The 5 Best TV Mums

From a legend of the East End to the first lady of Liverpool, here are the iconic telly mums who’d definitely breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day.

The Cotton Family, Eastenders


If they handed out medals for motherhood, Dot Cotton would surely be a shoo-in for a Victoria Cross. After all, she has Nick Cotton for a son, and noone should have to have Nick Cotton for a son. Resembling a bad dream in human form, with his oil-slick hair, vampire-pale complexion and permanent sneer, Nick enthusiastically lives up to his appearance by constantly terrorising the poor citizens of Albert Square, not least his dear old "Ma".

It's a bit of a tragic irony that the most God-fearing, devoutly Christian woman in East London somehow gave birth to a child so devilish he probably has 666 stencilled somewhere on his scalp. But you know what? Dot deals with it. She's been robbed and threatened and terrorised by Nick, and still she sticks by him, always thinking he'll turn things around and redeem himself. Some may say she's just gullible, but we say Dot Cotton is the ultimate TV super-mum (and yes, we know she's technically called Branning, but she'll always be Dot Cotton to us).


As Time Goes By is a comedy about love lost and regained, with former military man Lionel Hardcastle bumping into old flame Jean Pargetter after decades apart. But, aside from that side of things, there's another charming strand to follow, and that's the relationship between Jean and her daughter Judith. Married and divorced twice, Judith is living with her mum when Lionel re-enters Jean's life, so she has a front row seat as their romance is rekindled.

Admittedly, things get off to a slightly awkward start when Judith meets Lionel, doesn't realise his history with her mum, and proceeds to develop a bit of a crush on the older gent. But hey, let's sweep that quickly under the carpet and relish the charming, sisterly friendship between Jean and Judith, as they both find love together (not both with Lionel, we hasten to add. What kind of a show do you think this is?).


Elegant and aristocratic, Molly MacDonald is a proper show-off kind of mum. As in, if she was your mum, you'd want to show her off, not as in Molly herself is a show off. Far from it. The poor lady is too busy being exasperated by her family, particularly husband Hector, the batty old Laird of Glenbogle, who is terribly prone to leaping off in hot pursuit of stags, or bellowing at the hapless servants. Top marks to Molly, then, for keeping things together at Glenbogle. Even if that does mean accidentally-on-purpose making her son Archie think Hector is on his deathbed, just so as to make him come back up from London and take over the reins of the estate.

Now that's the kind of low-key mum-cunning we can't help but admire. Especially as Molly is also careful to keep the peace between her squabbling relatives, reminding Archie that, while his dad is an "insufferable old dinosaur", there's no need to stoop to his level. To be honest, we reckon she should have become the Laird (Lady? Lairdess?) herself.


Her son Hugh is a strutting, overgrown schoolboy with an ego as generously proportioned as the Sydney Opera House, so it's probably just as well that Meryl Knight is such a formidable woman. And by "formidable" we mean that one look from her would probably make even Donald Trump keep shtum and look sheepishly down at his shoes. A magnificent matriarch, Meryl is a major player in the Australian town of Whyhope, where son Hugh is sent to practice as a GP after wrecking his surgical career in Sydney.

A political wheeler-dealer who always has a scheme underway, Meryl will do anything to fulfil her own lofty ambitions. This has seen her involved in multiple shenanigans over the years, some involving runaway pigs and giant, unintentionally phallic statues. The less said about the latter the better, unless you want Meryl to go all Meryl at you.


If there was ever a battle royale of TV matriarchs, Meryl would probably win (partly because she'd definitely sabotage her rivals' weapons beforehand). But Nellie Boswell would come a close second. The legendary Liverpudlian oversees a sprawling clan of ne'er do wells, and boy do they need overseeing.

Fraudulent schemes, government hand-outs and calamitous sex lives are all par for the course for the Boswells. But Nellie somehow maintains order thanks to her sharp tongue and absolute insistence that they say grace before dinner in order to seek for forgiveness "for those who put their belly before their faith, for those who harm us and try to swindle us, and for those who read dirty books, amen". Yes, she was absolutely shaming her own assembled family with that particular prayer. What a mum.