"I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow. Gonna paint a sign so you'll always know. As long as one and one is two, there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you." -Father and Daughter by Paul Simon
I had mentioned in my last article that I had some less than happy times in my childhood. This was mostly due to the fact that my Dad was not exactly "father of the year." Not even close. I won't go into detail because to be honest I'm still working on letting go and forgiveness. But when I see my own daughter with my husband and how great he is and how much she loves him... When I see my husband and his sister with their Dad.. When Father's Day roles around and I struggle just picking a nice card... I won't lie, it hurts. Sometimes I feel like it's a pain that I will carry with me the rest of my life. This is something I've been praying about. If I never have one on earth, I know that I've got a Heavenly Father who loves me and is everything I need Him to be. He is perfect.
The roles of Mother and Father are both equally important in a child's life. Some parents are single parents and they take on both roles and God bless 'em, but there are certain things that only a father can provide. I know because I didn't have these things. I never knew the quiet strength or security that a Dad can provide. My Dad was neither my hero, nor my first love and I most certainly did not marry a man who reminded me of him, as the old saying goes. Now the point of my article is not to get on the pity potty and trash my Dad. I do have a few special memories of him that I hold dear. I remember sitting on his lap and falling asleep to the sound of his heart-beat.
I believe it's this lack of a father figure in my life that contributes to my affection for TV Dads. Sure they're fictional and maybe not an accurate portrayal of what it is to be a father (because no Dad can be as perfect as Danny Tanner). But their wisdom, their gentle and loving discipline, their humor, the way they provide and care for their kids, has given me some comfort along with some good chuckles over the years. Think of it this way: when you read a book series or follow a long running TV show, you form attachments to the characters. You care for them. You come to know and love them. Well that's how it is for me and my favorite TV Dads. TV today (in my opinion) is chalked full of just plain stupid Dads. Down right clueless in just about everything. This is a site dedicated to the past, so with the exception of one Dad in particular, there will be no current TV Dads on my list. So let's get started!
Up first and in no particular order: Daniel Ernest Tanner (Danny Tanner) of Full House played by Bob Saget
Not the original choice to play Danny Tanner, it's hard to picture anybody else as the neat-freak sports news-caster turned talk show host. Watch the original pilot and you'll see what I mean. Danny Tanner is an example of a parent playing both the role of father and mother. Of course he had help from his brother in-law Jesse and best friend Joey. At the time Full House was on the air I remember people saying it was kind of weird to have 3 grown men raising 3 young girls by themselves. But I always thought "Wow those girls are really loved and taken care of! How lucky are they?!" There were times when his co-host and future sister in-law Becky was able to help Danny with problems only a woman can solve (showing DJ how to apply make-up, offering to take Stephanie to her Mother/Daughter Honey-Bee slumber party). The girls had a lot of love, but it was always their father Danny who held their hearts, just as it should be. He hunted down a boy (played by a young Andrew Keegan) who stood up Stephanie and he "threatened" him with Spam. He got pummeled over by angry shoppers and spent nearly $200 on a toy for Michelle. He had the ever uncomfortable "talk" with DJ when he felt her and her boyfriend Steve were going too fast. Nerdy, yes. Cheesy, yes. Embarrassing at times, yes. Despite this, it's very clear that Danny was a devoted father, who did anything for his girls. Armed with a rag and a bottle of Comet, always full of wisdom and Dad hugs, Danny Tanner was one 'rad dad!"
Show me another Dad whose got moves like this...
Up next... Cliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show played by Bill Cosby
Despite plenty of opportunity to, I did not watch the Cosby Show growing up. I didn't really start watching until just a couple years ago. And although I prefer his stand up to the series, there's no denying how great a Dad Cliff Huxtable is. I've seen a lot of TV in my life and I've never seen a Dad on TV is who so involved, so invested in his children's lives. To the point where he goes to extremes to teach his children a lesson. Removing all of Theo's belongings and pretending to be his landlord comes to mind. Cliff challenges his children, he makes them reallythink. He encourages them to never settle for less and to want better for themselves in life. He and his wife Claire set the perfect example for that. However, one could say that he probably has too high of expectations for his children, but to me it all comes across out of love. When the children have done something wrong Cliff is never over the top or irrationally angry, and in his frustration he never belittles his kids, but instead speaks to them on their level and asserts his authority and issues discipline with a love and care that really comes across on screen. Since so much of The Cosby Show is based on his stand up routine and his stand up routines come from real life I think it's safe to say that Cliff Huxtable is the perfect TV Dad and Bill Cosby is a perfect Dad in real life. Cliff Huxtable loves his children. He loves his wife. He pretty much does it all and he does it all while rocking some of the most awesome sweaters this world has ever seen. I could probably write a whole article on just his sweaters.
