The All-Time Best (And Worst) TV Dads

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 10, 2008 · 93 comments

in Movies, Travel & Leisure

To celebrate Father’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of TV’s best and worst dads. While these dads are completely fictitious, these men have had a heavy influence on the way Americans approach fatherhood. We’ve got representatives from the “aw shucks” 1950s dad to the bumbling idiot dad of the 21st Century. Did we miss a dad you think should have been on the list? Got a beef with the ones that made the list? Make yourself heard in the comments.

TV’s Best Dads

Andy Taylor- The Andy Griffith Show

As a single dad, Sheriff Taylor did a fantastic job raising his son Opie. In every episode, Sheriff Andy taught his son and the rest of America one important lesson- do the right thing. Not only did Andy teach little Opie important life lessons, he also made sure to spend plenty of time with him on fishin’ trips.

Homer Simpson- The Simpsons

I originally put Homer on the worst TV dad list because he’s a perfect example of television’s now ubiquitous portrayal of the bumbling idiot dad. But I had a change of heart. Sure, he is a poor example of physical health. Sure, he constantly abuses Bart through strangulation. But at the end of the day, the man would do anything for his kids. One of my favorite examples of this was when Homer, unbeknownst to Bart, acted like a robot so Bart could win the Robot war competition. In the process, Homer got bludgeoned and poked with sharp metal objects. Ah, the abiding and hilarious love of a father.

Hank Hill- King of the Hill

Hank Hill may just sell propane and propane accessories, but he’s the best damn propane seller in Heimlich County. Hank does a fantastic job of teaching his son Bobby the meaning of hard work, dedication, loyalty to friends and family, the importance of Dallas Cowboys football and Texas pride, and of course, the stupidity of political correctness. Yeah, Bobby is awkward, and sometimes Hank is overly concerned about Bobby being a sissy, but he’s always there when Bobby needs him.

Steve Douglas- My Three Sons

My Three Sons was one of many dad sitcoms from the 1950s and 60s based around a widowed father raising their kids. Steve Douglas was an aeronautical engineer trying to raise three sons first in the Midwest and then in Los Angeles, California. The show ran for 12 years and during that time, America saw Steve’s three sons move out, go to college, and get married. Raising well adjusted and successful family men definitely makes you a great dad.

Ward Cleaver- Leave It To Beaver

Ward Cleaver embodies the stereotypical 1950s dad. Ward might have been idealized, but that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t be inspired to be the kind of father he was. Ward Clever was a businessman that took his job as seriously as his family. Even when frustrated, the man hardly raised his voice. He read Mark Twain to his sons. When he did give bad advice, (like telling the Beaver to get in a fight with a girl) Ward would admit his mistake and teach his sons a lesson in the process.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable- The Cosby Show

Cliff Huxtable was able to manage raising five kids while being a successful doctor. On top of that, he amassed the most awesome sweater collection in the history of TV fatherdom. Dr. Huxtable’s advice to his children was always based on common sense mixed with a wisecrack. Dr. Huxtable taught his children that personal responsibility is the key to success in life. For example, even though his son, Theo, had dyslexia, Dr. Huxtable still expected him to excel in life and not use his learning disorder as an excuse. If only more dads were like Dr. Huxtable.

Jim Anderson- Father Knows Best

Jim Anderson, the patriarch of this almost perfect 1950s family, was a successful insurance agent at work and a fantastic dad at home. Jim always ended each episode by teaching his children some important moral lesson. The show is a bit campy and isn’t a reflection of what real family life is like, but Jim Anderson is definitely a refreshing portrayal of an American dad when all you see these days are a bunch of dopey fathers on TV.

Mike Brady- The Brady Bunch

Mike Brady, a widower (another widower!), was faced with the challenge of integrating his three sons with another woman’s brood of three girls. He handled the situation by being both a strict disciplinarian and an empathetic guy. He had a home office/studio in his house so he could work part of the time at home, and even when he went to his real office, he came home around the time the kids returned from school. He won “Father of the Year” on the show after Marcia submitted an essay in his praise to a newspaper. While clearly a stellar dad, Mike gets docked for abandoning his man haircut for a curly perm, and pulling a no-show for Greg’s high school graduation

Eric Camden- 7th Heaven

Of all the best TV dads on this list, Eric Camden is the only one who was introduced in the last ten years. Eric was a father to seven children and a minister at a local church where he spent time helping churchgoers and troubled teens. Each episode took on some moral lesson that Eric’s family had to deal with directly or indirectly. Issues like alcoholism, pre-marital sex, and self injury were dealt with on a regular basis. Eric was a good example of a father trying to keep his kids on the right path in a world that’s constantly telling them to go down the wrong one.

Howard Cunningham- Happy Days

Mr. Cunningham (or “Mr. C.” as the Fonz lovingly called him) was not only the dad to Richie and Joanie Cunningham, but he also acted as a father figure for the Fonz (who Mr. C let move into the family garage), Ralph Malph, and Potsie. He always laid down the law in his house. He was never his kids’ friend, but was always their loving authority figure. Although he loses points for not losing any sleep when his son Chuck disappeared in the second season, in general, Mr. C was a great dad.

