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Great Mother-Daughter TV Pairs

Writers know that mining the rich vein of love, conflict and humor in this relationship is pure gold

‘Black-ish’ (2014- )

Tracee Ellis Ross and Yara Shahidi

Rainbow Johnson (Ross, singer Diana’s daughter) has her hands full trying to keep her loose-cannon husband (Anthony Anderson) in check while mothering four kids. But as she tries — sometimes desperately — to bond with her cagey, media-obsessed older daughter, Zoey (Shahidi), Rainbow often dazzles.

Greg Gayne/ABC

‘Mom’ (2013- )

Allison Janney and Anna Faris

How often do you see a TV mother and daughter attend AA meetings together, then swap biting quips about each other’s personal flaws? But that’s the twisty but touching vibe between Bonnie (Janney) and Christy (Faris) in this affecting sitcom about family love and forgiveness.    

Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Television

‘Modern Family’ (2009- )

Julie Bowen and Ariel Winter

The award-winning writing brings to life the fraught dynamics between loving, type-A mother Claire Dunphy (Bowen) and her bookish, awkward daughter (and middle child) Alex (Winter). Listen closely or you’ll miss the hilarious but tossed-off lines when Claire tries to get Alex to break out of her shell and learn a social skill or two.

Eric McCandless/ABC

'Bewitched' (1964-1972)

Agnes Moorehead and Elizabeth Montgomery

The red-haired bad witch Endora (Moorehead) was mother to Samantha (Montgomery), a nose-twitching good witch who tried in vain to be a normal suburban housewife. Endora made that impossible by casting spells on Samantha's ad-man husband.

ABC/Getty Images

'The Big Valley' (1965-1969)

Barbara Stanwyck and Linda Evans

Hollywood icon Stanwyck was Victoria Barkley, the widowed matriarch of a powerful ranch-owning family in 1870s-era California. The story revolved around Victoria, her three sons and feisty cowgirl daughter, Audra (Evans), in this old-fashioned Western.

ABC/Getty Images

'The Brady Bunch' (1969-1974)

Susan Olsen, Geri Reischl, Maureen McCormick and Florence Henderson

We know now that in real life the Bradys -— or at least the actors who portrayed them — were not quite as they appeared (Dad was gay, Greg had a crush on Mom, etc.). But on TV, perky Carol Brady (Henderson) was flawless, just like her annoyingly perfect oldest daughter (McCormick), "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

ABC/Getty Images

'The Partridge Family' (1970-1974)

Shirley Jones and Susan Dey

Jones played a widow and one of the coolest TV moms ever as bandleader to her singing flock of five, including lovely eldest daughter Laurie (a lip-synching, ultra-thin Dey, pre-L.A. Law).

ABC/Getty Images

'All in the Family' (1968-1979)

Jean Stapleton and Sally Struthers

Stapleton was Edith, bigot Archie Bunker's long-suffering wife, and Struthers played their daughter, Gloria. While both women came across as a bit flighty, Gloria was more likely to protest her father's appalling behavior.

CBS/Getty Images

'One Day at a Time' (1975-1984)

Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli

Ann Romano (Franklin) was no Carol Brady: She was a feminist divorcee with money troubles, boyfriends and two problem-beset teenage girls, including Bertinelli as the more wholesome daughter, Barbara.

CBS/Getty Images

'The Cosby Show' (1984-1992)

Phylicia Rashad and Lisa Bonet

Free spirit Denise (Bonet) — she of the evolving hairstyles and funky clothes — tested the patience of the supremely competent, dryly witty Clair Huxtable (Rashad), the true boss of the family. "America's Dad," Cosby stole most of the laughs.

Everett Collection

'The Golden Girls' (1985-1992)

Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur

Sophia (Getty) played the diminutive Italian-born mother to Dorothy (Arthur) in this sitcom based on four older women sharing a house in Miami. Sophia threw one-liners at her eye-rolling daughter and, some fans say, made the show.

ABC/Getty Images

'Married…with Children' (1987-1997)

Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate

High school airhead Kelly (Applegate) often conspired with her big-haired shopaholic mom, Peg (Sagal), against her boorish dad (Ed O'Neill) in what was surely the most dysfunctional family on TV since the Bunkers.

Everett Collection

'Roseanne' (1988-1997)

Roseanne Barr and Sara Gilbert

Barr's character has been called the world's first believable TV mom: loving, bossy, controlling, middle-class. Sparks flew between Roseanne and her daughter Darlene (Gilbert), but their shared sharp sense of humor made the relationship work.

ABC/Getty Image

'Gilmore Girls' (2000-2007)

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel 

Graham played Lorelai Gilmore, manager of a Connecticut inn. Loyal fans appreciated the witty dialogue between Lorelai and only child Rory (Bledel). Their relationship included lots of coffee drinking and mutual respect.

Warner Bros./Getty Images

'Downton Abbey' (2010-2015)

Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery and Jessica Brown Findlay 

McGovern is Cora Crawley, the wealthy American wife of the Earl of Grantham. She provides a steady shoulder for all her daughters to cry on throughout this high-toned soap opera.

Mike Daines/Camera Press/Redux Pictures

'Brothers & Sisters' (2006-2011)

Sally Field and Calista Flockhart 

Matriarch Nora Walker (Field) ruled the family dinner table and was the glue that held Kitty (Flockhart) and her often-squabbling adult siblings together during so many crises and celebrations one wondered when Nora slept.

ABC/Getty Images

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