There have been many great – and some not so great – fathers on the small screen. Here are some of our favourites.
A long time staple of the family sitcom, there have been many great patriarchs across almost every genre of television. But what turns a good TV father into a truly memorable one? What effect does fatherhood have on beloved characters? And what better way to get an insight into the minds of our writers than by having them choose their favourite TV dads?
Without further ado, here they are!
James: Homer J. Simpson (The Simpsons)
Homer Simpson – the epitome or antithesis of the perfect dad? I just know that he is my favourite of all the TV dads out there. Quick to anger, easily bored, and prone to extreme violence, in the end Homer will do anything for his kids, as proven time and time again.
This incredibly odd clip is one of my favourites, and shows just how good a father he is:
Ok, bad example! But he does everything he can to prepare his kids for the future, especially when it comes to dispensing sage advice. Inspiring titbits like “If something is hard to do, then it is not worth doing”, “Trying is the first step to failure”, “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try”. Ok, bad example!
But as they say in Batman Begins, “it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you”. And by that, Homer has proved himself to be a true family man, whether it is refusing to watch a huge boxing fight on stolen cable to assuage Lisa’s guilty conscience, jumping Springfield Gorge (nearly) to show Bart how dangerous it is, or facing down the industrialist might of Mr Burn’s to keep his family’s dental plan.
Homer Simpson – great dad.
Glen: Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm In The Middle)
Back before he was the danger in Albuquerque, Bryan Cranston was the one in danger in the cult family comedy Malcolm in The Middle as the inept, well-meaning yet occasionally criminally negligent father Hal. While his wife Lois is the one in charge of the disciplining, Hal is a much more relaxed parent yet still prone to the odd shouting match with his children. He’s seen sinking to laughable lows when it comes to dealing with his unruly sons such as bribing them to take the blame for something he actually did himself and stealing Malcolm’s credit card in order to pay for the ultimate Christmas present, a family ski trip. His many hobbies include bowling, race-walking, pirate radio and even building killer robots and it’s his immaturity and sometimes neurotic behaviour that make him a fan favourite.
Charlotte: Al Bundy (Married With Children)
He’s the head of a very Modern Family, but Jay Pritchett isn’t Ed O’Neill’s first famous TV dad. Twenty years ago, high school football star turned shoe salesman Al Bundy became a household name, with his kids Kelly and Bud constantly trying his patience and his wife Peggy doing her best to spend his measly paycheck. He never allows his constant failures stop him from trying, and has a terribly cynical world view and black sense of humour. Despite a seething contempt for his neighbours, customers, and the world in general – a feeling almost always reciprocated – he loves his family undoubtedly. His prized possession isn’t to do with his high school football career or beer, but actually a photo of the family, proven when he goes to great lengths to get it back.
Harvey: Frank Reynolds (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)
My favourite TV Dad is Frank Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A disgusting troll creature who, somehow, reminds me of my own father (minus the Vietnamese sweat shops). His abhorrence makes him the highlight of the show for physical comedy. Played brilliantly by Danny DeVito, I’d try to say be brings a lot of heart and emotion to the show, but that would be a lie. Even during a breakdown with a shrink about his troubled times as a child, it’s all to do with a half frog-half human imaginary friend named Froggy. Frank loves nothing more than getting drunk, pulling out his gun at any opportunity, and banging dirty whores. Frank truly is an icon to all aspiring fathers.
Gareth: Stan Smith (American Dad)
In an ever expanding sea of clichéd TV dad mediocrity, one man stands out from the crowd, daring to be different. Yes, with his suave blue suit, patriotic pin and a chin that would make Reese Witherspoon blush, Stan Smith cuts quite the distinctive figure on screen. Although he may be a (mostly) fearless CIA operative by trade, dedicated to keeping America safe at all costs; at heart Stan will always be, first and foremost, a husband, father and son. Sure, his wife may not be the smartest cookie in the box, his son may not be the star athlete he wished for, his daughter may be one of those ‘pansy liberals’ and his father may be a manipulative, career criminal; but despite all this, Stan’s loyalty and dedication remains unfaltering. On top of this he has extended his family to include an East German Olympic skier who is trapped in the body of a fish and an alien who, if discovered, would land Stan squarely in Guantanamo! In fact, everything he does both inside and outside of work, no matter how misjudged or misguided it may be, is for the benefit of his family. Whether that be racially profiling and subsequently detaining the new neighbours, releasing a wild bear into the family home to combat a rogue shark, or placing his entire family in virtual reality goo in order to give them the perfect family vacation! When it all comes down to it, I guess you could say Stan Smith is the quintessential American Dad!