TV’s Worst Dads

Tony Soprano- The Sopranos

Sure, Tony was able to provide for his family as a “garbage man,” but other than that, the guy was a lousy father. It’s tough to be raised by a professional criminal who knocks off people, including your boyfriend, with little remorse. Tony cheated on his wife and had a strained relationship with his children. As a result, his kids suffered from some serious emotional issues.

Al Bundy- Married With Children

Al Bundy had no redeeming qualities. He was loser who wished he could go back to his high school days when he was a football star. Sitting on the couch with his hand in his pants, he doled out criticism to his family with apathetic aplomb. He was stuck in a dead end job as a shoe salesman, and couldn’t even excel in that capacity. He was up to his ears in debt. His relationship with his kids was poor and his attitude toward women, including his wife, was deplorable. If you want a lesson on how not to be a man, watch Married with Children.

Archie Bunker- All in the Family

All in the Family was a critically acclaimed show that broke boundaries in regards to race, religion, and gender all thanks to Archie Bunker, the most bigoted old man in television history. Archie pretty much spent his entire time sitting in his living room chair spouting off racial epithets and calling his son-in-law “Meathead.” While Archie started to soften up as the series progressed, he was still pretty much a racist jackass.

Frank Costanza- Seinfeld

There’s a reason why George Costanza was a paranoid shell of a man- his father, Frank Costanza. Frank Costanza was a loud, neurotic, and abrasive man. Frank always found some way to make George’s life more difficult. In the episode where George Steinbrenner, George’s boss and the owner of the Yankees, comes to tell George’s parents about George’s apparent death, Frank Costanza screams at Steinbrenner for trading Jay Buhner. Thanks dad. Frank Costanza does get points for inventing Festivus, but those points are canceled out by his creation of “the bro.”

Peter Griffin- Family Guy

Peter Griffin is a lousy father. He makes fun of Chris, pays no attention to Stewie, and treats Meg like crap. His selling of Meg to pay off a debt at the local drug store is a perfect example of his failure as a dad. A father that sells his daughter into slavery deserves to be hit across the face with the baseball bat. Of course, if that happened to Peter, it would be hilarious. And probably involve some kind of wacky TV sitcom flashback.

John Locke’s Dad- Lost

Before the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, John Locke had some serious father issues. First, his dad abandoned him as a child. As an adult, he finally reunites with him, but instead of hugs and tears of joy, John’s dad cons John out of a kidney and then abandons his son once more. Later on, John Locke and his dad cross paths again and Locke is this time greeted with a shove out the window of an eight story building. Consequently, Locke becomes paralyzed. But hey! There’s nothing like being stuck on some mysterious island to work through all these daddy issues!

Arthur Spooner-King of Queens

Jerry Stiller makes another appearance on this list as an annoying dad. On King of Queens he plays a dad quite like his character on Seinfeld, albeit with somewhat less yelling. He still loses his temper though and makes life difficult for his daughter Carrie. He lives for free with Carrie and her husband Doug, but never seems grateful for this privilege. Doug and Carrie can seldom get alone time, and when they try to, Arthur makes them feel guilty for it.

Gob Bluth- Arrested Development

Gob (pronounced like the Biblical character Job) works as a part-time magician and beauty contest judge. He was formally a male stripper, working as one of the “Hot Cops.” During one of Gob’s many one night stands during high school, he unknowingly fathered Steve Holt. Gob doesn’t find out that he’s Steve’s dad until Steve is a senior in high school. Gob doesn’t know how to deal with this new found responsibility and Steve is surely disappointed that his long lost dad scoots about town on a Segway.

Jack Bauer-24

Sure, having a terrorist fighting bad ass for a father would be really cool in many ways. But his passion for his job has enormously detrimental effects on his family. Bauer’s job is to save American lives, but this puts the lives of his family at risk. His own life is always in danger, he’s never at home, his wife Teri is killed, his daughter Kim is kidnapped several times, and her relationship with her dad is understandably strained.

Ray Barone- Everybody Loves Raymond

Ray is a good natured and funny guy, but definitely falls into the “incompetent man-child” stereotype currently dominating the airwaves. He’s not good at communicating, and cracks a joke instead of dealing with things seriously. He’s still tied to his mom’s apron strings and can’t confront her. While he works from home, he doesn’t spend much time with his kids and wife, preferring to watch TV. When he does spend time with his kids, he prefers his twin sons over his daughter. He’s not sure how to relate to her since she’s a girl and so buys her gifts to solve her problems or makes his wife deal with it.

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{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andy June 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Just so you know, Locke’s dad was Anthony Cooper

I agree with all but two of the bad dads-

Al Bundy may have not have been very happy with where he was, but he sticks to his commitment. His wife and kids spend all his money, and show very little love to him or remorse for their actions. It would’ve been much easier for him to just leave, but he still, although begrudgingly, provides for his family.
I wouldn’t call him a good dad, but definately not one of the worst.

