Ah, the family sitcom. Was there ever a style of show more ubiquitous to the 1980s than this? Answer: maybe? Probably not, though, assuming “ubiquitous” means what I think it means. At the heads of these families were the dads (it was the 1980s, guys — they just were). Sometimes stern but fair, sometimes kind of dumb, and sometimes just indifferent. Here’s a look at some classic TV dads, the actors who played them, and what those actors are up to today.
Michael Gross as “Steven Keaton” – Family Ties
The station manager of a public TV station in Columbus, Ohio, Steven Keaton is a liberal former hippie raising three children (followed by a fourth) with his equally liberal wife. His two oldest, however, happen to be prime examples of 1980s Reagan-era conservatives.
Since Family Ties ended, Gross has had a pretty consistent career in movies and television. He’s probably best known for his role as gun enthusiast/survival expert/giant worm murderer Burt Gummer in the Tremors films, of which he’s starred in five. In 1991, he once again stepped into the role of a father, this time in the cinematic classic Cool As Ice.
Tony Danza as “Tony Micelli” – Who’s The Boss?
When you’re a former ballplayer for the St. Louis Cardinals who wants to move out of Brooklyn to build a better life for your daughter, what do you do? Why, move to Connecticut and become the housekeeper for an uptight advertising executive. Duh. After all, that’s what Tony Micelli did and who is gonna argue with Tony Micelli. If you said Angela Bower, you’re technically correct but… come on…
Danza has never really gotten too far away from television. He’s appeared in various projects, including his own daytime talk show. In 2013, however, he played the father to the title character in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon. Of course, he’ll always be remembered for his part in the misheard lyrics of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”.
Bob Saget as “Danny Tanner” – Full House
Bob Saget hasn’t exactly kept a low profile since Full House ended production in 1995. While he also began hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos while starring on the sitcom, his hosting duties ran until 1997. Since then, he’s either been on stage — he produced an HBO stand-up special, That Ain’t Right, in 2007 — or behind the camera. He most notably directed Norm MacDonald and Artie Lange in 1997’s Dirty Work. And, of course, there’s the upcoming Fuller House.
Joel Higgins as “Edward Stratton III” – Silver Spoons
Oh, Silver Spoons. You may be gone, but you are not forgotten. Admittedly, you’re also not remembered all that distinctly, but you’re not forgotten. The story of an immature millionaire (with the coolest mansion ever) who discovers he has a twelve year old son ran for a total of five seasons, made a star out of Rick Schroder, and introduced the world to the man who would someday be Carlton Banks.
That immature millionaire was played by Joel Higgins who, until that point, was a popular stage actor. Prior to Silver Spoons, Higgins’ TV career consisted of some soap operas and one season of the western action-comedy series, Best of the West. Following Silver Spoons, he starred in Have Faith, a sitcom set in a church… as if Amen could be topped. Psht.
Dick Christie as “Ted Lawson” – Small Wonder
Small Wonder told the story of an eccentric inventor who creates an almost completely lifelike android with artificial intelligence and then, for some reason, doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Instead, he attempts to pass “her” off as his daughter and hijinks ensue.
If the man who plays Ted Lawson seems familiar, it’s because he’s one of those 1980s TV actors that has seemingly been on every show that ever existed. Most recently, he’s played the role of Charlie Webber on the CBS soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. You guys watch that, right?
Bob Uecker as “George Owens” – Mr. Belvedere
Bob Uecker is probably the most famous pro-athlete-turned-sitcom-dad ever – sorry, Alex Karras. The former pro ballplayer and Miller Lite spokesman got a seat in the front row of sitcom stardom when we was cast in Mr. Belvedere. The show revolved around the Owens family — especially George, a Pittsburgh based sportswriter — and Lynn Belvedere, the posh, cultured English butler who comes to work for them for some reason.
Outside of Mr. Belvedere, Uecker hasn’t really pursued much acting, save for his role as announcer Harry Doyle in the Major League series. It’s Uecker’s real-life announcing duties for the Milwaukee Brewers that keeps him occupied. Well, that and giving Norm MacDonald some great stories.
Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan as “Michael Taylor and Joey Harris” – My Two Dads
Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan played friends and rivals who found themselves sharing custody of a teenage girl who is the daughter of one of them. But which one? The world may never know.
Reiser went on to create and star in Mad About You with Helen Hunt and he’s been writing books, doing stand-up, appearing in Whiplash and co-starring in Married on FX.
Greg Evigan has been working pretty much non-stop since. B.J. from B.J. and the Bear would go on to appear in classics such as Melrose Place, TekWar, Touched By an Angel and Desperate Housewives. That’s not even mentioning his brilliant turn as Parker in Megaconda.
You really know you’ve made it when Mycroft Holmes is playing you in a sketch comedy show.
So, those are some classic TV dads who are still rockin’ it to this day. Did we forget anybody (besides Cliff Huxtable… we ALL know where he’s been)?