• Fri, Mar 21 - 12:13 pm ET

The 11 Most Memorable Single Parents On Television

Gilmore Girls Rory and Lorelai

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Happy Single Parent Day! As someone who spent much of my adolescence living with a single parent, I have a lot of respect for them. I also love to see them represented on television. Today’s real-life families don’t all look like the perfect sitcom clans of the 1950s, and today’s shows have reflected that by portraying plenty of parents doing it on their own.

And just like there are lots of different types of single parents in real life — as well as parents in general — there are lots of different types on TV as well. Being a single parent is hard work, and some of them fare better than others. In honor of this holiday, I’ve rounded up eleven TV characters that spring to mind when I think about single parenthood. They’re not all perfect, of course. Most of them are flawed. Some of them are downright awful. You’ll find those towards the end of the list. But perfect parents aren’t realistic, and they don’t make for good TV. Is there anyone I missed? Tell us your favorites (or your least favorites) in the comments.

1. Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

Lorelai Gilmore motorcycle

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How could I not start with Lorelai? She had a baby at 16 and raised her to be a responsible young woman who attended Yale and managed to not make the same mistakes as her mom. Sure, Rory also had terrible taste in men and stole a yacht at one point, but overall she was the kind of kid to be proud of. Plus, Lorelai managed to do that whole “I’m your mom and your best friend” thing without being like Dina Lohan.

2. Danny Tanner, Full House

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If we put Bob Saget’s real-life grossness out of our minds, widower Danny Tanner was the quintessential ’90s dad. I haven’t watched the show in a while, but all those life lessons were very important to me as a kid. We’ll just ignore the fact that he needed help from his mullety brother-in-law and creepy comedian friend.

3. Rufus Humphrey, Gossip Girl

Rufus Humphrey Gossip Girl

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Oh, Rufus Humphrey. You raised the two most insufferable characters on that show, but I still couldn’t help but love you and want you to adopt me. Mostly because you made waffles for breakfast. Every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Bless you.

4. Sarah Manning, Orphan Black

Sarah Manning Orphan Black lunch

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You could argue that Sarah’s daughter Kira, who lives with Sarah’s former foster mother, isn’t really the point of this show about cloning and general badassness. But I think her devotion to Kira is extremely important to her character, because it makes all of the questionable things Sarah does more forgivable, since she’s doing it all to give her daughter a better life. Plus she has a great British accent that I’d love my mom to have.

5. Louis CK, Louie

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I’m not even a parent, and even I feel like I can relate to Louie’s experiences as a divorced dad. He’s just generally exhausted and unsure of himself and constantly screws up, and he uses his trials and tribulations raising his daughters as material in his stand-up. But I defy you to watch that duckling episode and not have your heart warmed.

6. Michael Bluth, Arrested Development

Michael Bluth Arrested Development chair

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The above GIF really is Michael Bluth in a nutshell. If I had to choose anyone in the Bluth family to be my parent, it would definitely be him, but that doesn’t mean he has everything under control. Like when he couldn’t remember his son’s girlfriend’s name (Her?) or then later when they accidentally shared the same girlfriend? Awkward.

7. Christine Campbell, The New Adventures of Old Christine

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I am just so enamored of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ portrayal of Christine because she’s such an absolute mess of a mother, but she’s still extremely likable. She might not know where in the world her son is at any given time, but at least she’s absolutely hilarious while she does it.

8. Dexter Morgan, Dexter

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Ugh, my heart. Dexter and little Harrison were just about the cutest father-son pairing ever. Unfortunately daddy also happened to be a serial killer. But ohmygod they’re so cute look at them ahhhh.

9. Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead

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I’d personally prefer to watch a totally Grimes-less version of The Walking Dead, because that whole family just rubs me the wrong way. But even I’ll admit that Rick and Carl’s father-son bonding and tension and bonding and tension after Lori’s death will be remembered for a long time. And raising a kid during a zombie apocalypse can’t be easy, so I’ll give him credit.

10. Norma Bates, Bates Motel

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Now we’re definitely getting into “Oh my goodness, somebody take custody away” territory. As amazing and compelling and occasionally sympathetic as Vera Farmiga’s performance is, she is ultimately creating on of our most famous fictional murderers. And I’d say covering up a murder together (and then letting your kid watch you change clothes) isn’t exactly the healthiest mother-son bonding experience.

11. Don Draper, Mad Men

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GET OUT OF HERE DON DRAPER. Nobody likes you. We didn’t like you when you were a married parent, we didn’t like you when you were a single parent, we didn’t like you when you were a remarried parent, and we won’t like you when you’re… whatever you are now. But will we remember you? Sadly, yes. #PoorSally

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  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Murphy Brown!

    • Jill O’Rourke

      I’ve never watched but I accept your endorsement.

  • itpainsme2say

    Lorelai is always the best and I never made the connection between Uncle Jesse means that Danny and him were brothers

    • Jill O’Rourke

      She is the best! And whoops, meant to say brother-in-law. My Full House facts are rusty.

    • itpainsme2say

      Wait so he is the mothers brother I literally thought he was some rando who lived with them like the other guy

    • Jill O’Rourke

      Yep, the mother’s brother. But they call both of them uncle so it’s kinda weird.

    • Ddaisy

      I don’t think they did call Joey “uncle.” He was just Joey.

  • joie

    Keith Mars!!

    • Jill O’Rourke

      Ahh I still haven’t gotten around to Veronica Mars but I trust that he’s great.

    • the_ether

      I kept waiting for his entry but it never came! IT NEVER CAME!

  • Nica

    Anne Romano – the trailblazer!

  • Coffee Bean

    Millicent Torkelson, can I get an amen?

  • arielmarie

    OMG i’m (very) behind on the walking dead and I didn’t know that she died. arghhh. between that and being behind on HIMYM and my boyfriend ruining who the mom is, i don’t know what I’ll do with myself.