The Top 10 TV Grandmas of All Time


Since the holidays are a time for family, it’s only natural to return from them thinking of our own kin. That — and our love of feisty old ladies — is what got us started compiling this list of TV’s top ten awesome grandmas, from the sweetest (remember Mother Winslow from Family Matters?) to the most deliciously sour (hello there, Lucille Bluth) to the utterly and sometimes tragically senile. Count down with us after the jump.

10. Adele Stackhouse, True Blood

Sookie and Jason’s beloved Gran is sweet and nurturing — she raised her grandkids herself after their parents’ death. But she’s no delicate flower, either. An open-minded lady, Adele is interested in vampires and encourages Sookie’s relationship with Bill (who eventually speaks about his first-hand experiences in the Civil War at a meeting of her historical society). Unfortunately, Bon Temps’ very own local psychokiller isn’t as forward thinking.

9. Mother, Absolutely Fabulous

When your cast is helmed by the hilarious duo of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, you’re bound to get lost in the shuffle. But we’ve always been fond of June Whitfield as the long-suffering Saffy’s daffy — and increasingly senile — grandmother. Her mere existence is anathema to Eddie (who calls her “The Old Woman”) and Patsy. Plus, she’s an elderly kleptomaniac, which is totally awesome.

8. Estelle Winslow, Family Matters

At first glance, Mother Winslow may seem like your average awesome grandma. Carl’s mom, played by the late Rosetta LeNoire, moves in with the family after her husband dies and always sticks up for her grandbabies. But here’s what makes her totally strange and wonderful: Estelle absolutely adores Steve Urkel. We get it, Mother Winslow, even if nobody else does.

7. Emily Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

The quintessential WASP grandmother, Kelly Bishop’s Emily Gilmore shunned her rebellious offspring, Lorelai, for years — and although things have improved, the relationships between Emily, Lorelai, and Lorelai’s daughter Rory are pretty awkward. The Daughter of the American Revolution is steely and stuck up, but we do eventually get to see her more vulnerable side, namely when her husband’s ongoing friendship with an ex-girlfriend pushes them to the brink of divorce.

6. Betty Johnson, Punky Brewster

Who wouldn’t love Susie Garrett’s Betty Johnson? A sassy and lovable counterpart to George Gaynes’ grouchy Henry Warnimont, Betty is raising her granddaughter, Cherie. Her shining moment comes when Henry is hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer and Betty swoops in to take care of Punky.

5. Lois Henrickson, Big Love

We have already sung the praises of Grace Zabriskie’s Lois Henrickson. Smart, conniving, slightly unhinged, but also a tough and strong survivor who truly cares about her family, Lois is one of the best and most complex characters on Big Love. We will always remember those incredible moments (note the plural) when she tried to kill her batshit husband.

4. Lorraine Saracen, Friday Night Lights

Among the great, largely unsung performances on Friday Night Lights is Louanne Stephens’ turn as Matt Saracen’s dementia-afflicted “gramma.” In the absence of his mother and father, Lorraine raised Matt, and when her condition began to deteriorate, he became her caretaker. Anyone who’s ever had an elderly family member with a similar diagnosis will recognize Lorraine’s behavior: the frustrated rages, the memory lapses, the brief glimpses of clarity, and even a handful of funny moments.

3. Sophia Petrillo, Golden Girls

In a cast packed with hilarious comediennes, no one was funnier than Estelle Getty as Dorothy’s mom, Sophia. The feisty octogenarian hails from Sicily and lives with Dorothy now that her awful nursing home has burned down. We love her because she never gave up on romance, tells ridiculous stories from her youth, and — most of all — always has the perfect, biting comment for any situation.

2. Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development

Like Emily Gilmore on acid, Jessica Walters’ Lucille Bluth is a tense, withholding rich bitch who is constantly manipulating her children — especially Buster, who she’s totally ruined. Lucille is also a world-class lush with a thing for pills, plastic surgery, and accidentally adopting Korean children. In short, she is fabulous.

1. Beverly Harris, Roseanne

As should be evident by now, we at Flavorpill are major Roseanne fans. One of our favorite characters is Roseanne and Jackie’s bonkers mom, Estelle Parsons’ Bev. The ultimate nag, Bev always has something cruel to say about her daughters’ lives. And, in one of TV’s strangest narrative leaps of all time, she turns out to be a lesbian. Except not. Except… well, if you haven’t seen all nine seasons of Roseanne, just watch them, OK?