Next up: Dan Conner of Roseanne played by John Goodman
For me personally, I found Roseanne to be the most relatable show on TV. I quote it on a near daily basis. Like the Conners, my family too struggled just to get by. We had all our utilities turned off of at one point or another and a couple times all at once! Halloween was a big deal and arguments at family get togethers were to be expected. The only major difference in my family (aside from NOT winning the lottery) was of course a Dad. Dan Conner is definitely not the perfect father. He has no clue how to really talk to his kids and he doesn't necessarily spend a whole of time with them. He is easily frustrated with them and they with him in return. So what makes Dan Conner one of my favorites? Dan may never really know what to say or how to handle tough situations, but the desire is there. He works to provide for his kids and feels like crap when he isn't. He wants to be a good Dad. He wants to be a better father than his own father was to him and to do right by his wife and kids. He wants to be part of his children's lives. I realize that in life the desire to simply be around is not always enough, but it's more than I ever got from own father and for that reason I appreciate Dan Conner. Dan also earns a spot on my list because of his humor. He jokes with his kids and is sarcastic with them and is even playful at times. An act as simple as that should never be taken for granted, it might mean more than you know.
Up next: Carl Otis Winslow of Family Matters played by Reginald VelJohnson
Carl Winslow seems to be a perfect blend of all the previous fathers mentioned in my list. Not as cheesy as Danny Tanner tends to be, but we often see heartfelt moments between Carl and his kids (and even his neighbor Steve Urkel). Carl does not possess the seriousness of Cliff Huxtable, but knows how to get down to brass tacks with his children if necessary. He is not as laidback or relaxed about certain situations the way Dan Conner is, but Carl does have a tendency to become easily frustrated with his children (and neighbor). Oddly enough it's this personality trait that make him endearing. Carl often thinks he is always right and that he does indeed know best. He wants his children to respect his authority. This alone, makes him a good father. So many fathers both on TV and in life never rise up and accept this responsibility. Even if Carl is in the wrong and Harriet or Mother Winslow need to reel him in, he knows that as the father it is his job to be head of household, to lead his family, to be respected, to train up his children and to do it all out of love. There is an episode on season 2 of the series when Steve Urkel tells Carl that he "loves him like a Pa and his own Pa like a neighbor." And this coming from a kid with whom Carl was constantly upset with!
And finally... Mike Heck of The Middle played by Neil Flynn
Like the picture above, with Mike Heck what you see is what you get. No frills, no thrills baby!. Mike is honest (but never gushy) and tells it like it is. He is not the most sociable person and does not take to forced smiling and he is the only current TV Dad to make my list. Aside from being really into sports, he reminds me a lot of my husband. However my husband is more openly affectionate with both me and our daughter. Mike once told his wife Frankie that he said he loved her on their wedding day and that if anything had changed he'd let her know. Mike uses this same approach with his kids and sort of loves them from a distance. He never tries to be their buddy, but he secretly has ways of showing the kids that he loves them. In fact the episode involving Sue and her sleeping bag for a slumber party that she wasn't invited to is what earned Mike Heck a spot on my list. Under Frankie's motto of "you do for family" Mike is often talked into going along with whatever new parenting fad Frankie is into at the moment. This goes against Mike's no-nonsense attitude, but this is because underneath his sometimes crusty exterior Mike Heck is a devoted husband and father.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mr. George Feeny of Boy Meets World played by William Daniels
Feeny! Fe-ee-ee-ee-ny! Oh where do I begin? Well first let me clarify (for those who might argue the fact), I'm very well aware of the fact that George Feeny was not a Dad on Boy Meets World. He was a teacher, a principal, a neighbor, a mentor, and sometimes a friend. But this does not make him any less a 'father figure' to the kids on the show. In the series finale Topangs tell Mr. Feeny that he had been more of a father to her than her own Dad and Shawn shares with him that Mr. Feeny is the best man he knows. Although a good, loving, and devoted Dad himself, we also see Alan Matthews seeking council from the great Feeny. Mr. Feeny often states that the line between teacher and friend should never be crossed, but this is sometimes difficult because he lives next door to the Matthews family and when outside the classroom he assumes the role of friendly neighbor. He has seen Eric and Corey grow from little boys to mature young men. And he is the only one of Corey's friends to know his real name (Cornelius). Though he never really admits it until the series finale (and after they have all left the classroom), he does loves them all. He even tells a relative of Topanga's (her Aunt Prudence) that he holds no students in more higher regard than Mr. Matthews (Corey) and Ms. Lawrence (Topanga). Aside from the occasional joke about Eric and his lack of smarts, it is ultimately Mr. Feeny who encourages Eric and teaches him that he is capable of getting into college and doing well in life. As far Shawn is concerned, Mr. Feeny lets him learn things the hard way (because with Shawn there really is no other way), but he never gives up on him. In times of trouble, Corey most often turns to Mr. Feeny (more-so than his own parents) to the point where he becomes dependent on the vast wisdom and comfort Mr. Feeny provides. We see this in season six when Corey follows Mr. Feeny (who is supposed to be in retirement) to Wyoming simply because he is having a hard time adjusting to life in college. Silly, yes. But I can't really blame him. If had a Mr. Feeny in my life I'd probably do the same. I could go on and on about George Feeny. I really do believe that he is one the best characters in television history and William Daniels is everything an actor should be. Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good. And watch the clip below, it's one of Mr. Feeny's best lessons.
When watching this all I could think was, if Mr. Feeny's words were true then, they ring even more true today.