—let that patriarchal shit sink in.)
Here are seven streaming TV series that showcase wildly different mothers at their best, worst and straight-up weirdest. And no, forwarding this article to your mom’s Hotmail doesn’t count as a Mother’s Day gift.
Better Things (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Is Pamela Adlon’s Better Things a comedy or a drama? Yes. Adlon herself simply says it’s an “incredible feelings show,” which fits like a fresh pair of Spanx. It’s also about motherhood; Better Things will make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam (Adlon) and her three daughters, the most complex kids on TV. Above all, Better Things is capital-A Art.
Workin’ Moms (Season 1 on Netflix): Like Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny, dark-com Workin’ Moms is covertly Canadian. The struggles of these Toronto mothers (including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms’ creator), unfortunately, are universal: post-partum depression, workplace sexism, inconvenient lactation and everything else men deny. Too real, but still funny.
Jane the Virgin (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): In this gringo-ized 2014-2019 CW telenovela, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is inadvertently inseminated with a sperm sample meant for another patient—and even worse, the sample is from her handsome boss crush! Jane the Virgin is ridiculous, fizzy fun that detours into The Feels seamlessly. Best of all, Christian groups lost their shit over Jane before it even aired.
Odd Mom Out (Seasons 1-3 on Vudu): Momzillas author Jill Kargman stars as a manically exaggerated version of herself in this 2015-2017 comedy about uber-rich Manhattan mothers—the smartest series Bravo ever produced. Naturally, Odd Mom Out was canceled to make room for more Real Housewives dreck, but at least Kargman and scene-stealing Abby Elliott cranked out 30 near-perfect episodes.
I’m Sorry (Season 1 on Netflix): Andrea Savage’s all-about-me comedy doesn’t care to differentiate itself from other Comics Play Themselves half-hours—it’s all about the jokes. I’m Sorry, referring to mom/comedy writer “Andrea’s” tendency to say the most hilariously wrong things, is a white-wine spritzer of a sitcom: not too heavy, not too sweet, nice buzz. MVP: Bemused “husband” Tom Everett Scott.
Good Girls (Season 1 on Hulu and Netflix): Three straight-arrow suburban moms (Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman) turn to robbery to pay the bills—and, more importantly, score some thrills. Soon, they’re in too deep (in every sense) with a local money launderer, and the crimes and bodies start piling up. Good Girls plays like Breaking Bad meets, well, Workin’ Moms, but the dead-solid cast sells it perfectly.
SMILF (Season 1 on Vudu): The “S” in SMILF stands for “Single”; you probably know the rest. Twentysomething mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles. Alongside the mom stuff, SMILF indulges in all kinds of raw sex and drugs (it’s a Showtime series, after all), but “Bridge” remains a fiercely devoted parent who’ll gladly discuss her vagina.