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Emmy FYC: The Moms of Comedy

We're showcasing our favorite TV triumps while Emmy nomination ballots are out. Here’s Jorge with some pitches for your maternal instinct…

Ever since scripted television has existed, there has been a fictional mother inside our homes. Since sitcoms tend to revolve around family unites, the funny mom is one of the oldest, most beloved, and most comforting TV tropes. With over 450 scripted series for Emmys consideration this year alone, the Television Academy has thousands of performances to consider.

So to make voters lives a little easier here is a list of some of the best Moms in Comedies of the 2016-2017 season. You could fill the entire Actress in a Comedy Series category with just sitcom moms. Consider this an FYC for all of the following women...

Pamela Adlon in Better Things (FX)
The best comedic female performance of the season. Pamela Adlon finally graduates from the Louie C.K. School of Auteur Comedy in her autobiographical show about a struggling single mother slash actress. It all feels painfully cinema verité, and Adlon’s raw, stressful, and incredibly charismatic performance anchors it all. The funniest show about a woman who just can’t have it all.

Minnie Driver in Speechless (ABC)
In ABC’s groundbreaking sitcom Speechless, Maya DiMeo plays the matriarch in a family that has had to make countless sacrifices, and still keeps going. Maya is aggressively protective to the point of alienation, but Driver infuses her with a matter-of-factness and British humor that makes you want to be under her wing. Just never expect her to be on time.


 Justina Machado in One Day at a Time (Netflix)
In one of the rare cases where a reboot is better than the original, the Latino take on Norman Lear's classic 1970s series sees Justina Machado as Penelope, a single mother and ex-veteran just trying to get by. Not many actresses could pull off the balance of physical comedy and heartstring-tugging drama that this show requires. Penelope is a mother, a daughter, and a nurse. But above all, Justina Machado makes her human.

Andrea Martin in Great News (NBC)
Sure, Great News sometimes feels a little too much like 30-Rock-but-with-broadcast-news. But Andrea Martin’s performance as Carol, the protagonist’s mother who gets an internship at her place of work, elevates the show to a delightful place of character specificity that only she could provide. Martin fits on the Fey-Carlock-Wigfield universe like a glove, delivering joke after joke while infusing them with the codependence of a New Jersey mother. She’s just being Carol.

Gina Rodriguez in Jane the Virgin (The CW)
A starmaking performance that should have been recognized years ago. This season took Gina Rodriguez’s Jane into her bigger emotional roller coaster yet. It is a telenovela after all. But as wild and unexpected and tone-shifting as the show gets at points, Jane is all anchored by Gina’s incredibly human, loving performance. Few shows treat its female characters this well, and fewer have a lead as layered and benign as Jane Villanueva.

Constance Wu in Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Universality sprouts from specificity. And there’s something about Constance Wu’s pitch perfect penny-saving, tragically practical, Chinese tiger mom that reflects, in a way, everyone’s mother. Jessica Huang’s role is to be a mother and she takes it seriously. She knows what’s best for you, even if you don’t know it yet. That’s what I tell the Academy about Wu’s performance. 

Who would you give the nominations too? Any other TV moms I may have missed? 

Previous FYC 
The Americans for Best Drama
Aubrey Plaza in Legion
Justin Theroux in The Leftovers 

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Reader Comments (10)


June 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

I realize Modern Family isn't popular on this site. But Julie Bowen continues to slay as a mom who's not afraid to show she's still learning just like her kids.

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

JLD's Selina Meyer is also a mom (and a grandmom-to-be), albeit a horrendous one at that LMAO
Jane Fonda's Grace deserves some recognition and an Emmy nom for her best season yet.
And of course Sharon Horgan's amazing comic performance as, well, Sharon from Catastrophe!

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

you're forgetting the smother of all mothers: beverly f#&@ing goldberg!

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

JUSTINA MACHADO!!! Loved her since Six Feet Under and she is perfection on One Day at a Time. Everything about One Day at a Time is perfection.

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

and the fabulous catherine o'hara as moira rose on schitt's creek, whose favourite season is "awards"

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

As a special-needs parent, I cannot explain how fantastic Speechless is. Nothing balances hilarity with thoughtfulness better.

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBen


June 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

Where is Dr Rainbow 'Bow' Johnson AKA THE wonderful Tracee Ellis Ross from Blackish?

June 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChrisD

Craver - yes to Horgan. She is so great.

And yes to Machado! She really is fantastic on the show, easily balancing the comedy and drama with a persona that is somehow warm and prickly, often at the same time.

And since this is about mothers, how could we not include the woman playing Machado's mother, RITA MOTHER F*-IN MORENO! She's hilarious on the show, too.

June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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