Jack Bauer-
I’m not quite sure I agree with this one. In season one he was a bad dad, but he did put his own life on the line to save his daughter (who got into trouble by her own actions), and killed the woman who killed his wife. He is man enough to put his family on the back burner for his country. That, while at times bad for his family, helped millions of others, and indirectly saved his family multiple times.

Jack’s dad on lost was pretty bad as well, along with sun’s dad. The show just has issues with fathers I guess.

Also, charlie from Lost would be great example of a good dad.

Besides that, great list!

2 Brett McKay June 10, 2008 at 10:04 pm


Yeah I had similar thoughts on Jack Bauer. It is admirable in many cases to put your family on the back burner to serve your country. When compiling the list I was thinking along the lines of “who would you want to be your dad?” I have to say it would be hard to have Jack as your dad. Many men serve tours of duty, but then return home. Their family is never in danger, and when the soldier is home, the family can be assured of their safety. Jack’s fam doesn’t/didn’t enjoy any of those assurances. That’s a lot of stress.

3 fathersez June 10, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I have not seen all the shows and the dads you have listed. But my favourite is Dr. Huxtable.

And it is not because of his 5 kids…4 girls and a boy…just like we do.

I also think Mrs. Huxtable is great!

4 Stefan June 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm

You missed the Dad’s of the 80′s:
- Mike Seavers, Growing Pains
- Steaven Keaton, Family Ties
- Jack Arnold: The Wonder Years

Dad from the 90s:
Hal from Malcolm in the Middle (ok, he was a little childish. But, he wouuld do anything for his family.)

5 peredecho June 10, 2008 at 11:57 pm

Hmm, no Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby)? That doesn’t seem right.

Andy Taylor +1

6 Mike Purvis June 11, 2008 at 12:06 am

I nominate Keith Mars as an excellent TV dad from recent years. Veronica Mars is one of the few dramas that successfully portrays a realistic, loving parent-teenager relationship without having to make the parent into an ultra-hip cool dude that’s their child’s best friend.

7 Thomas Petri Petersen June 11, 2008 at 1:21 am

I think Sandy Cohen from the O.C. should be on this list. He is a loving father (and husband) with a strong sense of what is right and while he isn’t the strict disciplinarian in the traditional sense of the word he can lay down the law and act as the moral compass when he has to, which is quite often in this show. While he might not be the best dad he always tries to have his family in mind. He has some flaws, granted, but I like him even more because of that. It gets a little so-sweet-it-will-make-your-teeth-rot when the parents are just too perfect.

8 Justin June 11, 2008 at 4:54 am

But, what about Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley/Hannah? :)

Seriously though, great post and very timely.

9 Chad June 11, 2008 at 5:06 am

I think an overlooked Best TV dad was “Uncle Phil” from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What I really liked about Phil was that he was your average dad. Sometimes he was clueless when it came to his daughters but most of the time he taught his children important life lessons and learning some himself in the process. However, what i think really made him stand out in the sea of TV dads at the time was the fact that when the time came, he was a father for his sisters son as well (will smith). And although their relationship was tested by Will’s silly antics, he treated him with respect and love the same way he would treat his own children.

10 iamsofaking June 11, 2008 at 5:10 am

Red Foreman. You should be able to count on your dad to let you know when you are being an idiot.

11 Brett McKay June 11, 2008 at 5:51 am

@Stefan-Good call on those 80′s dads. Danny Tanner was a great 80′s dad too.

@Chad-Uncle Phil is an excellent addition. He kept it real and was a good dad both to his biological kids and as a father figure to Will.

12 Chad June 11, 2008 at 7:15 am

re: Hank Hill

I believe King of the Hill is actually set in the City of Arlen, located in Heimlich County

13 Josh June 11, 2008 at 7:41 am

Re: Archie Bunker

epitaph – a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site.

epithet – a word, phrase, or expression used invectively as a term of abuse or contempt, to express hostility, etc.

14 trobran June 11, 2008 at 7:53 am

What about Pa Ingalls(Michael Landon)?

15 Eric B. June 11, 2008 at 8:38 am

Red Foreman: it’s easy to be afflble with the kids when they are directed by screenwriters. Tough love is the best kind, and he’s the only TV Dad who doles it out. Bonus points for a pathological hatred of communisim.

16 ChrisB June 11, 2008 at 8:53 am

I think Smallville’s Jonathan Kent should be added to the list of good dads. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but he loved his family, taught is son about integrity, and, well, raised Superman.

17 Ben June 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

I think all of the corrections that are listed above me for this aforementioned list should point to the possibility of recommending retirement for the two blog authors. Do more research next time, and then try and write something with a little bit more though put into it, and you may appear as qualified.

18 Art Gonzalez June 11, 2008 at 10:09 am

I would add Professor John Robinson of “Lost in Space”. He was always viril, strong, ethical and protective of his family.

Many blessings,

Art Gonzalez
Check my Squidoo Lens at: Quantum Knights

19 Brett June 11, 2008 at 10:15 am

Chad and Josh- Thanks for catching that. We’ve made the corrections.

@troban- Pa was on the best dad list, but I wanted to keep each list down to 10 dads. He’s a good one!

@Eric- I forgot about That 70s Show. He’s another good dad. I agree.

