With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, it’s important that we celebrate all those deserving dads out there. Not just the real dads, either… they’ll get their cards and crappy ties and Applebee’s gift cards. We also need to celebrate the fictional dads who showed us the way of fatherhood through the television set.
For today’s Friday Conversation piece, we ask: Who is your favorite television dad of all-time? Our picks below:
Tim Taylor from Home Improvement, but not because he was played by noted cocaine dealer and occasional comedian Tim Allen. No, no, no, no, no. He’s a great TV dad because he was always f*cking things up, whether at home or on the air at work. Taylor was always teaching his sons a valuable life lesson (even though they were all too dumb to know it). That life is cruel, and you’re going to screw up a lot of things, and everyone’s going to see you fail and point at you and laugh. YES I NEED A TISSUE.
When the topic of TV fathers arises, one comes to mind. The loving, maniacal, presidential hopeful alien from Frisky Dingo, Killface.
Despite the hard work that goes into establishing yourself as a super villain hellbent on world destruction, Killface still found the time to be a caring father to his troubled son and support him when he came out as homosexual in the middle of a presidential campaign.
And don’t forget the ability to stay on top of the hottest trends. What dad can manage that? Most are probably walking around listening to cat party on their phones, like a pack of rubes.
It’s difficult to look at the big picture of TV dads and choose just one, because every sitcom from Father Knows Best to Modern Family has a dad that we’d all love to call our own. I’ve always been fond of Joey Harris from My Two Dads, because he was way cooler than Uncle Jesse, and I’ll say it — better hair, too. I’m also a huge fan of Phil Dunphy’s goofy charm and A+ pun game. But if I’m picking one, it’s Willie Tanner. Think about it: That dude let his son keep an alien in their house. Not only that, but that alien ate cats and cats are almost always the worst. Yeah, Willie Tanner from ALF is my guy, because any dad who lets a kid have an alien is cooler than the rest.
My favorite has always been Killface from Frisky Dingo. The switch between homicidal supervillain and doting, bumbling dad is just great.
All I’ve ever wanted out of a TV dad is (a) fabulous wealth, (b) a laid-back attitude, and (c) luxurious eyebrows, so the selection here is obvious: Sandy Cohen from The O.C. Oh, the father-son chats we would have over bagels, as he prepared to blow off another morning of work to go surfing. I would learn so much. And if those eyebrows are genetic? Hoo boy. Win-win.
As odd and uncool as it may sound, Andy Griffith has always struck me as the perfect role model as a father. He was thoughtful, goofy, and forgiving, but stern, always giving Opie a good “talkin’ to” when it was warranted. Griffith spent as much time as he could with his son, never failed to give credit to others where it was due (especially Aunt Bee), and didn’t let the grief from the death of his wife get in the way of raising his son. You have to admit he was wildly successful, too: Ron Howard, who played Opie, has admitted that Andy Griffith was something of a second father to him, and look how he turned out: A generous, funny, and talented actor and director, who also raised the wonderful Bryce Dallas Howard.
Tie: Red Foreman (That ’70s Show) & Marty Crane (Frasier)
I watched both of these dads on TV their entire run. Start to finish. The thing I like most about them is they don’t take crap from anyone, but, most of all, their kids. I can relate, as I always tried to get away with things and was almost never successful A) because, well, I was an idiot kid, and B) my dad called me out immediately, and that was the end of that. Also, both of these dads (Marty more in his prime as a cop) seem like they would have epic dad strength; like they could straight whoop your ass even when they are 90. I mean, would you want to get in a backyard drunken brawl with Red Foreman? Yeah, didn’t think so.
This question could go two ways: If we’re talking about most entertaining dad, my answer is Frank Costanza. The Costanza clan is one of the most maniacal in television history, and pretty much every time Frank made an appearance on Seinfeld, it was laugh out loud funny. That being said, he produced George Costanza, so he obviously wasn’t the best father. If parenting skills factor into the equation, my choice would have to be Alan Matthews from Boy Meets World. He was basically the perfect sitcom father figure, a wonderful mix of funny, loving, patient (he raised Eric Matthews, for God’s sake), stern when he needed to be, and just a great family man. I grew up wishing that guy was my dad.
Philip Banks (James Avery) on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Uncle Phil wasn’t even Will’s dad, but he showed Will’s real dad, Lou, what it means to be a parent. During the penultimate Fresh Prince episode that had me and everyone else in America bawling their eyes out, Uncle Phil’s hug after Will asks him of Lou, “How come he don’t want me, man?” still gets us choked up.
Uncle Phil was the best TV dad, even when he wasn’t technically the dad. For kids stuck between Gen X and the millennial generation, like me, he was the perfect parent.
Okay, so he turned out to not actually be Dennis and Dee’s father, and it’s only been insinuated that he’s Charlie’s, I’m still going with Frank Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. His life lessons may not come in the form of a warm heart-to-heart, but you can’t say that he doesn’t provide valuable insights to the Always Sunny gang, who themselves are so dysfunctional that they would be lost without the guidance of a swindling, gun-toting, prostitute-frequenting, alcoholic, compulsive gambler.
It’s Randy Marsh from South Park, without question. Unlike other TV dads, who mostly evolve from mildly stupid to cartoonishly stupid (Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, etc.), Randy has gained real depth. I mean he’s Lorde for God’s sake.
Who is your daddy, and what does he do? Leave your pick in the comment section below.