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Five memorable TV dads - VIDEOS

by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 15th 2008 12:02PM
dadsIt's Father's Day. Dad's day of the year. Earlier this week, I took the AOL TV Dad's Quiz, like Debra, and I was reminded of the variety of fathers on the tube. I think I have a unique take on TV dads. My own died when I was just eight, so I tend to admire those characters that remind me of him. For that reason, the pipe-smoking, cardigan sweater wearing Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best doesn't ring true; neither does the coarse Archie Bunker of All in the Family.

So, here's my five favorite sitcom dads, the ones I related to the most. That means I've excluded single dads and animated dads. That means Hank Hill, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Fred Flintstone are ineligible for my list. Also, this is strictly sitcom pops.

Gallery: Five TV Dads

Family TiesFamily TiesMake Room for DaddyMake Room for DaddyThe Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Dick Van Dyke ShowEverybody Hates ChrisEverybody Hates ChrisThe Cosby ShowThe Cosby ShowMake Room for DaddyEverybody Hates Chris

1) Danny Williams, Make Room for Daddy
My memories of watching Make Room for Daddy, which ran on ABC and CBS from 1953-1965, were from the later years when it was The Danny Thomas Show. The name had changed and with certain storylines and characters as well, but for me, it's Danny Thomas and Marjorie Lord and Angela Cartwright and Rusty Hamer that I remember well. Danny Thomas as Danny Williams was the kind of dad that would be screaming and yelling and yet you were never in doubt that he adored his wife and kids. The interaction between him and Rusty and little Linda just played very true, like it wasn't written material, but real life situations re-created.

Since the show was inspired by Danny Thomas life, Linda was probably Marlo, and those moments reflected a very happy family life. My father was a yeller, too, so when I watch Danny Williams bluster and bellow, it didn't scare me. It seemed perfectly normal. I loved the episodes when Uncle Tanoose (Hans Conreid) came to visit, and if there hadn't been a Make Room for Daddy, there would have never been an Andy Griffith Show; in the seventh season Danny was driving through Mayberry and was arrested by Sheriff Andy Taylor. The series was produced by Sheldon Leonard, who also was behind Andy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle and I Spy. Make Room for Daddy was an autobiographical sitcom, about a working dad who was on the road more than he liked. The title came from Rose-Marie Thomas, Danny's real-life wife. When Danny was on touring, she would allow their children to sleep with her. When Danny came home, the children would have to sleep in their own beds or move over to quite literally, "make room for daddy." The show is rarely shown on TV nowadays, but it is on DVD. Here's a clip of Danny as daddy:

2) Rob Petrie, The Dick Van Dyke Show

I remember watching The Dick Van Dyke Show when I was a kid and thinking that Rob and Laura Petrie were the perfect couple, and they were also pretty damn great parents. My parents were fine; but Laura wore capris better than my mom, and the Petries' parties always had all those show biz types. And there were idiosyncrasies in the characters that were just very real, like the way Richie would go to his father when he came home from work and say, "Did you bring me something?" Sometimes Rob would give him a stick of gum or a marble and Richie would go off happy. It wasn't the value of the thing, it was that he gave him something, including a kiss. Rob's fathering was strongly influenced by Laura, and he learned from her to trust his instincts. When Richie was into hiding in the closets and cupboards, they didn't run to take him to a child psychiatrist. They just let him go through that phase and not make him feel weird about it. One of my favorite Rob as Dad shows was when he had to go to Richie's school on career day. Richie didn't think his father being the head writer of The Alan Brady Show was very impressive, and Rob was doubting his own worth. But when he stood before the students and tried to explain comedy and why people laugh, Rob turned into a performer and made them laugh. Richie beamed with pride at his dad; it was the kind of family values that you don't find on TV much anymore.

3) Steven Keaton, Family Ties
By the time Family Ties premiered in 1982, fathers were different. In the post-feminist era, family dynamics weren't the same as the 1960s; mom was working and dad was pitching in. As depicted on Family Ties, Michael Gross as Steven Keaton was a wise, psychologically-centered, with-it father who was secure in his masculinity and happy to call his wife Elise (Meredith Baxter) his equal partner, lover and spouse. He actually listened to his kids and tried to understand what they were going through, whether it was Alex's embrace of conservative values, Mallory's adolescent confusion or Jennifer's growth spurts. Since Steven and Elise were former hippies, they were enlightened, that was the comic premise. Gary David Goldberg gave the show a lot of heart, beginning with Steven. He was a great dad -- easygoing and yet completely dedicated and involved with his family.

4) Julius Rock, Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody Hates Chris is one of the only family sitcoms currently on the air, and not enough people are watching it. If you want a treat, DVR it. What you'll see in Chris Rocks' biographical remembrance of growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, with Chris the middle child in a close-knit, but struggling family. The patriarch of the family is Julius Rock, brilliantly played by Terry Crews. Julius is the kind of dad that yells if you waste electricity or take the biggest piece of chicken -- that was earmarked for him! -- and counts nickels and dimes. He has to what with the economy. He's got a couple of jobs and works hard, but Julius loves his family and does his best for them. Rochelle is the rock of the Rock family, but together, they're parents that matter in their kids life.

When Rock and co-creator Ali Leroi created the show, it was important that the father be strong. "The man in the family can't be this big, beer-belly goofy guy sitting around who doesn't know how to do anything. We didn't want that as an image of a father, plus Chris is very, very fond of his father and we wanted to honor that as well. He had a father that worked hard and worked a lot of jobs. He was there for his family," he told me. "In this era of minority and African-Americans where no father is being present in the family, we wanted to go, 'No, these guys are out there.' There are hardworking guys out there who love their wives and love their kids and do anything they can to hold things together. Not guys who are deadbeats who do anything they can to shirk their responsibilities. That's not who this guy – Chris' dad – was." There are exaggerations for comic effect, but Julius is the kind of father any kid wished he or she would have.

5) Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show
When it premiered in 1984, Bill Cosby created a family sitcom that defined a generation. He probably was only thinking of entertaining the masses -- which he did -- but he also set forth a philosophy. It was based on his own life with his wife Camille and their five children, and if you've ever seen the Bill Cosby concert film Bill Cosby: Himself, you can hear the entire plot for the pilot. (Watch the clip below).

What was so great about Cliff Huxtable as a Dad was that he was involved, he cared, and he wasn't about to let his kids go off track. He loved them and demanded the best of them. There was discipline in the Huxtable home, equal to the love and support. And Claire and Cliff were parenting together. It wasn't "wait till your father gets home" in the Huxtable home. It's no wonder that to this day, Cliff on The Cosby Show is still the high mark of what makes a great TV dad.

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No Paul Hennessy?

June 15 2008 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jonas Blaine - Snake Doctor.

June 15 2008 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What, no love for Mike Brady?

June 15 2008 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Homer Simpson
Michael Bluth
Hank Hill

June 15 2008 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Johnston Green was a great tv dad, until they killed him off.

June 15 2008 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Robert Hawkins from Jericho

June 15 2008 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Keith Mars = coolest dad ever.

June 15 2008 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Howard Cunningham was good to two-thirds of his children.

June 15 2008 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cincinnati Mike

Red Foreman, dumbass! Kind of a prick, but rock-solid in his convictions. That could have been a really two-dimensional character, but Kurtwood Smith gave him depth.

June 15 2008 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some honorable mentions:
Martin Crane
Frank Baron
Frank Costanza
Homer Simpson

June 15 2008 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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