@ChrisB- Anyman who raises a child with super powers to use those powers for good deserves to be on the list. Good edition.

@Ben- By “all the corrections that have been listed” , do you mean the two that Josh and Chad pointed out? If you expect perfection, go somewhere else. If by corrections you mean people we didn’t include on the list, well that’s the point of the comments- for people to discuss the dads they think should and shouldn’t be on.

20 DravenX23 June 11, 2008 at 10:25 am

Al Bundy was a pretty good dad if you watched the show. He always got rid of Kelly’s boyfriends and beat up people they tried to exploit his daughter. He even missed out on 1st oil when the Dog went missing so Kelly wouldn’t cry.

If Homer is a good dad then so is Al.

Also Randy Marsh from South Park should be in here somewhere.

21 Kate McKay June 11, 2008 at 10:37 am

@Ben-We did about 20 hours of research and writing for this post. We don’t do anything lightly and we read everything over multiple times. That being said, we’re not professional writers or editors. So mistakes are bound to be made. Each and every day newspapers like New York Times print a “corrections” section to correct the numerous errors made. If the NYT makes mistakes, I hope amateur bloggers can get a little wiggle room too.

22 Brad June 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Instead of Jack Bauer, how about his dad Philip Bauer?

Now that was a bad man.

23 E June 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

@Ben – just in case no one has told you today . . . you’re an asshole.


Sorry to get off topic everyone. . . carry on.

Great post by the way, Kate.

24 jcard21 June 11, 2008 at 4:05 pm

My Top 5 TV Dads:

#1: Ben Cartwright – Bonanza (TV series 1959-1973)
“The Cartwright’s thousand-square-mile Ponderosa Ranch is located near Virginia City, Nevada, site of the Comstock Silver Lode, during and after the Civil War. Each of the sons was born to a different wife of Ben’s; none of the mothers is still alive. Adventures are typical western ones, with lots of personal relationships/problems thrown in as well.â€?

[Quote] Ben: (to Luke Barnes) “Forgotten? The only worthwhile thing a man leaves when he dies are his children. What he was lives on in them. When people look at my sons, I want them to remember me well. How are they gonna remember you?� ~ Ben Cartwright to Luke Barnes, Mirror of a Man, Episode Number: 127, Season Num: 4, First Aired: March 31, 1963

#2: Daniel Boone – “Daniel Boone” (TV series 1964-1970)
“Frontier hero Daniel Boone conducts surveys and expeditions around Boonesborough, running into both friendly and hostile Indians, just before and during the Revolutionary War.�

#3: Andy Taylor – The Andy Griffith Show

#4: Luca McCain – “The Rifleman” (TV series 1958-1963)
“Lucas McCain can fire a round with his specially modified Winchester in three-tenths of a second. That and his resolve enable him to help the sheriff maintain order while raising his son Mark on a ranch near North Fork, New Mexico.�

#5: Ward Cleaver – Leave It To Beaver

25 30 days June 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Hey – my favorite line from the festivus episode: “Stop crying and fight your father!” Yup – bad dad.

26 bmuls80 June 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I’m sorry I agree with all the names people have mentioned, but for me there is one and only one ideal father in television history. I’m taking about a man who was a hard blue collar worker his whole life, and taught his sons to be better than he was, while remaining strong and powerful. A man who put family before everything else, he even took those unofficial members of his family as his own. That’s right I’m taking the one and only greatest father ever….Alan Matthews from Boy Meets World.
Just think of some of Alan’s best moments, it’s hard not to. When he took his son Corey after an argument to the hardware store where his own father had mopped the floors everyday until he died so that he could have a better life, and that he was “Damn proud of that.” Or the time when Sean, Corey’s friend, comes to the Matthews house drunk after the death of his father and discovery of his non existent mother. Alan tells Sean that he is always welcome, and even offers to adopt him, to spite the fact that the Matthews are strapped for cash. Finally the great line when Alan says to the leader of a local cult trying to assimilate Sean: “Sean Hunter is the best friend my kid has ever had, and I would kill…to protect that. Not to mention the other great humorous and fatherly moments.

27 Neil June 11, 2008 at 6:23 pm

That’s right – Homer good and Peter bad. You won non-alienating points with that call.

28 Aaron June 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm

What about Dr. Venture of “The Venture Brothers”? He practically despised his two sons and left all the fatherly duties to his bodyguard, Brock Samson. Once, when his only kidney was harvested during a visit to Tijuana, instead of transplanting one kidney from one of his sons, he transplant one kidney from each of his son, giving him two healthy kidneys and leaving both his sons with just one.

29 Mike June 11, 2008 at 9:22 pm

My only addition (and I’m primarily thinking of it because I’ve been watch the series lately) is John Walton from The Waltons. He always knows exactly when he needs to allow his children to make their own decisions/mistakes, and when he needs to step in.

30 Zach June 11, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Greatest line in tv history: (Leave it to Beaver)
June Cleaver to her husband Ward: “Don’t you think you were a little rough on the beaver last night?”

31 Charles who June 12, 2008 at 4:50 am

I also like the Ozzie and Harriet show.. They seemed to be caring and competent parents.. Nice touch with some lessons learned each week sort of thing. Take care.

