My Top 10 Favorite TV Dads
TV dads of the past not like TV dads of today
With Father's Day approaching, I thought I'd share my favorite TV Dad's. To go back and look at the type of TV father's from the 50's, 60's and some in the 70's, then contrast it to what the networks have offered us since the 80's is quite telling of the decline of respect there is for father figures. Today, father's on television are buffoons, clueless, insensitive, and sometimes poor role models. They are also clods as husbands. There are some exceptions, but as a rule, they are not the kind of father's every child longs for.
The following list is my personal list only. I share this list of the most quality TV father's who have touched many lives with their loving, funny, silly, sensitive, honorable ways.
Laura: I hate that Nellie Oleson!
Caroline: Laura! Don't say "hate" - don't even think "hate"! I'm sure Nellie has her good qualities somewhere.
Charles: Your ma's right, half-pint. Now on the way home, we'll try and think of some!
# 1 Charles Ingalls - Little House on the Prairie
Some may think Little House on the Prairie was a sappy, corny, little show with an overemotional, goody-two-shoes father; but I dare anyone to say anything bad about Charles Ingall's (played by Michael Landon) in my presence.
No matter what kind of terrible thing was happening, or what kind of hard work needed to be done, Pa Ingalls responded only with the good of his family at the forefront. He was a God-fearing, Christian man. He loved and respected his wife, and made sure they were both on the same page when it came to decisions about the children, and everything else for that matter. Mary, Laura, Albert, and Carrie grew up knowing there was a united front, that dad could be trusted because he was good and kind and gentle with Ma, and respected her wisdom and opinions on most everything.
Pa was always there when the children needed him. And when they needed discipline, he wasn't afraid to be firm. He wasn't too manly to cry when his wife, children and friends were hurting. They learned tenderness and compassion from him.
Pa always stuck up for the underdog, stood up for justice, stood against evil. He was brave and hardworking. He was not too proud to get his hands dirty.
May I conclude with, Michael Landon never played a role that wasn't endearing, and his ability to pull on the heartstrings has left and indelible mark on his audiences. He was a mulit-talented man with a brilliance in writing, directing, and producing.
June Cleaver: Do you think all parents have this much trouble?
Ward Cleaver: No - just parents with children
# 2 Ward Cleaver - Leave it to Beaver
I put Ward (played by Hugh Beaumont) second on my list because he was tender and had a funny, dry wit. He loved and respected Mrs. Cleaver (which to me is the most important quality in a father), but wasn't opposed to an occasional, subtle, verbal, jab, said with affection and good will.
Ward didn't let anything get past him. He saw through Eddie Haskell when even June didn't. In fact, he was the only person who could unsettle Eddie by not falling for his nauseating pretense of being the perfect gentleman.
Ward was not opposed to seeing his mistakes. On the surface he seemed rather too good to be true, but really, he messed up from time to time and was able to humble himself, not always easily, and admit he did the wrong thing.
It would have been nice to see Ward in a pair of jeans once in awhile, and June as well, but Ward was real enough in the right ways. I adored him, and I would loved to have asked him if I could be his little girl.
Theo: You're a doctor and Mom's a lawyer, and you're both successful in everything and that's great! But maybe I was born to be a regular person and have a regular life. If you weren't a doctor, I wouldn't love you less, because you're my dad. So rather than feeling disappointed because I'm not like you, maybe you should accept who I am and love me anyway, because I'm your son.
Cliff: Theo... that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life! No wonder you get D's in everything! You're afraid to try because you're afraid your brain is going to explode and it's going to ooze out of your ears. Now I'm telling you, you are going to try as hard as you can. And you're going to do it because I said so. I am your father. I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out!
# 3 Cliff Huxtable - The Cosby Show
Who doesn't love Cliff Huxtable. Cliff (played by Bill Cosby) was a bit of a cut-up, wise cracking father, but not in a manner of disrespect or idiocy. Cliff was smart, clever, wise, and always on top of his game when it came to the children. He didn't miss a trick.
I found Cliff to be at his most endearing when he played with his children, whether it was basketball with Theo, or games with Rudy and her friends Peter and Kenny (Bud). He took absolute delight in children and the funny things they did. Children love it when they know they amuse adults they love.
I love how Cliff and Claire were usually united with the children as well, and could laugh together. This is what made their marriage so successful; that they could take the stresses of life and laugh at themselves or the situations together. That being said, Claire clearly was not shy about calling Cliff on his misperceptions and missteps in life. But again, it was all done with affection and humor. Laughter was what held them all together. Never laughter at one another, but at the situation, and laughing with one another. This family knew how to enjoy life together. Cliff and Claire together taught their children by example, as well as with correction and words of wisdom, to be responsible and seek to make a contribution to the world.
