The Ultimate Television Grandmas

MC looks at the top grannies ever portrayed on television.

estelle getty bea arthur betty white and rue mcclanahan
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Jim Smeal
Sophia Petrillo
Estelle Getty, (center) The Golden Girls
Picture it: NBC, 1986. A small-stature Sicilian concocts both a mean marinara and devastating punch lines for seven seasons on The Golden Girls as she rules over the roost of three sassy seniors in Miami. With her trademark cardigans and glasses, no one was safe from her hilarious barbs. (Blanche: I treat my body like a temple. Sophia: Yeah, open to everyone, day or night!) With an exaggerated story for every occasion, this Shady Pines escapee is the octogenarian to beat.
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Theo Wargo
Marie Barone
(Doris Roberts), Everybody Loves Raymond
Ray who? The real reason audiences flocked to the CBS powerhouse Everybody Loves Raymond was for the cankerous grandparents that lived across the street. Marie was the ultimate grandmother—lasagna-baking, portrait-taking babysitter in waiting. But as queen of the backhanded compliment, her sharpest weapon was the guilt she inflicted on her two grown sons. The Emmys agreed with the smothering matriarch: Roberts won four statuettes during her run as Marie.
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Jeff Vespa
Emily Gilmore
(Kelly Bishop), Gilmore Girls
An elite member of high society and a Daughters of the Revolution devotee, Emily Gilmore was all manners and class. While the relationship between she and her daughter was strained on the best of days, she doted on her only grandchild, Rory, by paying expensive school tuitions, taking her on summer long jaunts to Europe, and giving Rory a place to live when she drops out of college. Finicky, bossy, but often misunderstood, Emily is the classy broad with more heart than meets the eye.
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Jeffrey Mayer
Lucille Bluth
(Jessica Walters), Arrested Development
Boozy, manipulative and emotionally abusive, “Gangy” as her grandkids called her, belittled the help, used the company expense account for face lifts and designer labels, and coddled her youngest son so severely he grew up socially stunted. But this dominating mamma was also fiercely protective of the children and grandchildren she so often ridiculed—you know, when she wasn’t framing one of them for drunk driving. So outrageous you can’t help but feel the gin-soaked love.
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Jean-Paul Aussenard
Mona Robinson
(Katherine Helmond), Who’s the Boss?
The nymphomaniac Mona Robinson may have been the original cougar, always keeping a steady eye trained on the men in the room. The red-headed free spirit helped her daughter launch her own ad agency and was instrumental in uniting the stoking the perpetual heat between will-they-just-get-it-over-with Angela and Tony. All in between her dates, of course.
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Mona Simpson
(voiced by Glenn Close), The Simpsons
Homer’s fugitive mother was on the lam for 27 years after she foiled one of Mr. Burn’s attempts at germ warfare in the late 60s by destroying his evil lab. While Homer had hard time warming back up to the super smart mom he thought abandoned him in childhood (and from whom Lisa inherited her intellect), we’re pretty cool with any globe-trotting, world-saving hippie who uses the name "Anita Bonghit" as a pseudonym.
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Living Lohan, E
Nana Lohan
Living Lohan
As the sole voice of reason on the exploitive trainwreck that is the reality series Living Lohan, this endearing nana won our respect when she was savvy enough to get out of the clan’s Las Vegas trip, and the way she regularly calls Dina on her questionable parenting skills: “That’s a cop out. The point is, when you say ‘no,’ it’s a no.” Go Nana! Now take Cody and run—it’s his only chance.
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