32 Bad Dad June 12, 2008 at 4:59 am

Regarding Jack Bauer… it’s rough being his daughter because:

- mother was murdered by the woman Jack had an affair with.
- she was kidnapped several times (by terrorists and a survivalist) and stalked by psycho father she worked as a nanny for.
- she was hunted by a mountain lion.
- father chops off her boyfriend’s hand (to save his life).

Yet after her nanny gig, she somehow has the qualifications to go work at the super-secure government agency with her father.

33 Shane June 12, 2008 at 7:43 am

Jack Arnold was one of the greatest TV Dads of all time. He is the quintessential hardass–a father in control of his children, a man in love with his wife, and a provider in command of his finances. Aside from his booming voice and authoritative nature, Jack Arnold (a very strong name, by the way) knew how to connect to his children and to his wife. He also brought a wealth of experience in leadership and camaraderie to the table from his service in the Korean War. That, plus his intense dislike of hippies and his unmatched ability to strike fear into the hearts of his sons with just a glance, certainly grants him merit among the greatest TV fathers of all time. Hell, he may even be their leader.

Addendum: Red Foreman is another good choice for many of the same reasons as Jack Arnold, however, Red is more comical in nature; his paranoia and temper are amplified from Jack’s, while his concern for his family and respect for others are watered down.

34 Chantix June 12, 2008 at 8:38 am

The Brady Bunch dad seemed to be such a wonderful, loving and caring father in the show. Those two parents were so understandable. As for Mike’s life offset, well that is a whole other story. Talk about polar opposites. I would not classify Peter Griffith as a good father, he is constantly making fun of his daughter Meg. It may be funny to watch on the television but no child would be laughing if their father really did treat them that way.

35 Andee June 12, 2008 at 9:01 am

John Walton was a great TV dad, as was Andy Taylor and Ward Cleaver. But, I also liked Tim Taylor of Home Improvement. He did a lot with the kids, was supportive and kind, and was a very good parent, while also being funny.

36 Robert J. Walker June 12, 2008 at 10:33 am

While I really enjoy “Everybody Loves Raymond,” I have to admit that Ray Barone isn’t exactly the best dad. I will say, though, that he’s portrayed more positively than Tim Taylor on “Home Improvement.” For example, Ray, at least, is smart enough to occasionally be right when he and Debra disagree. The formula for almost every “Home Improvement” episode was: 1) Tim does something stupid, 2) someone is upset at him for the aforementioned stupidity, 3) Wilson shows Tim the error of his ways, 4) Tim apologizes for being a moron.

Come to think of it, I wish Wilson had been the dad on “Home Improvement.” Now THERE is a positive role model.

37 sir jorge June 12, 2008 at 11:23 am

Right on! Hank Hill is awesome, and definitely a great one.

38 Aaron June 12, 2008 at 11:54 pm

I think of all the bad dads, the worst ever (in my book) puts them all to shame: Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. Even before he found out that he wasn’t Dennis and Dee’s real father, he was still pretty much the most evil, conniving man to attempt to raise children I’d ever seen. Of course, I also shouldn’t leave out that his trip on acid in Season 3 was one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed.

39 Dave June 13, 2008 at 1:43 am

Homer may have his good moment, where indeed you think he is a great dad for saying or doing that. But there is absolutely NO way he’s a good father in the end.

American Dad!’s Stan Smith is a better dad than he is.

40 Bill June 13, 2008 at 9:16 am

I second Dr. Venture’s nomination. Though The Venture Bros. isn’t as popular as many of the other shows, it’s hilarious, due in no small part to Dr. Venture being a failure as a father, a super-scientist, and a human being.

41 Bill June 13, 2008 at 9:19 am

Just to clarify for folks who haven’t seen the show, I meant Dr. Venture is a failure in the field of super-science, rather than saying he’s super as a scientist.

42 Bryan June 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm

There is one thing about Andy Taylor that sometimes made me uncomfortable watching the show as a kid, but that I really appreciate about the character now that I am a father — the show allowed him to portray realistic anger with Opie.

Other TV dads got annoyed or kinda/sorta angry with their kids and this resulted in lessons taught and punishments given, but it seemed mostly contrived.

Maybe it was Griffith’s acting or the writers pushing a bit further than most others, but when Andy was mad at Opie, you believed it and felt scared for the little guy. Sure, it was always reigned-in and channeled into something productive, but the conflicts between them always seemed more natural and real — more like my own dad — than any of the others.

43 Ryan June 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

Tim Taylor (Home Improvement) was definitely a great dad. Yeah, he was a little lost when it comes to deep philosophical questions and abstract history, but he loved his wife tremendously, and was a great father to his kids.

44 Jim June 15, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Reading through all the entries, the one Dad that isn’t mentioned is Dan Connor from “Rosanne”. He was a devoted blue collar family man trying to get through life without alot of breaks, with the occasional brew to blunt the reality that was his life. He was absolutely in love with his wife and kids, and would ultimately do anything for them. My son has compared me to Dan Connor, a high compliment that made my Father’s Day.

