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Saturday, June 16, 2007

TV’s Best Dads

Television dads usually fit in two categories: perfect, advice-doling successful professionals or lazy, buffoons at the mercy of their more perfect wives and families. The best ones, however, usually combine elements from both categories.

Let’s face it, no one’s perfect, and television’s best dads often don’t get it right either, (therein lies the humor.) But the beauty is that they keep trying to guide their children with the wisdom of their mistakes and the knowledge that supposedly, father knows best.

In honor of Father’s Day, I turn the spotlight on some of my favorite fathers of the small screen. Any of these worthy men could claim the title of Television’s Best Dad.

Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show – Every kid in the ‘80s wanted Dr. Huxtable as a father. He was funny and fun-loving, stern without being preachy, and he wore those multi-colored sweaters that made him the best-dressed dad on the block. Whether he was teaching Theo to win back his girlfriend by singing the blues ("Justine! Justine!"), or conducting a funeral for Rudy’s pet goldfish, Lamont, in order to help her through the grief, Cliff always seemed to know how to fix any situation.

Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch – Mike was the perfect “dreamy” dad for girls who grew up in the ‘70s. He was a handsome architect, who was tough but understanding. Daughter Marcia was so impressed with her stepfather that she nominated him for Father of the Year in a local newspaper contest. He won, of course. (Hey, he should have, considering he was raising six children on one salary and still had time to offer advice on everything from boyfriends to sibling rivalry to education.) No doubt, Mike was a groovy dad, and he had the plaid pants to prove it.

Howard Cunningham, Happy Days – Known simply as Mr. C to the ever-present motley crew of guests at the Cunningham house, Howard was a father figure to not only Joanie and Richie, but Ralph, Potsie and Fonzie, too. Mr. C was a hard-working father of the ‘50s, who ran his hardware store and expected the pot roast to be on the table for dinner when he got home. That didn’t make him any less likeable. Mr. C gave good advice to his children and their friends in such a jovial manner that even tough-guy Fonz looked to him as a solid role model. (For the record, I’m pretty sure Mr. C cautioned him against jumping the shark.)

Homer Simpson, The Simpsons – Clearly, Homer isn’t the smartest dad on television. But, just because he put the “D’oh” in dolt, doesn’t mean he doesn’t make an effort in loving his kids. What other TV father would choose to jump a ravine the size of The Grand Canyon on a skateboard, just to show Bart how potentially dangerous and ridiculous the stunt was? Sure, Homer forgets to pick his kids up from after-school activities sometimes, but at the end of the day, the Simpson kids know they’re loved. The simple fact that Homer’s kids never seem to age automatically qualifies him as one of TV’s best dads. You try putting up with smart aleck adolescent Bart Simpson for 15 years.

Tim Taylor, Home Improvement – Tim “The Toolman” Taylor was a klutzy guy with a fetish for cars, power tools and needling his flannel-wearing assistant Al. Tim parented with humor, and it seemed to work. His three boys saw him as a friend and a father. Perhaps Tim’s best parenting quality is that he bucked the trend of former TV dads who always seemed to have all the answers. When Tim was stumped as to what to do in a situation, which was often, he sought help at his backyard fence. (“Hi-de-ho, neighbor” Dr. Wilson!) Tim showed fathers everywhere that it’s OK not to always know the right thing to do. Simply trying to figure things out was enough.

Jason Seaver, Growing Pains – The original Mr. Mom, Dr. Jason Seaver worked at home, so his wife could be a journalist. Jason had a tough job trying to juggle his psychiatry patients, while dealing with slacker son Mike (think Bart Simpson in human form) and the rest of his brood. Whether helping daughter Carol confront her weight issues, bailing Mike out of his latest scrape or parenting Ben and Chrissy, Jason never faltered as a father. Hmmm, on second thought, perhaps he was self-medicating.

Danny Tanner, Full House – This single dad had a “full house” of young girls to raise, after his wife was killed in a car accident. Danny was overwhelmed at the onset and was smart enough to get help, in the form of extended family Uncle Jesse and his best friend Joey. What evolved was a house full of love that fostered fun times, despite the tragic loss of a parent. Danny gave single fathers everywhere a good name.

Keith Mars, Veronica Mars – Every girl dreams of having a dad so cool he can banter by day and solve mysteries by night. Keith Mars was a detective and a sheriff, but I’m sure he’d want to be remembered for his most important role: father. Single-handedly guiding precocious daughter Veronica through her traumatic teen years was no easy feat. But, Keith gave Veronica respect, an ear to listen, a shoulder when she needed it, courage to make the right decisions, and forgiveness when she didn’t. The fact that he compromised his own morals and hid evidence to save her from being implicated in a crime earns Keith a spot on the best dad’s list. Plus, no one does sarcasm like Keith Mars.

Sandy Cohen, The O.C. His eyebrows were legendary and often a point of ridicule for his sons, but Sandy Cohen didn’t mind. His humor was one of his best parenting tools. Sandy set a fine example as a father. Despite his wealth, he wasn’t satisfied simply with writing a check to charity; He brought charity home, opening his house and his heart to abused teen Ryan. Sandy became the father Ryan always wanted. (And who could blame him?) Sandy ran a tight ship, but not one that made his boys afraid to call him no matter the situation. Whether he was surfing with the boys or schmearing a bagel while dispensing fatherly wisdom, Sandy ranks as one of the coolest dads ever on the tube.

Mitch Leery, Dawson’s Creek – In the ‘90s, Mitch Leery gave fathers everywhere a wake-up call. Not only did he have frank discussions about sex and relationships with his son, he taught Dawson to follow his dreams. The fact that Dawson could talk to his dad no matter the subject was refreshing. Mitch once gave Dawson a blow-by-blow tutorial on kissing to prepare the teen for his first smooch. (Mitch recommended Chapstick.) Dawson wasn’t the only person crying the night Mitch was killed in an auto accident. It was a blow for fathers everywhere.



For Tube Talk Girl's list of TV's Best Mom's click here.

8 comments:

Steve said...

Where's Andy Griffith, Tube Talk Girl? I know you love him, as I remember that column you wrote a couple years ago about him. He should be on the list!

Kara said...

How about Jack Bauer? He's definitely worthy!

Karen said...

I vote for Ignacio from Ugly Betty!

Big Tuna said...

Stephen Keaten was a great dad. I loved his hippie persona.

Neptune Diva said...

The dude from Bonanza...um, crap, I can't think of his name. Lorne Greene? Also, Jock Ewing. Both of those guys deserved medals. They let their grown children live with them. :)

Belinda said...

Great column, as usual, Jen. You really should be a writer. :) (Ha Ha) Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

Really think Rev Camden from 7th Heaven deserved a top rating.
GOD BLESS
GOPBUDDY

tube talk girl said...

Yes, I forgot about Rev. Camden. You're right, anonymous! He's definitely among TV's top dads.

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