Welcome to The Other Five Count, a non-wrestling version of Ben Morse’s monthly masterpiece. Each month, the staff will come together to count down their favorite movie, TV, music and sports topics, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
With the sad passing on TV great James Avery in early January, the PTB staff felt it was fitting for our first installment of this series to be a countdown of television’s greatest patriarchs. Which Family King will reign supreme in Place to Be Nation? Stay tuned to find out!
Honorable Mention: Phillip Jennings – The Americans
With a few more seasons of greatness, Phillip may creep his way up the rankings, but for now, he resides here. Which is still an accomplishment when you consider how little we have really seen of him. But I have seen enough to know that he is a fantastic dad that exists in a crazed, deceptive, maniacal world. He is in an arranged marriage that has all sorts of ups and downs and while we haven’t learned all of the details of their life together, there has been enough sprinkled in for us to see Phillip has always been the more attentive parent to their two children, Paige and Henry. Whenever there is strife in the family, the kids run to their dad and look at their mother with disdain. At his core, all Phillip wants is to be a normal family with a loving wife and healthy, happy kids. The tragedy of this show is that the odds are incredibly against him.
Honorable Mention: Phil Dunphy – Modern Family
Not much of an explanation needed here. A good dude that loves his kids and does anything he can to make sure the family is happy, healthy and thriving.
5. Jim Walsh – Beverly Hills, 90210
Mr. Walsh was the first TV dad I really admired. He was a very successful accountant, enough so that he was able to move his family out from the cold dregs of Minnesota to the sunny, hip and intimidating Beverly Hills all while allowing his beloved wife Cindy the chance to be a stay-at-home mom (one that almost had an affair with an old flame while poor old Jim was slaving away crunching numbers). Jim was a great role model for his son Brandon, the uber-alpha dog of West Bev. Whenever Brando was in trouble, whether it be a DUI or a serious gambling problem, he could always count on stern guidance and assistance from Papa Walsh. Jim also was very protective of his only daughter, Brenda, especially when the troubled Dylan McKay started hanging around. The Jim Walsh-Dylan McKay feud carried the early seasons of the show and finally came to a head when Dylan was able to earn Jim’s trust that his intentions were completely pure and that he truly loved his daughter (until she went to Paris as McKay started banging Kelly Taylor in the pool). Jim even became the trustee of Dylan’s trust fund and ended up as a father figure for the lost soul. The Walsh parents would eventually pack up and leave the show, heading off to Japan for better opportunities and a spot as the top gaijin, but the house that Jim bought back in 1990 would remain a focal point for the crew until the show went off the air. Jim Walsh, thank you for setting the example of how to be a dad.
4. Frank Costanza/Arthur Spooner – Seinfeld/King of Queens
I felt I had to lump these two together because Jerry Stiller is basically playing the same character across both shows. In retrospect it is amazing that he went from the role of Costanza immediately into the role of Spooner and had no discernible drop-off, nailing both with perfection. It was quite the run. As Frank Costanza, he was clearly delusional, but always entertaining and often the highlight of any episode he was in. Once he got going, you could not calm him down. He was a man of principle. A man who loved his TV Guide. While he may have been tough on his son, the love would show through, including the time he had to bail him out of jail for bootlegging. When Seinfeld went off the air, Stiller quickly hopped into the role of Carrie Spooner’s widowed father, a man who had little money or opportunity and was forced to move in with his daughter and her sports crazed, blue-collar husband. The chemistry was immediate and the episodes centered around Arthur getting in the way of Doug’s life are some of the best. Despite all of the annoyances and schemes, in the end, Arthur Spooner just wanted a friend and he truly became part of the family. Big ups to Jerry Stiller for hitting home runs with both of these roles.