45 Alexa June 16, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Dan Connor is my favorite TV dad too! I read each comment waiting for someone to mention him. I wish he’d been on the list.

46 Perry June 19, 2008 at 6:34 am

@jcard21 – You’re right, Lucas McCain from the Rifleman was a terrific TV dad. Wasn’t he another widower?

47 Andrea R. June 21, 2008 at 8:43 am

I can’t say I agree with your choice to put Homer among the good dads. Too many examples come to mind where he failed to provide any meaningful advice or support to his kids.

Anyway, I feel that *at least* grandpa Simpson should have made it in the lousy dads’ list.

48 Roomba June 24, 2008 at 5:10 am

Andy Taylor and Dr. Huxtable. The best.

John Locke’s dad. That was a funny add.

Although I am a huge Simpson’s fan, I think he would be average at best.

49 Loki July 4, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Steven Keaton from Family Ties definitely belongs on the list – he was very much the Howard Cunningham of the Eighties.

And besides, there should be a least one good Dad who votes Democrat :)

50 James July 7, 2008 at 10:54 am

Gotta say the treatment of Al Bundy seems a bit harsh. True, he was stuck in a dead end job, but really, just to support an ungrateful family. He didn’t divorce Peg even though she was pretty awful.

Point 2, in the episode where Bundy and family find themselves playing football against the Devil, Al is offered an out where he gets to go back and live his dream… if only he’d sacrifice the family by dropping his own pass. Guess what, he comes up with the pass.

All in all, I think Al’s doing a fairly good job with the hand he was dealt. A loser for sure, but to say the character is without redeeming qualities? That’s a bit too far.

51 Matthew July 10, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Phillip Banks Should have taken the number two spot, not Homer. Phillip Banks was brought up on a dirt poor farm, went to Yale became a very successful LA lawyer, then judge. And provided all the opportunities for his family that he never had as a child. And he showed another manly trait. He learned from others. He wasn’t always right and he admitted that and learned from every mistake and life experience. He deserves to be close to the top of this list.
I also agree that Tim Taylor should have been in there too. He made klutz mistakes sometimes, but always ended up on the right side. His decisions were based on how to better the family.

52 Al July 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

I would add Dr. Alex Stone (Carl Betz) from the Donna Reed show

53 Mis July 17, 2008 at 12:47 am

Ummm hello, you seriously missed THE absolute best tv dad of all time!!!!!!!!!! DAN CONNER from Roseanne!!!!!! WTF He was like the perfect dad to me! What every dad should be like. Completely in love with his wife and kids, soooo sweet and funny and just a wonderful person all around. This list is horrible without Dan Conner!!!!!!!! He is my aboslute favorite tv dad ever!

54 DCY July 19, 2008 at 7:41 pm

What about James Walker on Good Times? He deserves props.

55 HW August 10, 2008 at 3:56 pm

I have to agree that Alan Matthews from Boy Meets World really is the best TV dad ever. Y’all should kick Homer off and put him on there!

56 Doug Back August 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm

What about Ben Cartwright on Bonanza (another widower raising three sons)? I also admired the character played by Brian Keith on Family Affair back in the late 60s. Here was a successful bachelor uncle who takes on the responsibility of raising his two nieces and nephew.

57 kress August 31, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I think that Paul Hennessey from “8 Simple Rules” deserves a definite shout-out for TV’s best dads. He was a stay at home/work from home dad, totally invested in his kids, not a bumbling idiot, competent, and absolutely trying to do the very best for his family.

58 tiffany September 9, 2008 at 12:45 pm

alan mathews was a superb father! he should totally be on the list, along with danny tanner (really all of the full house men were great father figures).

and i love the arrested development nod! job is my favorite horrible father! “i’ve made a huge mistake”

nice work!

59 Sonny Crockett September 16, 2008 at 8:26 am

Al Bundy was one of best written characters in sitcom history. 20 years from now, they’ll look at Ed Oneil’s portrayal, call him a genius and sit him right next to Carol O’connor and Jackie Gleason. Most of these “dads” were created to make people laugh or be entertaining. If you look to Cliff Huxtable for moral guidance (and you may find some), you’re missing the point.


60 niel October 5, 2008 at 6:57 pm

What about Michael Bluth from Arrested Development?

Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman): Tries to be a good and caring father to his child (even when he fails, for such is comedy), instills in his son the value of hard work, and overall tries to be an asset to his family.


61 Brett October 5, 2008 at 7:28 pm

@niel -
Great add!

62 Eric November 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Why is Jerry Stiller on the list in two different places? I’d just combine him and free up another slot. He played George Constanza’s father on Seinfeld, and the dad on King of Queens.

63 Jay February 20, 2009 at 1:02 pm

How in the hell can you hate on Jerry Stiller?

64 les March 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

I would also nominate Chuck Conners from The Rifleman. The show is 50 years old of course, so I can see why it would be overlooked.

65 Matt April 5, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Where’s Tim Taylor? Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he was a great TV dad and a pretty good husband. And what about Danny Tanner? Aside from Cliff Huxtable, I can’t think of a more devoted TV dad from the last 20 years than him.

