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If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, no matter how great your parents were, you were raised by television. TV introduced you to new swear words, pop culture icons’ nip slips and vag flashing, and the best adult content the FCC would allow content providers to show.
Along the way, not only did we pick up things that would cause our parents to slap us silly and put us in time out, but we also learned lessons about life. Heartwarming, moral lessons, like not to steal, cheat, lie, or sneak into R-rated movies without our parents’ permission. How did we learn this? Family sitcoms. The kids were always up to no good, and their hijinks always got them into trouble, but they always learned their lessons. They usually learned them at the knee of their stern, understanding, wacky father. And isn’t that true for all of us? No matter what you did wrong, the best advice always comes from Dad. Or at least TV dads.
But before we get into the best dads out there, here’s an honorable mention for the WORST DAD: Ted Mosby, “How I Met Your Mother”
He bored his kids for nine years straight, under the assumption that he was telling them how he met their mother, but it turned out he was still in love with another woman the whole time and was trying to justify to them that he wanted to bang the woman they called “Aunt Robin.” I don’t know about you, but where I come from, that ain’t right.
Here are some of our favorite TV dads.
10. Michael Bluth, “Arrested Development”
“Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.”
Michael is a pretty damn good son, brother, uncle, caretaker, president of the Bluth Company, and maritime lawyer, but he’s at his best as father to George Michael. Though he worked too much, was often too consumed with his family’s various crises to pay attention to his son, and could never remember his son’s girlfriend’s name–it was as Ann as the nose on Plain’s face–he was a deeply devoted father.
9. Frank Costanza, “Seinfeld”
This is a man who loved his son so much, he turned his son into a warped, sniveling mess of a man. Okay, maybe not a great example, but he did rain blows upon another man in order to get George a doll for Christmas, and thus, a new holiday was born. A festivus for the rest of us!
8. Frank Reynolds, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
Keeping the “Frank” tradition strong in TV, Dennis and Dee’s father is, well, a real son of a bitch. He’s not a great father at all. In fact, he’s not even their biological father. He would buy the kids the Christmas gifts they wanted and keep them for himself just to see them suffer. He pimped out Dennis to old women in order to make extra money, and he waterboarded his own daughter to obtain information from her. He also may or may not be Charlie’s actual father. But hey, he makes sandwiches in his mouth, drinks wine from soda cans, and loves nothing more than his rum ham. He’s a one man, nonstop party.
7. George Jefferson, “The Jeffersons” / “All In The Family”
George Jefferson was a tireless workhorse, despite not finishing high school. He was a cook in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, worked as a janitor in a building (while his white counterpart was a “custodian”), then used the insurance claim from a car accident to open up his dry cleaning company, Jefferson’s Cleaners. He kept his family afloat, moving them from Harlem to a working-class neighborhood in Queens, where he somehow managed to not slap the crap out of his racist, bigot neighbor, who is, of course, pretty close to the top of this list. Keep reading. When his store started to become a successful chain, he moved his family up to a “deluxe apartment” on the Upper East Side. He finally got a piece of the pie.
6. Louis CK, “Louie”
What more can you say about a divorced comedian trying to do the best he can for his two daughters? He works long, late nights at the Comedy Cellar and is still able to wake his ass up and get out of bed to take the girls to school, even though they ask him bullshit questions about why he’s single and so damn fat. Easily one of the best dads in comedy.
5. Randy Marsh, “South Park”
“Stan?! STAAAAAN!” Holy crap, remember when Randy Marsh was a boring geologist and a minor character in “South Park?” Me neither. Now half the damn episodes are about him, and the show’s probably better off for it. This is the man who saved South Park from the hole in the ozone layer AND spontaneous combustion, took the world’s biggest crap, invented a new way to get to the marijuana depository store with his, uh, unique condition, wrote a Broadway musical, saved the World…of Warcraft, and is the unequivocal master of crème fraîche.
But beyond all that, he’s fiercely loyal toward his kids and family; he’s always the first person to rip off his shirt and fight for his kids. “What do you wanna do, huh? What do you wanna do?”
4. Phil Dunphy, “Modern Family”
Phil isn’t your typical dad, he’s a cool dad. That’s his thing. He texts and uses all the cool lingo (WTF = why the face?), he surfs the web, and he even knows all the dance steps to “High School Musical.” He has the best advice, too: “Marry someone who looks sexy while disappointed.” “Success is 1 percent inspiration, 98 percent perspiration, and 2 percent attention to detail.” “Watch a sunrise at least once a day.” But as corny as hell as he is, he’s a wonderful, devoted father, husband, uncle, son-in-law, and an all-around great dude.
3. TIE: Walter White, “Breaking Bad” / Hal, “Malcolm in the Middle”
I just couldn’t pick between the two. Both are incredibly loyal fathers who have to deal with raging psychopaths on any given day. Though one is a cubicle jockey at a corrupt, white collar company who comes from a wealthy family and the other one is a science teacher turned drug lord, they would both do just about anything for their families. There are some other comparisons here, too, but I just can’t put my finger on them.
2. Archie Bunker, “All In The Family” / “Archie Bunker’s Place”
“Don’t talk like an Ignarosis,” Archie would cry, from his now-infamous chair, railing about someone or something before most likely launching into a completely biased, bigoted rant about some race, ethnicity, or, well, democrats. He referred to his son-in-law as “meathead” constantly and didn’t particularly care for his neighbors, the Jeffersons. But how could you blame him? The lovable oaf was a World War II veteran and blue collar worker who just wanted to come home and enjoy his TV time. Is that too much to ask? But more importantly than that, NONE of the dads on this list would be here without his influence, including, and especially, our number one pick for Best Dad.
“All In The Family” changed television, thanks to its edgy subject matter and the fact that it actually addressed social issues rather than sweeping them under the rug and distracting us with mindless drivel like “Green Acres” and “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which are great TV shows, one and all, but they did serve to distract the population from the real issues of the day, like the war in Vietnam. This show changed that, and no character did more to change the TV landscape than Archie Bunker. Not bad for a guy who spent most of his 13 seasons in the same damn chair.
1. Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons”
How could we pick a man who has spent 25 seasons cutting off his son Bart’s oxygen supply with his disciplinary methods? It’s because he’s one of the most influential characters who has ever been on television. He’s always been a loyal husband to Marge, even though temptation has reared its ugly head (I’m looking at you, Lurleen Lumpkin, Homer’s country singer client in “Colonel Homer”). Together, Homer and Marge raised three wonderful kids. Well, one. Lisa’s pretty great, but Bart and Maggie have committed multiple felonies between them.
His parenting method can be summed up by one of his most iconic pieces of advice: “Kids, you tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson here is never try.” And try he rarely does. He spends all day at the power plant busting his hump for God’s five-fingered sakes, then he has to come home and deal with the damn kids? He needs a break! He’s going to Moe’s. But even despite his lack of trying, this is a man who would do ANYTHING for his kids, including jumping the Springfield Gorge on a skateboard in order to stop Bart from hurting himself, and breaking into a museum so Lisa could see the Egyptian exhibit she wanted so desperately to see that she got on a city bus and got lost downtown.
In the words of his eldest son, “You the man, Homer!”
But, of course, the REAL best dads are our own. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Enjoy your hammock, grills, and beers. You’ve earned ’em.