Andy to Opie: I can't believe I was glad when you learned to talk.
# 4 Sheriff Andy Taylor - The Andy Griffith Show
Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) was the first single TV dad (a widower), and what a role model he was. Opie was such a lucky little boy to have a daddy who was a good, moral man with the utmost integrity. He handled all the crazy people and situations in his life in a most exemplary manner. He wasn't perfect; he lost his temper with any number of people from time to time, but who wouldn't with Barney Fife as a co-worker, and Otis the drunk as a frequent guest in the jail? Once in a while he even got upset with Ope, but he always approached him in love, kindness, and much wisdom. Andy Taylor never forgot what it was like to be a little boy. That's what made him a good father.
"It just happens that I love you so much I'm not ever gonna let you down, you got that through your head?" ~ Uncle Bill
# 5 Bill Davis (Uncle Bill) - Family Affair
Bill Davis was a well-to-do, civil engineer with a fine apartment in Manhattan, who left his home in the care of his loveble and proper, British butler, Giles French (played by Sebastian Cabot) while he traveled around the world. He dated beautiful and glamorous women. Enter, three children.
When his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car wreck, Bill was suddenly thrown into fatherhood when he had no choice but to take custody of his brother's three children, Cissy, Buffy, and Jody. Though technically their uncle (they called him Uncle Bill), he was in every other way their father. Never having thought he would play the father role in a million years, he stumbled through the trials of child rearing discovering his capacity to love deeply, unconditionally, and selflessly. In the beginning, as he enters fatherhood, we find him rather gruff and frustrated at his inadequacy. As time and experience go along, surprising wisdom to the plight and struggle of these children reveals there is far more to this man than love of money, class and prestige. He finds his true calling and meaning in life, and forever impacts these precious children's lives positively.
Rev. Eric Camden to his wife Annie: Two new babies and we still get to torture the other five. I told you this was gonna be fun.
# 6 Eric Camden - 7th Heaven
I will be completely honest here and say that I might be slightly biased here because I find Eric Camden (played by Steven Collins) to be very dreamy. It was quite distracting sometimes when I'd be trying to follow the story line.
With that out of the way, I will refresh your memory. Eric Camden was Reverend Camden, a minister in the local church (Episcopal I think) and very perceptive into the issues that his children and their friends faced. There were many moral lessons in this show, a good thing in this world today. Another loving, devoted, husband who worked with his wife in dealing with the heartaches and challenges their kids went through, he was willing to humble himself when things were not well in the marriage. As any good man, he was able to lay his pride down in the end if he was in the wrong, and made things right.
Rev. Camden was impressive in his grasp of the hard issues that face young people in his family, congregation, and community. With these insights he was able to reach out to whoever it was that was struggling with the issue of the day, and somehow bring resolution or at least understanding. He helped his children through their temptations, and though firm when disciplining them when they failed to resist those temptations, he was understanding of the pressures his kids faced. The compassion he showed to his family and other people in his life, was revealed in the character of his children. Handsome or not, Eric Camden was a good and godly father. How refreshing he was on network television at the time of Homer Simpson's and Al Bundy's horrible example of fathers.
Howard Cunningham to Rchie: I don't understand you! How could you do something like that? You know alot of those girls fathers are very upset? I mean they've been calling me up all day long, one of them even threaten to punch me right in the nose! You've embarrassed your whole family, you've made a fool out of yourself, Your gonna be punished for this, you are grounded for two weeks! And for what, a couple of dates? a few good times? Looking at alot of girls in bathing suits, was all that worth it!
# 7 Howard Cunningham- Happy Days
The only baffling thing to me about Howard Cunningham (played by Tom Bosley) is why Richie and Joanie, and all their friends, didn't cuddle him and squish his sweet chubby cheeks. Mr. C was irresistibly cute, like a short, cuddly bear. Of course Mrs. C did plenty of lovin' on him, but there were definitely some major skirmishes between them.
The Cunningham's never saw a dull moment in their household. Mr. and Mrs. C welcomed all of Richie's crazy friends to be a part of their lives, and even though Potsy and Ralph Malph could grate on Howard, he loved them and welcomed them. The Cunningham home was open to whomever was important to their kids.