Other than that, I totally agree with this list (of the shows I’ve seen anyway). It’s weird. When I first started watching “Family Guy,” Peter was my favorite character. But as I got more into the show, he’s became my least favorite character. A horrible excuse for a father and a pretty lousy husband too. Not that Lois is any better as a parent.

Shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” (which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one – most people on the show seemed to loath him) make me sick. Not only are they not very funny, but they give kids a poor idea of what marriage should be like. No wonder so many young men today are afraid of marriage!

Commercials today aren’t much better (and in many ways they’re worse). They show men as slow, goofy, unreliable, and wimpy. While the women are generally shown as smart, reliable, and tough. Like sitcoms, I’m sure they’re intended to be funny (though most aren’t), but also like sitcoms, they send the wrong message to kids. Sad.

66 melissa August 7, 2009 at 11:58 pm

very upset micheal landon from little house on the prarie, is not listed,
by far the best t.v dad!!

67 Bailey August 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Where’s John Winchester from Supernatural?? I’m actually not sure where i would place him….He cares about his sons so much and he sold his soul and went to hell when Dean was dying but he also took away Dean’s whole opportunity of a life after their mother was killed and failed to even answer Sam’s phone call when he told him that Dean was dying of heart damage. LUckily his little brother Sam pulled through. And he also kicked Sam out when he told JOhn that he wanted to go to college and stop hunting the supernatural. But John also showed that he would do anything to keep his boys, Dean and Sam, safe.

68 TimothyS. October 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

How can you forget Tim Taylor? A man that continually improves upon oneself must be recognized.

69 Zero January 27, 2010 at 1:10 am

“[Al Bundy] was stuck in a dead end job as a shoe salesman”
Why? He certainly wasn’t happy with that job. He did it to provide for his family, and for no other reason.

“He was up to his ears in debt.”
Thanks largely to his wife’s constant spending, while also refusing to get her own job.

“He was loser who wished he could go back to his high school days when he was a football star…His relationship with his kids was poor and his attitude toward women, including his wife, was deplorable.”
Can you blame him? Look at his pathetic, miserable, excuse of a life: His wife refuses to cook, clean, care for the children or get a job, and instead spends all of her time watching TV, insulting Al, shopping (with Al’s money), and demanding that he give her more money. His kids are a dullard and a pervet, who constantly insult him, take what little money his wife leaves, and generally consider him worthless unless they’re getting something from him.

All that misery, and he never leaves. Despite many come-ons from inexplicably hot women, he never runs off, or even sleeps with, any of them, preferring instead to return to his family, even in his dreams. He goes so far as to choose his family over his dream life in a contest with the devil himself. Hell, the one time he does actually leave, he comes back just days later. He may not be father of the year, but he genuinely loves his family and does whatever he can for them, even though he hates it and they never appreciate it. Al Bundy is not the idealized father figure that dominates your “Best” list. He’s just some poor guy with a horrible job, an uncaring family, and the devotion to stick with one for the benefit of the other, no matter how much pain either causes him. That has to be worth something.

70 Ed March 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

How about Red Foxx On Sanford and Son . This is the big one son!

71 Pat June 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I have to disagree with you including Archie Bunker on the worst dads list. True in todays politically correct world, he was a bigot without compare. But he had a heart of gold and would do anything for his spoiled, headstrong, self-righteous daughter. Even with the meathead being a polar opposite, he still treated him with considerable restraint. Sure you can live in my house rent free and drive me crazy at the same time while going to college and generally ridiculing everything I grew up on and believe in.

72 Matt June 21, 2010 at 1:11 am

Re: King of the Hill location

Chad – I bet the origins of Arlen is a play on words – Mike Judge grew up in Temple, TX, and based the show on towns like Humble, TX (near Temple), Richardson, and Garland, TX (both Dallas suburbs).

73 BG June 23, 2010 at 2:04 am

Why the hell isn’t Red Foreman on the best dads list?

74 KT August 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I agree on quite a few of the good dads. I do think that Alan Mathews, Dan Connor, Mike Seaver and Danny Tanner should be on the best list.

What about Tony Micelli from Who’s the Boss. What he did to provide a better life for his daughter was excellent.
Also what about Henry Warnimont from Punky Brewester. The way he fought for her when they took her away and put her in a orphanage. Just my thoughts.

75 Vic Arious December 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Best Father on TV= Coach taylor from ‘Friday Night Lights’ for mine

76 Kamilo. February 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

` It’s tough to be raised by a professional criminal who knocks off people, including your boyfriend, with little remorse. ` Isnt this supposed to be a men`s site? :)

And Will Smith maybie not been have playing a dad on TV, but any lists loses credability if it doesnt have him on someway about beaing a great father, and a great male rolemodel. He himself was raised without a dad, and had all the possibilities (we all do) to turn out `bad`. How he worked to become who he is now, and everybody thats been raised without a dad, will see strenght in him. Incredible guy.

Im glad you changed your mind about Homer, as I see exactly what you mean. Im sure Al Bundy cares about his kids too, but yeah, the goal you would like to live up too, probably not. But one of the best TV shows, ever.

