As part of a generation that grew up with TGIF, I was exposed to quite a few great TV dads over the years and I had a tough time narrowing down my top 5. How could I not choose Uncle Phil? Or Alan Matthews? Or heck, Mr. Feeny? (I know he wasn’t a dad, but he was a pretty big father figure to Cory Matthews and you know it). The dads I listed below are all goofy in their own way and they are the dads I would like to think that I would look up to.
5. Bob Belcher –Bob’s Burgers
The Belcher Family is one of my favorite families on TV right now. I love their overall eccentricity and the way the kids are always scheming up some sort of adventure. Bob always manages to get through the day even though nothing ever seems to go right for him. He owns a burger joint and has terrible bad luck, I’m pretty sure Louise is going to grow up to be a con-artist and his wife’s ex-fiancé happens to be the local health inspector. Over the past couple of seasons, Bob helped his son save a talking toilet, fired his kids from the restaurant so that they can have a summer vacation and let his kids skip school in order to find a great Valentine’s Day present for his wife, Linda. If saving a talking toilet for your son doesn’t scream “Great Dad”, I don’t know what does.
4. Danny Tanner – Full House
As a child of the 90s, obviously there had to be a TGIF Dad listed on here. Danny Tanner was the ultimate 90s dad to DJ, Stephanie and Michelle all while paving the way for another dad on my list that is still to come. Danny was completely uncool, he loved to clean and he would do anything for his daughters. I remember watching Full House thinking what a great (although dorky) dad Danny was. He was so worried that his kids would miss having a mother growing up that he brought in the best substitutes he could find, his comedian best friend and his wife’s younger brother. Lessons were learned in every episode, and Danny even let his kids go see Uncle Jesse’s band, Jesse and the Rippers, perform.
3. Michael Bluth – Arrested Development
The entire Bluth family has rather questionable morals, but Michael seems to have his head on straightest. Michael spent the first three seasons of Arrested Development trying to ensure that his son, George Michael didn’t become anything like the rest of the Bluth family. And although it’s a lost cause, Michael is always trying to teach the rest of his family how to do the right thing. He has his work cut out for him, as his family doesn’t like to work, had business dealings in Iraq and embezzles money like it’s going out of style. And what does he always say is the most important thing? Family, of course.
2. Phil Dunphy – Modern Family
Although Danny Tanner was pretty uncool, Phil Dunphy takes it to another level. It was clear what a great dad Phil was from the first episode of Modern Family. His translation of “WTF” (Why The Face?) still cracks me up. Phil always goes the extra mile and then some to seem “cool” to his kids. Phil really is just a big kid at heart, and it makes him even more lovable. To me, he is this generations’ version of Danny Tanner; he’s dorky, he’s tries to teach his kids lessons (“Stealing” Luke’s bike, for example) and he is always trying to prove himself.
1. Cliff Huxtable – The Cosby Show
I wouldn’t be surprised if Cliff topped more than one list here. Before Cliff Huxtable inspired a thousand ugly sweater parties, he was inspiring us all to be better people. Just about every episode centered on some lesson to be learned, whether it was proving to Theo he will find a better job if he is getting good grades, or teaching Rudy and Vanessa to get along with each other. Cliff Huxtable was the ultimate dad of the 80s and early 90s. He was funny and offbeat, and Bill Cosby pulled it off so charmingly. I think that we all wished we were part of the family.I could really go for a pudding pop now…
Honorable Mention: My Two Dads
5. Jed Bartlet – The West Wing
The West Wing never found massive roles for the President’s children, but they weighed on the man himself heavily. The obvious example is the cliffhanger at the end of the fourth season, when Bartlet’s daughter Zoey is abducted and the President decides to temporarily step down, inviting a minor constitutional crisis. What decent father wouldn’t be distracted from vital national security concerns by a missing child?
4. Andy Sipowicz – NYPD Blue
When we first meet Sipowicz, he’s a drunken, lude, racist bully who’s about to get shot in the ass while in the company of a prostitute—and frankly, at that point it serves him right. It comes as no surprise when we learn bit by bit about his history in Vietnam, his ex-wife Katie, and his estranged son Andy Junior. As the show transitioned from a vehicle for David Caruso (whooooooops) to a two-man show to its final form with Dennis Franz squarely at the fore, some of Sipowicz’s rough edges were shaved: he sobered up (albeit with the constant threat of relapse), he slowly moved away from his bigotries, he beat suspects less often, and most importantly for this discussion, he started to patch things up with Andy Jr. and fathered a new child, Theo, with his second wife. Sipowicz’s ongoing progression away from his racism & homophobia, and eventual nonchalance about the diversity of those working in his precinct, would set a good example for young Theo. He gets docked more than a few Dad Points, however, for falling off the wagon almost immediately after Theo was born, even if it was really due to Andy Jr. being killed.
3. Dan Conner – Roseanne
Crass and sarcastic, but always loving, John Goodman’s chemistry with Roseanne sparkled and became one of the reasons the show had as much longevity as it did. His absence in the show’s benighted final season only serves to illustrate his importance even further.
