I’ve often said that my husband, Penn, is the real-life Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. In one episode, Phil shares a book of all his life lessons called Phil’sophy. Penn Holderness on the other hand, has wanted to make his own internet called the Pennternet. (Are you sensing a similarity yet?) Their quick wit and cheesy jokes always seem to put a smile on our face.
Whether it’s their emotional pep talks or well-intentioned shenanigans (after which they usually need their wives’ help), these 10 guys (in no particular order) are nailing the TV Dad game:
- Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson), Family Matters
It’s not easy being a father, especially when your every moment’s peace is interrupted by Steve Urkel. Yes, he was prone to losing it, but Carl was also a humble man willing to learn from his mistakes. He was a Chicago cop who could be tough on his kids, but he did it because he always wanted what was best for them.
- Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), This Is Us
There are not enough tissues in the world when this show comes on. Despite his faults, Jack’s first priority was always his family, making sure each of his kids felt special and proud of who they were. The show recently had their season finale and even in the final frame, he lovingly looked at his kids the way everyone wants their dad to look at them.
- Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), Full House
The charming widower obsessed with cleanliness, Danny Tanner is the ultimate girl dad. He was always there with a hug and a wholesome lesson about why family means always being there for each other, no matter what life brings. Perhaps that’s why he made such a hard pivot to comedy that was less than PG afterwards?
- Philip Banks (James Avery), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Uncle Phil definitely got more than he bargained for when he let his nephew move in with his family. But over time, he became the father figure he had been looking for his entire life. The “How come he don’t want me, man?” scene still reduces me to a pile of sobs every time.
- Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), Friday Night Lights
As the head coach of the Dillon High School Panthers, Eric had a lot of kids to look after. At home, he was a loving husband to Tami and father to daughters Julie and Gracie Belle. And on the field, he dished out some pretty epic motivational speeches, hoping to make his players not just great athletes, but great men.
- George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley), The Jeffersons
Throughout the course of this iconic’s series’ run, audiences saw the head of Jefferson Cleaners grow and evolve, moving away from rude wisecracks and scheming. He not only represented the possibility of upward mobility and achieving the “American Dream” in the post-Civil Rights Era, but he was always absolutely hilarious as well.
- Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), Schitt’s Creek
Even if he was arrogant and more than a little conceited at the start of the series, it was hard not to root for the exiled businessman to get back on his feet. Never down for long, he dove into whatever work he could find, including cleaning the motel, all while donning his bespoke suits. More than that, his unconditional love and support for his queer (real-life) son was a lesson in allyship as well as fatherhood.
- Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke), Growing Pains
Dr. Seaver was working from home before it was cool (or mandatory). Moving his practice into his house so his wife could go back to work was seriously progressive when the show first aired, introducing viewers to the concept of the stay-at-home dad. Throughout the show’s seven seasons, he provided plenty of loving advice and spot-on dad humor.
- Hal Wilkerson (Bryan Cranston), Malcolm in the Middle
Long before he broke bad, Bryan Cranston was the bumbling, immature father of Malcolm and his siblings. Easy to walk all over and a bit reckless, his heart was always in the right place, even when he had one of his over-the-top meltdowns. Thankfully, he had Lois to reign in him and the kids.
- Zeek Braverman (Craig T. Nelson), Parenthood
The patriarch of the Braverman clan lived many lives as a soldier, activist and businessman. But he shined most as a caring, imperfect grandfather. His heart-wrenching speech to granddaughter Amber after she was nearly killed in a car accident would be enough to set us straight (and was apparently improvised).
Which TV dad is your favorite? Have one we need to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.