77 BenB February 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm

One that I think should have been mentioned was Tim Taylor in Home Improvement. He may have been a clutz, but he taught his sons good values and spent time with them and learned more throughout the series about both his sons and himself.

78 Jeremy March 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

what about Ricky Ricardo?

79 dude April 13, 2013 at 4:13 pm

The list was originally in 2008. So here is a nomination for an update: Phil from duck dynasty. A God believing Christian, hard worker all of this life, who is well grounded in reality. Wealth has not gone to his head. Has not been “suburbanized”. Adores his wife. Helps the kids whenever they ask. He still tries to teach his adult sons lessons of life and is teaching the grandkids morals and a good work ethic. Although I give him a de-merit for abandoning his son when the game warden showed up.

Another new show. The walking Dead. Rick is shown with good and bad features typical of a real person., Searches for his family against all odds. Fights for his wife and family against a rival. makes mistakes along the way. Making tough decisions in tough times.

I note that there are slim pickings from the 2000′s on. Since men are now portrayed as complete idiots. I would not want any of the “men” in friends or big bang theory to sire any children — ever.

80 Mattsui May 31, 2013 at 1:33 am

Red Foreman and Tim Taylor should be on the best dads list. Tim may have been a bumbling fool at times, but at least he had the sense to try and improve. Red Foreman was a hardass, but he reminds me of my grandfather. He worked his butt off his whole life and was a little crass about it, but it was in an effort to keep those around him from making the same mistakes. The best dads on the list are the idealized fathers that we’d all like to see, but are the exception, not the rule.

81 Will June 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Tim the Tool man Taylor

82 Alexander June 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

It would be worth considering some of TV’s best non-kin father figures; often, they do a better job than some actual fathers. Two extraordinary ones that come to my mind are Jean-Luc Picard (captain and father-figure to Wesley Crusher, whose father died under Picard’s command) and Rupert Giles (watcher and father-figure to Buffy “the Vampire Slayer” Summers, whose father abandoned her family). Giles is especially notable because one of the pervasive themes of that program is that even strong women still need manly men.

83 Tyler June 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I’m amazed that Ken Titus didn’t make the list. Using his children to pick up women, blaming his son for heart attacks, making his 10-year-old son drive him home from the bar multiple times, and purposefully refraining from complimenting his kids to make sure they grew up tough. “Quit being a wussy!”

84 David Kahoun June 17, 2013 at 7:47 am

I know I’m way late to this convo, but I just have to say about an earlier poster, that it was Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, not Mike Seavers, Mike Seaver was the oldest kid, not the Dad. As for Dan Connor being one of the best Dads, I agree in some instances he was a great Dad. He did love his kids, but he never did things with them. The episode where DJ has to take pictures for a class project, all Dan was shown doing was sitting in a chair drinking a beer. Also, he didn’t take care of himself and then ended up dying from a heart attack. He also didn’t talk to Becky for months when she ran off and got married to Mark. Although he did love his kids and tried his best, a lot of his actions do not make him one of the best Dads. Not the worst, but not one of the best.

85 efrain vega June 22, 2013 at 10:47 am

Bonanza show has a good father and the Ingalls Family on the house of praire Michael Landon was a great father over there also

86 efrain vega June 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

differents strokeshas a good father, a lot old show has a good father performed like a lost in space Guy Williams,

87 Neil Haskins June 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I’m just surprised you put Ray Barone on the bad fathers list without even a mention of how much more horrible his father was.

88 G. Blume July 10, 2013 at 6:37 am

What about Alan Matthews on Boy Meets World?

89 Sencho July 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Hank Hill was not a good person, let alone a good father. He was a controlling, bigoted, homophobic, sexist jerk whose character never evolved one iota over the span of more than a decade. Even when it appeared in any given episode that he’d achieved some shred of enlightenment, particularly with regard to his son, he’d backslide right back into his usual behavior by the very next episode.

90 ED August 1, 2013 at 12:19 am

Just 2 words “Fred Sanford”

91 Faris November 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

OK i know the dads in comedies have to do or be funny, so comparing them to those in more serious drama is unfair. But that dad from My Wife and Kids really should be high up on the Worst dads. Implacable in imposing his will, but even as his kids struggle vainly to make him listen to their view, he turns the situation into a game for his own amusement (and the only source of supposed humour in the show). Alright, he is an honest man who provides for them. But real children brought up by an insensitive self indulgent clown like that would grow up with serious character flaws

92 Keith November 25, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I do not agree with your view of Archie Bunker. He represents the city dweller of the time. He worked hard all his life to provide for his family he was just caught between the fast changing liberal views and everyday life living in a racially diverse metro area. Remember all the characters in this show are stereotypes. Everyone always forgets that George Jefferson was just as bigoted against white people. If you watch closely the aim of the show was to be funny, to everyone. In order for this to happen basically everybody gets offended. White,Black,Jew,Catholic,Protestant,Polish,Women’s Lib, Gay,Hispanic,even gun control, these are just episodes I can think of off hand. I suggest watching with a more open mind.

93 Tim January 28, 2014 at 7:05 am

Where’s Darth Vader???

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