Sophia Petrillo, played by Estelle Getty, 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. 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.” We also learned that you’re never too old to throw shade.
OK, so they don’t actually exist. 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.
In honor of Mother’s Day, 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).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Read More: Mother’s Day events
Sophia from "The Golden Girls"
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 mother Juana (Ana Margarita Martínez-Casado) 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 ESPANOL.” 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"
Despite her best efforts to not become a teenage mom like her own mother, Jane Villanueva (Golden Globe Award-winner Gina Rodriguez), gets knocked up by an accidental artificial insemination (spoiler alert!). But our young heroine refuses to let her pregnancy, love drama or a baby defer her aspiration to become a writer because her youthful mom, wannabe lounge singer Gloria (Andrea Navedo), 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 (played by Julie Benz) may have been doomed from the start, but she had some terrific qualities. When she first met the antihero (played by 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 another serial killer. 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 definitely would do anything for her kid and is as loyal as they come. The takeaway: Never turn your back on family.