I’ll get my coat.
Jonny: Vincent Kennedy McMahon (WWE Raw, SmackDown… most of wrestling for the last 20 years)
Blurring the lines of reality and fiction is a signature of pro wrestling and no one does it better than the man himself “The Genetic Jackhammer” Mr McMahon, owner of WWE.
Bringing his real life family onto the screen with him has been shall we say a rocky road for Mr McMahon and his offspring. He has battled to save his daughter from the grips of the evil in being forced to marry The Undertaker, relying on his nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin to step in to help save his daughter. But this is Mr McMahon we are dealing with, of course he was just using his daughter in a ruse to get to Austin. Largely though, his daddy-daughter relationship has been positive if you call passing on your manipulative and power hungry traits to your daughter to carry on your legacy then yes, it’s positive.
His relationship with his son Shane is much more interesting one sometimes boiling over into real life tensions. When working together this father son duo can take on even God himself… no really go check it out they had a match with God! They have battled each other on and off over the years the most memorable is their match at Wrestlemania 17, a match involving the the beating of your own son and interference from your spoilt daughter, buxom mistress and your doped up current wife. You gotta give it to Vinny Mac he won’t win father of the year but it sure is entertaining.
Tom: Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
When we think of great dads, what do we think of? Someone who’s in control at the head of their family? Someone who’s funny and kind but also able to discipline when it’s needed? Probably someone a lot like Steve Martin in ‘cheaper by the dozen’, one of the greatest dads to ever grace a cinema screen. As far as TV dads go however, for me there’s only one that would score a Homer when he steps up to the batting plate of great dads, and his name is Simpson.
Now I know what you’re thinking, picking a grossly overweight, alcoholic father who often doesn’t understand his own children and sometimes even strangles his only son might be a bit of a stretch.
Whether it be by leaving his dream job at the bowling alley so that they could afford to have Maggie, taking control and looking after Marge got addicted to gambling, or selling his ride on the duff blimp to Barney so that he could enter Lisa in a beauty contest: over the years Homer has proven time and again that he loves nothing more than his family and will do anything for them.
And five others who we aren’t too sure about…
Jack Bauer (24) – Although he spent a lot of him saving a Presidential candidate/President/America/the world from terrorists, Jack Bauer was definitely a loving father. But a good father? I’m not sure having a daughter who managed to get kidnapped so often reflects too well on him!
Dr Rick Dagless, MD (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) – Surely the most heart breaking entry on this list, Dagless is a man torn apart (well, in the one episode that mentioned him) by the loss of his half-grasshopper, half-human son, so much so that he protects the eyeball monster Skip – before Dag has to make another terrible choice.
It’s just so emotional… I’m sorry… lets move onto the next one…
Dexter Morgan (Dexter) – A great father and stepfather, we couldn’t include Dexter on this list simply because his kids (and the need to find a ending for them) are a big reason for one of the worst finales in TV history.
Alan Partridge (Knowing Me, Knowing You, I’m Alan Partridge, numerous other shows) – One time sports reporter, ex-presenter of Skirmish on UK Conquest, and chat meister supreme he may be, but unfortunately as “papa” to Fernando and Denise Alan Partridge is a terrible father!
Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) – The reason he is included only at the very end of this article is simple: the question of whether Tony is a good dad or not is basically tied to the central premise of The Sopranos, and after eight years and 86 episodes did we ever really know whether Tony Soprano was a good man or not. That’s an argument for another time…
And so, that is it. We’ve listed our favourite TV Dad’s – and there are plenty we missed: Jim Royle, Philip Banks, Raymond Barone, Ned Flanders, Phil Dunphy, most of the male cast members of Game of Thrones… the list goes on and on. Let us know your favourites in the comments!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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