By Bill S.
Born in 1941, Ms. Walter began her career in film and television back in the early '60's, but didn't hit her stride until a decade later. Her breakthrough role came in the 1971 thriller Play Misty For Me , as a crazed fan of a radio DJ.
It made her a star, and established that she wasn't cut out to play ingenues, frumps, or anything in between. In 1975, she won her only EMMY for playing a police chief on the mini-series Amy Prentiss. Then in the '80's...
Wait, what? She only has one EMMY? That doesn't seem right.
...in the 80's, she landed her first sitcom mother roles, on the short-lived Three's a Crowd (not to be confused with the 1969 movie, which she was also in). The idea of her playing such a role seemed so absurd that, in his book TV Sirens, author Michael McWilliams likened it to casting Anthony Perkins as the father on Family Ties. I choose to interpret that as meaning, "Kinda wrong, but also kinda awesome." Walter doesn't play wholesome, Donna Reed-Marion Ross moms. When she plays one, she slings cutting barbs, downs booze, flirts inappropriately, or simply conducts in decidedly non-maternal fashion. And we love her for that. Well,I do, I don't know about you. Maybe you're an idiot with no taste. Here are some of my favorite Walter roles:
Fran Sinclair on Dinosaurs. More often than not she was the show's voice of reason, as much as a talking dinosaur could be. Still, there was that episode where a play date between Baby Sinclair and another boy goes horribly wrong. Which is to say, Baby Sinclair eats him. Fran and Earl have to deal with the other boy's indignant parents, and the Sinclairs address the problem as you'd expect -- by eating them. If I'm not mistaken, that was also the ending in the original draft of Yasima Reza's God of Carnage.
Tabitha Wilson on 90210. A retired actress who still craved the spotlight, even if it was only her family. She decides to oversee the class production of Spring Awakening her granddaughter Annie is appearing in, because this reboot of the '90's series takes place in a parallel universe where a high school is fine with letting kids perform in a musical featuring songs with titles like "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked". In this clip, Tabitha helpfully offers pointers to Annie and the other girls on performing the opening number.
(*idea for a TV series: a geriatric reboot of Charlie's Angels with Jessica Walter, Susan Sullivan and Holland Taylor as the Angels, and Kathleen Turner supplying the voice of a female Charlie. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd watch the crap out of that!)
Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development. Her most famous, and arguably, funniest TV mom. Lucille could never be a typical housewife, because there's no way to balance a highball glass on a vacuum cleaner. She raised her daughter Lindsay and eldest son Michael as fraternal twins, concealing from everyone the fact that Lindsay was A.) adopted, and B.) five years older, which nobody -- including Lindsay and Michael -- ever quite picked up on. Treated middle son GOB with utter contempt, although to be fair, anybody else would. Having withheld affection completely from her first three children, she showered a bit too much on youngest son Buster, which may explain why he ended up dating a woman who was not only the same age as Lucille, but shared the same first name. And let's not forget THIS horror (as if we could!)
Walter is a mother in real life too, and we can safely assume a better one than the ones she's played onscreen. So let's wish her a Happy Mother's Day! and hope she continues keeping us entertained with many more bad moms in the future.
And to all the Moms who are reading this, a Happy Mother's Day too.