The All-Time Best (and Worst) TV Dads

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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.

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