OK, so they don’t actually exist. They’re characters, not real people. And they’ll never be able to make you a home cooked meal or give you medicine when you’re sick. But many South Floridians feel a special connection to these mothers, maybe because the shows were set in our own backyard. And while we watched, we listened.
We rounded up five of our favorite Miami TV moms and figured out how they made us better people (as moms are wont to do).
Sophia Petrillo from “The Golden Girls”
Played by Estelle Getty, Sophia was the mini matriarch of the hen house of elderly retired women in the ’80s sitcom set in the 305. She was mother to Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy Zbornak, but she dropped pearls of wisdom on the lusty Blanche and innocent Rose as well. Her wise tales always began with “Picture it, Sicily, [fill in the year].” One of her greatest lessons was about optimism: “People waste their time pondering whether a glass is half empty or half full. Me, I just drink whatever’s in the glass.” Another thing, Sophia taught us that you’re never too old to throw shade.
Juana Peña from “¿Qué Pasa, USA?”
In this bilingual Miami-based sitcom from the late ’70s we watched how the three generations of the Peña family adjusted to life in the United States. But it was mother Juana, played by Ana Margarita Martínez-Casado, who had the pressure of raising American children who understood and respected their Cuban roots. Her constant struggle: getting kids Carmen and Joe to speak “EN ESPAÑOL.” Her Spanglish was the stuff of legend and led to amazing malapropisms disguised as advice like this gem: “The grass is always greener at the end of the rainbow.”
The moms from “Jane the Virgin”
In spite of her best efforts to not become a teenage mom like her own mother, Jane Villanueva (played by Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez) gets knocked up by accident by a gynecologist in an artificial insemination mix up. But our young heroine refuses to let her pregnancy, her love drama, or the subsequent baby, defer her aspiration to become a writer. But it’s the other mother in the show, Jane’s youthful mom, wannabe lounge singer Gloria (played by Andrea Navedo), who keeps Jane focused on her goals. The lesson: Don’t let anything stop you from reaching for your dreams.
Rita Morgan from “Dexter”
This character (Julie Benz) may have been doomed from the start, but she had some terrific qualities. When she first met the antihero (Michael C. Hall) she was a fierce single mom of two, doing her best to raise two kids with an abusive, absentee father. When Dexter enters the picture, Rita has a baby with him, too, only to be mercilessly killed off in the bathtub by a serial killer (not Dex) with her toddler inches away. So here’s what we’ve gleaned: Swim with the sharks, you’re gonna get bit.
Madeline Westen from “Burn Notice”
Fans of ’80s cop show “Cagney & Lacey” were thrilled to see Sharon Gless play a masterspy’s mom. Overprotective and prone to anxiety, Madeline is also a great help to her often-endangered son Michael (Jeffrey Donovan). She most definitely would do anything for her kid and is as loyal as they come. The takeaway: Never turn your back on family.