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Monstrous Mammies

Time was when the only way mothers could ever be portrayed on TV was as idealised and nurturing types who gazed adoringly on, and showed unconditional love towards their husband and brood of telegenic children (see 'The Brady Bunch', 'Happy Days', 'Family Ties', 'Seventh Heaven' to name just a few).

Luckily for us, TV execs soon copped that the far more compelling and entertaining telly mother is the bad kind: the selfish, mean, emotionally abusive types that nearly always steal entire scenes with contemptuous looks, outrageous behaviour, and she-didn't-just-say-that-did-she? one-liners and quips.

With that in mind, we compiled our top ten countdown of TV's most monstrous mommas ever:

10 Karen Walker, 'Will & Grace'

It's safe to say that boozy floozy Karen (Megan Mullally) never developed the maternal gene towards her two stepchildren, Mason and Olivia. Indeed, one of her many members of staff was a lookalike named Karen 2 who was there in case the kids wanted a hug at night.

Sample quote: "I've been like a mother to that girl. I've locked her in her room, told her she was fat, and once I even left her in a store."

9 Peg Bundy, 'Married With Children'

Sexually frustrated housewife Peg (Katey Sagal) spent all her time on the couch watching trashy daytime TV, ordering crap from home-shopping networks and stuffing her gob with bon-bons, meaning her husband Al went hungry and their two teenage children were left to drag themselves up to be their best white-trash selves that they could be.

Sample quote: "Now for Daddy's present. Bud, run upstairs and get a tie out of Daddy's closet."

8 Lucille Bluth, 'Arrested Development'

Sozzled, amoral, racist, pill-popping socialite Lucille (Jessica Walter) embezzled money from her own family's company to maintain her pampered lifestyle, all while sleeping with her brother-in-law and wreaking havoc in the lives of her emotionally under-nourished, grown-up children.

Sample quote: "Michael, the little Korean is here and I don't know what to do with him. At least I think it's a him. You've got to strip them down to next to nothing before you could even tell."

7 Marie Barone, 'Everybody Loves Raymond'

Manipulative, interfering, and blessed with a transcendent gift for inducing guilt in every member of her extended family, Marie (Doris Roberts) idolises one son (Ray) at the expense of the other (Robert), and brilliantly plays the role of mother-in-law from hell to Ray's wife Debra.

Sample quote: "Raymond, you of all people should know that if you want your house to look clean, Debra needs help."

6 Colleen Donaghy, '30 Rock'

Acid-tongued Irish harridan Colleen (Elaine Stritch) never seems to miss an opportunity to tear strips off her successful son, Jack (Alec Baldwin).

When he was a child, Colleen told Jack that JFK was killed because he talked in church. She also tried to send him to fight in Vietnam at age 12 "to make a man of him".

Sample quote: "Tell him his mother's here. And she loves him. But not in a queer way."

5 Nancy Botwin, 'Weeds'

Left a young widow with a huge mortgage and two young sons to rear, suburban Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) turns to selling pot to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed. But over the years, desperate Nancy has become more and more entangled in the criminal underworld, seriously endangering her children's lives on more than one occasion.

The consequences of her neglectful parenting? Her eldest son is also a drug dealer, while her youngest just killed someone.

Sample quote: "I'm not a dealer, I'm a mother who happens to distribute illegal products through a sham bakery set up by my ethically questionable accountant and his crooked lawyer friend."

4 Betty Draper-Francis, 'Mad Men'

Immature, self-obsessed, insecure, needy and narcissistic, Betty is genuinely one of the most hateful, horrible mothers in modern television history. Played with a brave lack of empathy by the glacial January Jones, Betty is happy to let her children play with plastic bags,and is positively vile towards her wonderful young daughter Sally, who is in therapy and developing a seriously warped sense of her own femininity and sexuality as a result.

Sample quote: "Don't you dare lie to me, I'll cut your fingers off!"

3 Blanche Hunt, Coronation Street

One of TV's all-time great matriarchal battleaxes, Blanche (played by the late, great Maggie Jones) had a seemingly limitless arsenal of withering putdowns for long-suffering daughter Deirdre Barlow and her stuffy partner Ken, as well as anyone else who managed to tick her off -- which was just about everyone in Weatherfield.

For a prime example of her brutal, take-no-prisoners style, look up the YouTube clip of the Barlows at an AA meeting.

Sample quote: "She loves a drama, that Gail. Never happy unless she's got someone's hands round her throat."

2 Laura Bristow/Irina Derevko, 'Alias'

TV mothers don't come more twisted than Laura Bristow (Lena Olin) in JJ Abrams' superspy drama series 'Alias' (which finished in 2005). Throughout the show's five seasons, poor double agent Sydney (Jennifer Garner) copped that her presumed-dead literature professor mam Laura was actually alive and was, in fact, a notorious Soviet-era assassin, KGB spy, and terrorist mastermind named Irina Derevko.

Oh, and did I mention she was also out to kill Sydney (along with her equally treacherous sisters)?

Sample quote: "I was sure of one thing: I couldn't be an agent and a mother. I'd either fail at one or both. And I chose to fail at being a mother."

1 Livia Soprano, 'The Sopranos'

Has there ever been a more hideous, conniving, manipulative TV matriarch than Livia Soprano (the late Nancy Marchand)? Never happy unless she was spitting hateful bile at her adult children, cantankerous crone Livia plumbed new depths -- or ascended new heights, depending on your viewpoint -- after she put out a hit on her own son Tony when she rumbled that he was trying to put her in a nursing home.

Sample quote: "Then kill me now. Go on now, go into the ham, and take the carving knife and stab me, here, now, please! It would hurt me less than what you just said."

Weekend Magazine