2. Cliff Huxtable – The Cosby Show
When it comes to sitcom dads, there’s The Cos and there’s everyone else. It’s that simple. But allow me some idiosyncrasy in my number one…
1. Ben Sisko – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
When the third Star Trek TV series was being created, it was decided that the show would break away from the format of the first two and take place on a space station, tied to one location, rather than a ship moving to a new system each week. One major effect of this was an emphasis on long-term storytelling and character relationships that develop over time, and one major example of that is the fact that The Powers That Be chose to make the lead character a single father, raising his son Jake while, particularly at the beginning of the series, still deep in grief for his wife Jennifer. Whatever fantastical sci-fi plot was threatening Our Heroes or the station each week, Sisko was simultaneously grounded in comparatively mundane concerns about Jake getting into teenaged mischief, palling around with what his father considered the wrong sort of friends, even–gasp!–dating. As the show progressed and Jake grew (and Cirroc Lofton’s growth spurt made Jake one of the tallest creatures in the galaxy), Sisko eventually learned to let his son make his own decisions even when they put him in danger, and Jake was one of the characters available to show us a galactic war from a civilian’s perspective. Avery Brooks took very seriously his role as a father on the show, and specifically an African-American father–at the end of the series, when the writers (SPOILERS, this show is 15 years old) gave Sisko a new baby on the way and planned to kill him in the finale, Brooks brought up narratives of abandonment by African-American men, and insisted that a sci-fi solution be worked in to promise the character’s return. The last thing Sisko does on the show is promise to come back, not to his job in the military, or his role as a religious figure, but as a family man.
It’s a safe assumption that the list of top TV dads will fall down to generation lines, The best tv families are the ones we grow up with. I grew up watching Full House and Family Matters and Fresh Prince of Bel Air, so shows that my dad would watch like Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver are completely lost on me, so this list i will quickly ask the question – are they beloved as they really should be?
Uncle Phil – Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Reasoning: Uncle Phil will probably go down as the greatest uncle of all time, but as a father, we must look at his track record. All we need to do is look at the eldest daughter Hillary for a window into his parenting success. The only thing she seems to value is her credit card balance. Carlton, he went the other way, and that kid was wound way too tight, then with the youngest (we’re not counting little Nicky) he would put his double standards on proud display with Ashley…which she would correctly call out.
Mike Brady & Frank Lambert – Brady Bunch & Step By Step
Reasoning: It’s one thing to have your own set of children, but to inherit another bunch and an ancillary comic relief character (whether it be a maid or random nephew who lives in a van in the driveway…) and to not play favourites and maintain order, that is an underrated TV dad.
Danny Tanner – Full House
Reasoning: I know this is going to be an unpopular sentiment “but come on, he raised three daughters all by himself and they turned out into well-mannered people!” But did he really? Everywhere he went, Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey weren’t too far behind. Did they ever go on a trip where they all didn’t go in one big group? And how many times did we see Joey or Jesse or even Rebecca teach the girls life lessons? I’m sorry, but that’s like saying Matthew Stafford is the best QB in the League when he has Megaton there to throw to… I’m sorry, I’m not buying it.
Martin Crane & Frank Barone – Frasier & Everybody Loves Raymond
Reasoning: Now neither of these characters were main focal points on their respective shows, but therein lies is sneakiness. Both the parents had two brothers who live in close proximity to each other. Both are, more or less, normal adults who can interact with each other and their families, and the main characters on both shows are willing to drop what they are doing to help their father with whatever wacky scheme they are up to.
Cliff Huxtable – The Cosby Show
Verdict: Properly Rated
Reasoning: If he isn’t in #1 or #2 of any all time dads list, then I have the shenangians card all ready to pull. The only knock on him was that he was too perfect of a character. He was a college football player, he served in the military, became a doctor and liked jazz music, not really much “oh, he overcame the odds” going on there. Regardless of the difficulty level of challenges that he faced, when he was dispensing his life lessons, he made whomever he was talking to feel like the most important person in the room and didn’t talk down to them for making mistakes. It’s hard to knock someone when they have this squeaky clean image to begin with.
Tim Taylor – Home Improvement
Reasoning: Tim may not have had all the answers (and the ones he got from Wilson he would comically misinterpret) but he did have unconditional love for his family. He tried to incorporate them into his hobbies (such as building his hot-rod) tried to take interest in their hobbies and tried to cater to each of their needs. He made it very hard for any of the kids to hate him.
Ted Mosby – How I Met Your Mother
Verdict: Worst Parent Ever
Reasoning: Ok, that’s a little far-fetched, he never physically abused his children, but what about the mental abuse he has given them. He spends hours ranting about the sexual romps of him and his friends, and it may seem all well and good, but look at it through the eyes of his children. When he’s telling them this story in 2030, he will be 52 years old. And when you’re listening to someone who’s 52 talking about anything, you picture them as that 52-year-old person, with all their wrinkles and sags and…how are those kids sitting there listening to stories of his parents and uncles and aunts having tons of crazy sex? I would be running as fast as I could the opposite direction and hope somehow along the way i can knock those memories out of my head. I mean, if I were there and my parents were talking…and ok, I’ve seen pictures of them in their younger days, and I can imagine they’re a normal person and did normal thi… NO! NO! GET OUT OF MY HEAD NOOOOOOOOO. Ok, I’m going to take a shower…followed by another shower…and maybe another for good measure.