For as long as the medium of television has been around, there have been examples of some really great dads through history. From Ricky Ricardo to Phil Dunphy, each has their own brand of parenting while always keeping the family’s best interests at heart. Here are our favorites.
Dan’s Pick – Al Bundy, Married…With Children
Back when television was still squeaky clean and had fathers that were trying to teach America family and life values, one man dared to show us what was really going on in the modern day household. This man scored four, count em, FOUR touchdowns in a high school game for Chicago’s Polk High and is the best (if there’s such a thing) woman’s shoe salesmen ever. Of course I’m talking about Al Bundy (played by the great Ed O’Neil). Al was the everyman’s man: he was stuck in a dead-end job, with a nagging wife, and ungrateful children. But he sticks it out with them no matter what and will defend them to the death.
Al was a breath of fresh air, breaking away from fathers in such shoes as The Cosby Show, Family Matters, and Full House. He was dirty, loud, obnoxious, and didn’t give a damn if his kids learned a valuable lesson on that week’s episode unless it was cheat your way to success. When I grow up, I can only hope to be half the man that Al Bundy is.
Mark’s Pick – Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show
This category proved to be more difficult for me than I had originally thought. This isn’t a bad thing, though. It really goes to show that there have been so many sitcom dads who have had an impact on television that it is hard to choose the best. I could have gone slightly obscure and selected the dad from Boy Meets World, or I could have gone controversial and picked Archie Bunker. But in the end, I chose the one that had the greatest impact on the world on and off the screen: Cliff Huxtable and the Huxtable sweater.
The character made famous by comedian — and Philly native — Bill Cosby followed many of the troupes employed by most sitcom dads of his era. The obvious difference between Cliff and everyone on television at the time was race. Not since All in the Family in 70s, had a sitcom impacted the way society thought about things in the real world. Cliff, along with the rest of the Huxtables, changed the way Middle-America viewed the black family and if that was all he did, it would make him the best sitcom dad.
Cosby also created a character that taught us all life lessons without making it feel like a contrived plot point. Cliff gave his advice mostly through humor, but also through his own flaws, which was something that didn’t really exist on TV before him. He showed that it was possible to be friends with your kids, but that you had to remember to be more parent than friend if you wanted a loving household. And he was an Eagles fan, so that is obviously a plus.
Anthony’s Pick – Red Forman, That 70’s Show
Red Forman is a man from another generation. A Korean War vet, Red’s brand of no-nonsense parenting was old school in the 1970’s. Nowadays, with all the touchy-feely parenting crap that may fly over at Jezebel, stuff like that would end with a foot in your ass in the Forman household.
Red wasn’t a bad father; matter of fact, he’s actually one of the best TV dads there is. His tough love actually shaped Eric into to the formidable man that he would eventually come to be by the end of the series. Unfortunately, we were subjected to Seth Meyer’s less-talented, Farrah Fawcett-coifed brother and didn’t get to see much of Red’s handiwork with Eric, but Red was really a father to every kid on the show and he was always there to give blunt advice wherever it was needed.
Lynn’s Pick – Danny Tanner, Full House
The late 1980s and early 90s seemed to fetishize the dead parent scenario or the straight-up orphan route when it came to high concept sitcoms. Like everyone else, I blame Diff’rent Strokes for this trend, but we also saw it in Webster, The Hogan Family, My Two Dads, and other fly-by-night shows (Out of This World turned this trope on its head by making the dad a talking alien orb rather than just six feet in the ground.) Perhaps the king of these family shows that rose from the ashes of tragedy is Danny Tanner from everyone’s favorite show, Full House.
If Mike Brady lost his wife and had to raise three daughters in the 80s and 90s, the show would basically be Full House. Danny Tanner, like the rest of Full House, is so painfully wholesome that he looks so out-of-place nowadays, but his wholesomeness and sincerity is what made him a great sitcom dad. Full House was the biggest perpetrator of 22-minute solutions, but he was always there with a wise word for his girls and Jesse and Joey. He was always the glue that held the family together in the tough times and was always the voice of reason when things got out of control, like when Michelle bought a donkey. And so what if he likes to keep a clean house? Deal with it.
Who’s your choice for best sitcom dad? Vote in the poll below or comment to let us know.