With Father’s Day tomorrow, it’s time to ask, “who is the best TV dad?” Now there are a lot of contenders, and everyone has their favorites. Maybe you’re a Cliff Huxtable fan. His kids are clever, but he matches them move for move. He often takes the long way around with a humorous fable but still teaches a valuable lesson. Sometimes a father needn’t be related by blood. Take Colonel Potter of the 4077th who had to watch over an entire group of doctors and nurses for all 11 years of the Korean War. Similarly, Admiral William Adama basically had to fill the role of father for all that remained of humanity as they tried to reach home. It was tough love all the way. He inspired unheard of loyalty in most and awe in the rest. More recently, there are fathers like Joe DuBois. Any man who makes breakfast, picks the kids up from school, and works full-time (when he’s not inventing something) is pretty impressive. But did we mention that his wife and three daughters are psychic? And all four dads on Modern Family (gruff Jay, goofy Phil, high-strung Mitchell, and outgoing Cameron) are well on their way to joining the pantheon of classic TV pops. But for the moment, two different dads stand out.
Let’s start with Homer Simpson. Why Homer? He is selfish, impulsive, and, let’s be honest, none too bright. He’s been known to strangle Bart, use Lisa, and forget Maggie altogether. But Homer has a conscience. As soon as he realizes his actions have hurt one of his own, he does everything he can to make it right, to show his children just how much he loves them. No. It’s even more than that. Homer Simpson is in awe of the unique ingenuity of each of his offspring. In point of fact, all three could probably get by without him, not that they’d ever really want to. But that’s a moot point because he’ll always bring them home (or at least he’ll try).
On the flip side, we have a Pa who is too good to be true, and therein lies his appeal. Charles Ingalls is the proud, hard-working patriarch of a pioneer family and quite possibly the best TV dad of all time. It’s the way he gives advice, the way he makes each of his kids feel special (and by the end of the series Charles and his wife, Caroline, have seemingly adopted every child in Walnut Grove), and the example he sets in the community. Any father who stands up for the little guy time and time again is bound to garner any child’s complete respect and love. Some might call such a man a fantasy, but who hasn’t wished for a little bit of Pa Ingalls in their own dad? And he plays a mean fiddle to boot!
In many ways, both of these fictional fathers are ideals. In the case of Charles Ingalls, it’s obvious. And Homer? Well, we’ve all had a father let us down, but how many can say that their dad sacrificed dignity and safety to apologize and make it right? Don’t get me wrong; my own father is great. Still, a little fantasy never hurt anyone. Who are some of your favorite small screen papas?