It’s all about the dads! In all their glory, with their special lawn mowing shoes, favorite caps, corny jokes and more! Our dads had the hard job of raising us, which in my case, tended to be more of a drama than a sitcom. Sorry, dad! So, in honor of Father’s day in June, I wanted to run down my list of some of the best (and OK, possibly worst) TV Dads of all time.
Almost any list ever done on the topic includes Mike Brady and Walt Cleaver, so I’m going to think outside the box, and feature a few of the more modern day TV dads alongside some of the classics.
10. Archie Bunker – All in the Family
Let’s start with the worst. Archie Bunker from All in the Family, everyone’s favorite bigot, makes the list at number 10. He was a total jerk, but what would a ‘TV dad list’ be without Archie? Let’s face it – a lot of us had dads like him. To the moon!
9. Jack Pearson – This Is Us
(Spoiler alert) OK, so not really a spoiler, they reveal very early on that Jack dies. But the lovely part of the show is it hops around the timeline of the Pearson’s family life, so we still get to see lots of Jack. Basically, he is a gem. About as good a guy as they get. And, I will admit it, the actor who portrays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia (Jess from Gilmore Girls!) is easy on the eyes.
8. Michael Bluth – Arrested Development
Jason Bateman portrayed a dad and CEO of the family company on a short lived series that is nothing short of hilarious! Micheal Bluth- or Nicheal Bluth, due to a misprinted birth certificate, is selfish, dishonest and imperfect, but also endearing and funny. If you’ve missed the antics of the Bluth family as much as I have, watch for the Netflix reboot coming soon.
7. Jason Seaver – Growing Pains
Alan Thicke passed away a few years ago, and America mourned. As the smart and loveable father of the Seaver clan, Jason Seaver moved his psychiatric practice into his home to be closer to his family, including his teenage son Mike, who had shenanigans that would make any parent crazy. Thicke, who was a comedian and host to various shows, is probably most remembered for his role in this family sit-com which ran from 1985-1992.
6. Frank Costanza – Seinfeld
It is no wonder why George Costanza is so neurotic. His parents are completely insane! Jerry Stiller’s portrayal of Frank Costanza is one of the most hilarious on screen dads ever. His invention of a holiday, Festivus, which includes such awkward traditions as the airing of grievances, the “fits of strength,” and let’s not forget the Festivus pole, make him a strong candidate for No. 6 as one of the most memorable dads in television history.
5. Dan Conner – Roseanne
Dan is another example of the archetype American dad. John Goodman plays a union man, living in the Midwest, who likes to enjoy a cold one after work. Playing good cop and bad cop with his wife Roseanne at times, but they almost always came together as a unified parental front. He commands respect, while also providing warm love and humor. He was killed off in the most bizarre twist in the finale of the original series, but thankfully, brought back for the reboot where they gloss over the terrible ending of the show’s original run and poke fun at themselves for it in the first episode. He may be a stubborn man, but one thing that can be said about Dan is he always seems willing to grow and eventually admit when he is wrong. That sort of grace is enviable. Happy to have Mr. Conner back on Fox.
4. Homer Simpson – The Simpsons
Matt Groening’s bald headed cartoon dad Homer Simpson, voiced by Dan Castellaneta , makes the list at No. 4. At 29 seasons and counting, The Simpsons is the longest running television series in primetime history. Homer is the archetypical beer drinking American dad who slaves away at a job he hates, in order to support his family. He gambles, he swears, his third-grade daughter is smarter than he will ever be, and he falls short most of the time, but at the end of the day, the man has a heart of gold and wins his family, and the viewing audience, over, time and time again.
3. Uncle Phil – Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Not all dads are biological dads. Uncle Phil is a shout out to the father figures out there teaching life lessons and extending parental duties beyond their own brood. Obviously, the premise of the show is that Will is sent to live with his “Auntie and Uncle in Bel-Air” (You totally rapped that part, didn’t you?). But it is much more than financial support that James Avery’s Uncle Phillip Banks provides. In season four, we meet Will’s biological dad who failed to be present in much of Will’s life. Will puts that behind him and is filled with the sheer excitement of his dad being in town – only for him to leave him again as he had done so many times before. The episode ends with a shot of Uncle Phil simply embracing Will. Uncle Phil is the father Will, and every kid, deserves to have.
2. Danny Tanner – Full House
It did not get more wholesome or charming than Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner of Full House. As the widowed father of 3 girls, he won the hearts of viewers everywhere with his self deprecating humor and knack for the most cliché of dad jokes. Most episodes of the original series would close with Danny at the foot of one of his daughters beds giving a sentimental, drawn out speech about life and consequences, nearly always ending with a hug. He became America’s dad when he took on hosting credits for America’s Funniest Home Videos and later became the “TMI dad” as the voice narrator of dad Ted Moseby in How I Met Your Mother.
1. Andy Taylor – Andy Griffith Show
Andy Griffith captivated audiences with his portrayal of Andy Taylor, the widower and single father of a young boy named Opie. As sheriff of Mayberry and a member of the town council and civic choir, Andy would seem too busy to effectively parent a young boy, but whether it was fishing with Opie, strumming the guitar on the porch, or including him on days on the job with the ridiculous deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), he showed audiences that no matter how many roles a man plays, the role of father is indeed his most important. It aired throughout almost the entire decade of the 60s, and if you have a dad in that baby boomer gen, it is likely he modeled some of his parenting off of this show. If that is the case, you were lucky. He earns my spot as the No. 1 greatest TV dad of all time.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father figures out there!
By Molly Penny