in: Fatherhood, Featured, People

• Last updated: June 4, 2021

The All-Time Best (And Worst) TV Dads

Vintage family portrait.

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

Vintage Andy Taylor portrait.

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

Home simpson illustration.

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 and Bobby support our team in ground illustration.

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

Steve Douglas standing with 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

Vintage family portrait.

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

The cosby show family portrait.

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 with family portrait.

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

The brady bunch show illustration.

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

Eric Camden portrait.

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

Happy family portrait.

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

Tony Soprano portrait.

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 giving pose by capture the moment.

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

Archie Bunker portrait.

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

Frank Costanza portrait.

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 family guy illustration.

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

Man bending down John Locke in office.

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

A play pf 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 Bluth using exercise machine at outside.

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 Bauer24

Jack Bauer giving a pose with carrying pistol.

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

Raymond cast photo.

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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