3. Coach Eric Taylor – Friday Night Lights
The role of a high school football coach is an interesting one, especially in the state of Texas. The coach is looked at as a developer of talent on the field and off. A man who is supposed to help turn boys into men during their most formative years, but also win some games along the way. With the backing of his wife Tami, Coach Taylor was a strong, confident, honest man who just wanted to coach ball and make sure his daughter Julie stayed on the right path. While she often strayed, at the end of the day it was clear that Julie was raised the right way and turned into a responsible young adult in a town where it wasn’t so easy to do so. Of course, Taylor was also a mentor to the young men on his team, taking care of the paralyzed star QB Jason Street, shepherding the insecure backup Matt Saracen and eventually accepting him into his family, saving Vince Howard from the projects and giving him a future and of course always supporting the troubled Tim Riggins. The Taylors were the steadying force of Dillon and Coach Eric was the man that stood tall, always doing the right thing when it wasn’t always the easiest choice.
2. Adam Braverman – Parenthood
It is hard to find a father as good as Adam Braverman on TV right now when you consider all of the trials and tribulations the man has been put through since the show began. As the eldest of four Braverman children, he always the one the rest come to for advice in troubled times. He is looked at as the leader, the man who often will go to the parents on behalf of the crew when family business needs to be taken care of. Early on, he had a successful job and was working to put his daughter through college, but when the company was taken over, he lost his job and found himself in a very relatable position: three kids, no job and a mortgage and tuition to pay for. Oh, and his son has Aspergers, so he has to learn how to act and help develop his son through the affliction. He rolled the dice and started his own business with his brother, but then things turned south again when his wife Kristina was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would beat it and the family remained strong. The best part of Parenthood is that everything is real and relatable. Nothing out of the realm of belief occurs. So watching Adam battle through so many real issues with such determination, even if not every decision is the right one, is admirable and a template to look up to. If you aren’t watching this show, you are missing out big time.
1. Al Bundy – Married…With Children
And now we do a 180. Al Bundy just wanted to be left alone. Deep down he loved his wife and kids, but shit…he just wanted to drink a beer and watch the football game while reminiscing about his days at Polk High. His wife Peggy was high maintenance and Al did everything he could to avoid hitting the sack, preferring to launch a man’s club called No Ma’am and wait for nudie magazine day. He schlepped around his 9 to 5 job at the shoe store and then depressingly handed his cash over to his wife and kids when he got home. Bundy was the epitome of the early 90’s blue-collar dude. He was raw. He stuck his hands in pants. He hated his neighbors. He was a dick. But he was so awesome. Ed O’Neill was the perfect choice for this role and Al Bundy is an icon that is still revered today. A true pillar of non-virtue, anger, gullibility and depression. Al Bundy, this Girlie Girl beer is for you!
“Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream” – George W. Bush
What can I say? A television family dad really makes the show something special and there are so many out there who have had a profound impact on the show and the fabric of the American family. There are so many great dads out there and it was hard for me to narrow it down to just five, here are a couple of honorable mentions before we get to the list: Frank Constanza, Carl Winslow, Tim Taylor, Jed Clampett, and Paul Hennessy. Now, for the top five.
5. Fred Sanford – Sanford and Sons
“Elizabeth, I’m coming for ya!” Redd Foxx was one of the foundational pieces for American comedy, influencing people like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock. His portrayal of Fred Sanford was that of a gritty old man who always gave his son crap. He would always joke about the big heart attack that could come to take him to his wife Elizabeth. Sanford’s sarcasm and wit is what made the show special and Fred was the ultimate dad. Now let’s get to the rest of the list ya big dummy.
4. Harry Morgan – Dexter
The voice of reason behind the monster that is Dexter. James Remar has one of the most distinguished voices in Hollywood and his influence over the show is something special. Harry is the only one on my list who is never actually alive during the entire show, but the flashbacks, and his presence as the conscious of Dexter truly makes this character special. His role as a father figure in Dexter’s life is all in Dexter’s imagination and it is done quite well. Harry’s life wasn’t all roses though and his demons catch up with him quickly throughout the series. I am one who agrees with Harry’s Code that Dexter follows and this was a positive piece of one of my all time favorite shows.
3. Andy Taylor – Andy Griffith Show
I consider these last three 1A, 1B and 1C. Andy Griffith is the real deal and when you watch the show you felt like he talking to you and making you become a better person. He always tried to work things out with Opie and put up with the craziness of Barney. Griffith’s Taylor character was something special and his show was one of the most watched for its time period. Griffith was a true All-American father who raises his boy the right way and you knew that when you were watching the Andy Griffith Show you were watching great television.
