The Teen Drama Moms
It’s Mother’s Day, so what better day to take a look at the teen drama moms?
Some we loved, some we loved to hate. Some were series regulars for the entire duration, some departed along the way, and others simply recurred over the years.
Let’s break it down!
Beverly Hills, 90210
Cindy Walsh (Carol Potter)
“Beverly Hills, 90210” was built around the premise of the Walsh family, with twins Brenda and Brandon, moving from Minnesota to California. Loving matriarch Cindy was on the canvas as a regular character for the show’s first five seasons before moving to Hong Kong with husband Jim. She returned for Christmas in season 6 and Brandon’s would-be wedding to Kelly in season 8. Read my 2009 interview with Potter, in which we discussed her departure from the show, here.
Jackie Taylor (Ann Gillespie)
Kelly’s mother was infamously introduced in season 1’s “Perfect Mom” as an alcoholic coke addict. After getting clean, she spent the rest of the series on mostly good terms with her daughter, and even had a second child, Erin (aka Silver on “90210” — see below). Over the course of the series, Gillespie recurred in more than 50 episodes.
Felice Martin (Katherine Cannon)
In “Perfect Mom,” Donna’s mother was named Nancy and played by a different actress. When the character returned in season 2, a series-long arc of Donna and Felice butting heads began, whether clashing over her mom’s affair or her conservative views on sex. Offscreen, Katherine — who recurred in 40 episodes — is quite warm and friendly, as she’s demonstrated on the “Beverly Hills 90210 Show” podcast.
Other “Beverly Hills, 90210” Moms: Pam Scanlon, Samantha Sanders, Iris McKay, Sheila Silver, Gail Zuckerman, Andrea Zuckerman, LuAnn Pruit, Abby Malone, Carly Reynolds, Bobbi Kincaid, Michelle Sosna, Janet Sosna
Gail Leery (Mary-Margaret Humes)
Gail’s affair drove a lot of story in season 1 and her second wedding to Mitch was a central plot point in the season 3 finale. We saw her as a grieving widow in season 5 and then getting married again in the series finale. Humes was a series regular for the show’s first four seasons, but then bumped to recurring status for the last two.
Evelyn “Grams” Ryan (Mary Beth Peil)
We met Grams in the pilot as Jen’s grandmother, but you can’t be a grandmother without first being a mother! While daughter Helen only appeared in two episodes seasons apart, Grams more or less mothered all of the young characters at some point or another. And Peil was a series regular for all six seasons. See my 2009 interview with Peil here.
Other “Dawson’s Creek” Moms: Bessie Potter, Helen Lindley, Mrs. Witter, Mrs. McPhee, Mrs. Valentine, Kay Liddell
Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan)
Kirsten was a devoted mom to Seth and then a devoted surrogate mom to Ryan. She may not have been able to cook, but she was a working woman whose family helped her realize when her drinking had become way too much. In the series finale, she and Sandy welcomed a baby girl whom they named after his mother. In a rarity for a teen drama, Rowan remained a series regular through all four seasons.
Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke)
The vain, image-obsessed Julie was hard to like for quite some time, but her series-long transformation turned her into a mother most would be proud to have by the show’s end. After grieving the death of daughter Marissa — a loss no parent should ever experience — she obtained her college degree in the series finale with the support of daughter Kaitlin and a young (unnamed) son. And Clarke was so amazing in the role, she went from guest star to series regular before season 1 had even ended. Clarke is currently revisiting the series with the “Welcome to the OC, Bitches” podcast. Check out my 2009 interview with Clarke here.
Other “The O.C.” Moms: Dawn Atwood, Meredith Ward, Sophie Cohen, Renee Wheeler, Veronica Townsend
One Tree Hill
Karen Roe (Moira Kelly)
Karen was a single mom to Lucas, but despite being a main character, she was off the canvas for a chunk of season 1 due to Kelly’s maternity leave. While in Tree Hill, Karen was the proprietor of Karen’s Cafe and later Tric. In season 4, she welcomed daughter Lily, but with the time jump that followed, Kelly only made guest-starring appears in seasons 5 and 6 — and didn’t appear at all in seasons 7-9.
Deb Scott (Barbara Alyn Woods)
Nathan’s mom Deb was also a main character with prominent storylines for the show’s first four seasons. In one season 2 episode, the show explored an alternate universe where the characters essentially switched lives, with Deb as the single mom and owner of Deb’s Den. Woods was downgraded to guest-star status for season 5, bumped back up to a regular for season 6, was MIA during seasons 7 and 8, and then only appeared as a “special guest” for season 9.
Victoria Davis (Daphne Zuniga)
Unlike Karen and Deb, who were introduced in the pilot, Victoria didn’t make her appearance until season 5 — and viewers weren’t told right away that she was Brooke’s mother. Victoria served as a villain of sorts for quite a while, with Zuniga recurring in 40 episodes across the rest of the series.
Other “One Tree Hill” Moms: Lydia Scott, Nicki, Ellie Harp, Haley James Scott, Sylvia Baker
Lily Van der Woodsen (Kelly Rutherford)
Lily raised kids Serena and Eric in a life of privilege, accustomed herself to the finer things in life. She didn’t radiate maternal warmth, but did always have a heavy dose of concern for her children… though it didn’t always steer her in the right direction. She also shared a long-lost son with Rufus and was Chuck’s stepmother. An integral part of the show for all six seasons, Rutherford was a series regular throughout. The character even spawned a backdoor pilot.
Eleanor Waldorf (Margaret Colin)
Portrayed in the pilot by Florencia Lozano, Eleanor appreciated style as the fashion-designer mother of the fashion-obsessed Blair. A romance and eventual marriage to Cyrus, a fan-favorite, provided another avenue for storylines. Colin ended up recurring in more than 30 episodes.
Alison Humphrey (Susan Misner)
Dan and Jenny’s mom was estranged from Rufus when the series kicked off, the consequence of her having an affair. In fact, viewers don’t even meet her until the eighth episode. With Alison and Rufus unable to resolve their marital issues, however, Misner was only in four episodes before the character left her family again.
Other “Gossip Girl” Moms: Anne Archibald, Gabriela Abrams, CeCe Rhodes, Elizabeth Fisher, Carol Rhodes, Dorota Kishlovsky, Georgina Sparks, Princess Sophie Grimaldi
Debbie Wilson (Lori Loughlin)
Like “Beverly Hills, 90210” was centered around the Walshes with Cindy as the matriarch, “90210” had the Wilsons with Debbie as the mom to Annie and Dixon. But unlike Cindy and Jim, Debbie and husband Harry ultimately split. And while Lori was a series regular for the first three seasons, she left the show and only returned for a guest appearance in season 5.
Tabitha Wilson (Jessica Walter)
There was, at least in the beginning, a second matriarch on the series: Harry’s mom, an aging alcoholic actress. The character was designed as a series regular, but Walter left the show after only 13 episodes. Tabitha was never seen again. Sadly, Walter died earlier this year at age 80.
Jackie Taylor (Ann Gillespie)
Gillespie reprised her role for this “Beverly Hills, 90210” spinoff… only for the show to commit character assassination. Her addiction — resolved in season 1 of the original series — was brought back and the powers that be decided to make her largely estranged from both Silver and Kelly because of it. Then they gave Jackie cancer to boot, killing the character off and featuring Gillespie in just six episodes.
Other “90210” Moms: Tracy Clark, Atoosa Shirazi, Constance Tate-Duncan, Jen Clark, Colleen Sarkossian, Laurel Cooper
Which teen drama mom are you celebrating this Mother’s Day? And which wouldn’t be worthy of a Hallmark card?
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