In fairytales stepmothers are a common theme, but when it comes to television they’re a bit harder to come by. While this is surprising considering all of the blended families in the world these days, there are a few TV stepmoms that come to mind. Here are some of the most memorable television stepmoms of all time.
Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969-1974). Let’s start with the most obvious and one of the best TV stepmoms to hit primetime. With 6 kids, a needy husband and a dog to manage, Carol Brady (played by Florence Henderson) was such a great stepmom that by the time the second season rolled around, viewers practically forgot that she didn’t give birth to Greg, Peter and Bobby. The Brady boys adjusted to Carol as their new mom with nary a blip in the road (okay, there was one episode where Bobby thought she could turn out to be an evil stepmother like he read about in “Cinderella”, but perky Carol proved him wrong). Even better, all the Brady kids adjusted to their new parents without ever mentioning their biological mom or dad. Wonder what happened to the original Mrs. Brady? Doesn’t matter, Carol slid right in and filled the role.
Abby Bradford (Eight is Enough, 1977-1981). The addition of stepmother Abby Bradford on the 1970’s series Eight is Enough is a real life sad story. The show originally centered on the characters of Tom and Joan Bradford (Dick Van Patten, Diana Hyland) and their 8 kids. But in real life, actress Diana Hyland was battling breast cancer and she died shortly after the first episode of the series aired. When the second season of the series began, the character of Tom Bradford was a widower who soon found love with Abby (Betty Buckley), a tutor for one of his kids. Before the year ended the two were married and Abby proved to be a solid sounding board for the Bradford kids, all of whom were teenagers except for the youngest boy, Nicholas. What I liked about how this series handled the stepmother issue was that Abby never tried to be replacement for Joan. All of the kids called her Abby and the show even mentioned the children’s biological mother from time to time (most touchingly when teen son Tommy found a hidden Christmas present from his mother in the episode “Yes Nicholas, There Is a Santa Claus”). Abby came into the family’s life right when they needed her and her PhD and experience working as a school counselor didn’t hurt, either.
Carol Foster Lambert (Step by Step, 1991-1997).Three’s Company’s Chrissy Snow as a stepmom? Perhaps Suzanne Somers is a more diverse actress than people give her credit for! This show centered around a blended family after remarriage. But this family wasn’t like the Brady Bunch, donning matching bell bottomed jumpsuits to perform together in talent shows. Some of the step kids on Step by Step didn’t like each other very much. And while it wasn’t all peace and harmony, they later outdid the Brady’s by one: while each parent came into the marriage with 3 kids each, they had a 7th child together-Lilly- who fast forwarded to the age of 5 the season after she was born!
Denise Huxtable Kendall (The Cosby Show, 1989-1991). By Huxtable family standards, free-spirited Denise was somewhat of a wild child. While college didn’t work out for her (probably a slight disappointment to her doctor father and lawyer mother) Denise stunned the family when she went off and eloped. Besides new husband Martin, Denise brought home a bonus prize- Martin’s adorable 3 year old daughter, Olivia. Stepmomdom was Denise’s forte and she doted on little Olivia, even raising her solo when her Naval officer hubby was away.
Kathy O’Hara Williams (Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show, 1957-1964). Back in the golden days of television, this series about a nightclub owner and his family encountered a real life snafu when actress Jean Hagen- who played Mom- quit the show. Enter the off camera death of her character, a pretty nurse and voila!- new stepmom, Kathy. Kathy brought her own young daughter into the family too, and they all got along swimmingly.
Audrey Parker Nichols (Drake and Josh, 2004-2007). This Nickelodeon series about a blended family focused on odd couple teens, Jake Parker and Josh Nichols. When their parents marry, these two are instant step brothers and have to share a room. No fun when you’re a teen used to having your own space. Enter the no-nonsense Audrey, now the stepmother to Josh, who keeps these boys (and their bratty little sister, Megan) in line.
Linda Flynn-Fletcher (Phineas and Ferb, 2007- ). Yes, an animated stepmom is one of the characters on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb and she’s cool, too! Linda (voiced by Caroline Rhea) is a stepmother to Ferb, but she used to be a pop star. While her touring days are over, she does still jam at mall gigs with the neighborhood jazz band. You really couldn’t ask for a cooler stepmother than this, especially since she usually turns a blind eye to Phineas and Ferb’s wacky stunts.