2. John “Jack” Arnold – The Wonder Years
What is there to be said other than, “DAMNIT KEVIN!” I recently rewatched the Wonder Years and damn, was it a great show and part of the reason was Dan Lauria’s portrayal of Jack Arnold. You really felt like he was upset with you about your behavior and that look in his eyes was enough to set the tone of the show something fierce very quick. Jack’s past made him the man he was and he did the best he could to raise his two sons and daughter during the outrageous time period of the 60s and 70s. The best part of Jack Arnold was those moments that he let himself loose with Kevin and gave him the happiness he was looking for. It just made you melt when he let his shell break and he showed his lighter side. It was those moments and so many others that made the Wonder Years one of the most underrated shows of all time.
1. Randy Marsh – South Park
“WE DIDN’T LISTEN!” Maybe I took this the wrong way when this idea was put forth, but Randy Marsh is the father that keeps on giving the whole year round. There is no doubt that Randy is one of the most complex characters in a show that has proven to be one of the most entertaining over the last 20 years. South Park is without a doubt one of my favorite shows of all time and those moments when Randy gets to shine really make it worth it. Four of the big moments that come to mind are “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” “Make Love Not Warcraft,” “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow,” and “Over Logging.” These episodes are the evidence to show that Randy is one of the most entertaining characters on television and his love for his family comes at all costs. If you notice something sticky, it is due to “a spooky ghost” or something that slimmed him.
5. Frasier Crane – Cheers/Fraiser
Another outside the box pick with Frasier’s relationship with his son Frederick, which spanned two different shows. It is especially fun to watch the progression of the relationship when pitted against the strained relationship Fraiser has with his own father, Martin, on the titular show. Whether battling his ex-wife Lilith for his affection, trying to get Frederick into a prestigious school, or the way the kid interacted with the rest of Fraiser’s cast of characters was certainly a good, albeit comedic, look into the dynamic of an absentee, and divorced, parent.
4. Frank Barone – Everybody Loves Raymond
Frank was very much a 1990s version of Archie Bunker, minus a lot of the political edge. The hard boiled guy who had seen and done it all, but with a heart of gold, Frank was perfect “father of adults” for the inoffensive family sitcoms of the post Bunker/Fred Sanford TV sitcom landscape. A guy who said his piece and did whatever he wanted to do, but at the same time would do anything for his family, even if it’s to the annoyance of his son and daughter-in-law across the street.
3. Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
It was one thing to be a single parent Star Fleet officer, but it was quite another to be one while being the commanding officer of one of the most important hubs in the sector. Yet somehow Captain Sisko worked it all out, even being arguably the finest captain in the franchise’s history! Some of the best episodes and moments of the show’s seven season run feature the father-son dynamic between Sisko and his son Jake, including the tear jerker “The Visitor” which often gets listed near the top of various all-time franchise episode lists.
2. Tony Soprano – The Sopranos
Not only as the head of his own dysfunctional 2000s suburban American family, but good old Tony had risen the ranks to be the crime boss of Northern New Jersey. No wonder he needed a shrink! Arguably one of the greatest fictional Mafioso members not named Corleone, the conflicted and yet good at his job Tony was one of the best things to watch in the early days of the premium cable series renaissance, and the man who brought the character to life is sorely missed.
1. Tie: Jonathan Kent and Lionel Luthor – Smallville
For an entire generation of Superman fans, Schneider’s portrayal of Kal-El’s Earth father has transformed the kindly older Pa Kent of the comics (even all the Superboy stories going back to the Silver and Golden Ages) and more recent vintage media appearances (Superman: The Movie and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) into the embodiment of the values that would make Clark Kent into the man behind the Superman façade. Conversely, John Glover’s embodiment of a sinister, twisted and corrupt Lionel Luthor did well to help mold Lex Luthor into the diabolical monster he’d become. Give the show all the grief you want for bringing 90210/Dawson’s Creek like teen angst drama elements into the superhero television genre, but something it did right was to give a good look at the parentage of one of DC Comics’ iconic superheroes and one of their iconic supervillains.