How Much Have TV Moms Really Changed?

"Lorelei Gilmore, she's certainly a flawed person. She's not just sitting around," he says.

From Murphy Brown to Rachel Green

For Pieraccini, the acceptance of unwed mothers on TV shows how much things have changed.

When single newswoman Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) gave birth out of wedlock back in 1992, then-Vice President Dan Quayle accused the character of "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

A brouhaha over unwed mothers and family values ensued. But a little over a decade later, no one batted an eye when single Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) gave birth to baby Emma on Friends.

"When Murphy Brown did that, remember, all hell broke lose," says Pieraccini. But for Rachel, the reaction seems to be "it's her decision. If she wants to be a single mom and she can do it, sure."

Today, television mothers run the gamut from the passive to the dominating, says Billingham.

Malcolm in the Middle's Lois is unquestionably the primary force in that family. In According to Jim, Courtney Thorne-Smith's character seems to exist to look pretty and feed lines to hubby Jim Belushi.

"We have that really wide variety," says Billingham. "We're trying to figure out what is family."

And as for one of television's most colorful families, the Osbournes, Sharon is indeed the nurturer, but she plays the role with a lot more flair than Barbara Billingsley was allowed to instill in June Cleaver.

The Osbournes, Pieraccini points out, was structured around rock-star dad Ozzy, but Sharon, by dint of the force of her own personality, has become a breakout star.

"As the program has evolved, people have become enamored of Sharon," she says.

Reality shows like The Osbournes are really something of a separate beast, says Pieraccini, since the shows aren't scripted. But maybe that only illustrates Sharon's natural star power.

"Her appeal did evolve from her own personality."

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