This is all not to say that Mr. Cunningham was father of the year. He could lose his cool and yell at the kids and their friends, but it was never hostile, unkind, with ill will, or degrading. As far as I'm concerned, when Mr. C got upset, it was perfectly justified. Personally, I couldn't have handled such a constant flow of characters in and out of my home. He should have gotten a medal for his ability to stay the course and keep his sanity.
With all the shenanigans Richie and his friends pulled, Howard Cunningham was always fair, and handled conflict with his children's best interest as his main priority. One minute he could be getting real upset, then he'd calm down, put his hand on Richie's shoulder, look him in the eye, and with love and diplomacy say "Look son, this is the way it is..." Richie would usually calm down too and all was well. Man to man, you know?
Joanie (the daughter) was a snotty brat and usually stomped off with indignation when things didn't go her way. Howard did not handle her with kid gloves or berate her (like I might have), but approached her with understanding, love and firmness. In the end, she was Daddy's little girl.
Mr. C was wise and freely gave his wisdom away to his children and their friends. A fine and necessary quality for a father.
# 8 Tony Micelli - Whose the Boss
Played by Tony Danza, Tony Micelli was another single father raising a teenage daughter. With no shame, he was was a professional housekeeper by trade, having retired as a pro baseball player. This is important, I believe, because of his strong masculinity, and having come from a pro ball career, he could easily have taken on the macho, male, chauvinistic persona. This sent an important message to his daughter; that there is no shame in being different from the status quo.
I will admit I didn't care too much for this show, but watched it enough to know that Tony Micelli was a kind, very present, and affectionate father. He handled his life and raised his daughter with integrity and humility, and was not afraid to admit his mistakes. His daughter knew that she was first in his life and that his love was unconditional.
Samantha: But, Dad, how can a woman make enough money to afford a great house like this?
Tony: Well, I mean, she works hard, and she's real smart. Hey, you could do the same thing.
Samantha: I can?
Samantha: Then I think I'll be the manager of the Mets.
Tony: Good choice. Good choice. I'll be so proud of you when you're out there kicking dirt on umpires.
# 9 Jim Anderson - Father Knows Best
Jim Anderson's (played by Robert Young) nicknames for this daughters gave us the first clue to his fondness and tenderness for his children. "Princess," for Betty, and "Kitten" for Kathy. He was a bit of a softy when it came to his daughters. In the end, he was a thoughtful, caring and kind father who always had wise advice to dole out to his family.
Jim Anderson, and the whole family for that matter, were a little too idealistic for most of us. But I still love him for his wisdom and lovingkindness.
Bud Anderson: I saw your insurance chart once and it says the life expectancy of the average man is...
Jim Anderson: Bud, for your information, I look barely in my '40s. That hardly qualifies me for the home for the aged. Yet.
Ozzie: That sounds kind of serious to me.
Harriet: Oh, I don't think so. Afterall, he went over there for dinner last night, and evidentally had a pretty good meal, but he came home and made himself a double-decker sandwich. Nobody in love has an appetite like that.
Ozzie: That's true. They say the best indication of a man' being in love is loss of appetite. Oh, by the way, is lunch almost ready? I'm starved.
# 10 Ozzie Nelson - Ozzie and Harriet
Ozzie Nelson (played by himself) was so endearing you couldn't help but love him. He too opened his heart and home to Ricky and David's many friends. He was a man who struggled a bit with not having all the answers like most TV dads, and he wasn't afraid to let his frustrations show. It was fun watching him wade through problems, those of his own making, and those of his kids. Ozzie was gentle, witty, flawed, but wise.
I suspect that the Ozzie Nelson on screen, was the same Ozzie Nelson in his personal life. The genuine article. A side note, in addition to being an actor in his family series, Ozzie was a gifted musician and vocalist with his own band and orchestra.
These dad's were a cut above
There have been many more wonderful father's throughout the decades of television. I may have left out some of your favorites. But I find these men a cut above. A few of them are a bit too ideal; nonetheless, they were people we could look to and find some nuggets of wisdom, and something to strive for.
What do you think of today's TV dad's compared to those of the past?See results without voting
© 2012 Lori Colbo
More by this Author
Holy week draws many to films depicting Jesus of Narazeth and his journey to the cross. Here are excerpts from various films.
A Tribute to JP Patches, Seattle's TV icon, who starred in the Emmy Award winning show The JP Patches Show for 23 years. RIP JP.
Fainting while laughing is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. It's happened to me. Here is a medical description of what is known as Gelastic Syncope.