Considering the public's still-voracious appetite for reality TV and how much the average sitcom has evolved from a sheer storytelling perspective, it's really no surprise that TV dads have also endured an extensive makeover through the years.
From the strong and sensible parenting style of Rev. Eric Camden on 7th Heaven (coming to gmc early July) to the funny, standout dad on the long-running series "The Bernie Mac Show," there has been a slew of memorable dads with decidedly different parenting styles on the small screen. But simply being memorable isn't quite enough to make it on gmc's esteemed list of "Best TV Dads." We reveal our picks, just in time for Father's Day.
Reverend Eric Camden (played by Stephen Collins on "7th Heaven")
A husband, father of seven, and the local pastor, Reverend Eric Camden was a TV dad who always led by example. Always pointing his kids to the narrow road in a society that generally favors the wide one, Eric's work with troubled teens and churchgoers helped pave the way for important family discussions about volatile moral issues like self-injuring, alcoholism and pre-marital sex. Don't miss the premiere marathon on gmc, Monday, July 8th!
Steven Keaton (played by Michael Gross on "Family Ties")
Outside of the typical triumphs and travails of three teenage children (and later down the road, a newborn baby), former '60s political activist dad Steven and his hippie equal, wife Elyse, have hilarious bouts with their wise-cracking, conservative son Alex (Emmy Award-winner Michael J. Fox). Besides perfectly playing the role on "Family Ties," (seen weekdays at 10 and 10:30 am et on gmc) Gross has become one of television’s most frequent guest stars, popping up on “Boston Legal,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “ER” and “Law & Order.” He also earned quite a career resurgence as Burt Gummer in the “Tremors” movie trilogy, along with a significant stint on “The Young And The Restless.”
John Walton, Sr. (played by Ralph Waite on "The Waltons")
Strong and sensible, Ralph Waite (Papa Walton) was always there for his kids. Waite was 44 when The Waltons made its debut, and makeup artists had to make him look older for the part. Today at 75, he's aged gracefully and still beloved in various paternal roles, from Father Matt on "Days of Our Lives" to Jackson Gibbs, father of Jethro, on "NCIS." John Walton: Father of the Year marathon starts this Sunday at 2 pm et.
Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon on "The Little House on the Prairie")
Aside from Laura's arch-nemesis Nelly Olson, who didn't love Pa? Fiercely devoted to his wife and kids no matter what adversity they were facing, (and there were many, considering the technologically challenged time period), Pa was the moral heart and soul behind the Ingalls family. Always fair and tough, he was a role model and the apple of his wife and kids' eyes.
Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith on "The Andy Griffith Show")
Not only was he the protector of Mayberry as the town's go-to sheriff, (hey, you didn't really expect Barney to help much, right?) but Andy Taylor was also a fantastic single dad in an era when there weren't exactly many of those. After Andy's wife dies when his son was just "the least little speck of a baby," Andy (with a little help from Aunt Bee) give Opie an idyllic childhood filled with fishing trips, regular church services and of course, plenty of life lessons delivered with humor and love.
Dr. Heathcliff (Cliff) Huxtable (played by Bill Cosby on "The Cosby Show")
I'm guessing that at one point or another, everyone wanted Bill Cosby's character to be their dad. A master of multi-tasking, Cliff managed to help raise five kids while also being a successful doctor. In addition to owning one of the most spectacularly awesome sweater collections in fashion history, what was so great about Cliff was his ability to teach his children life's important virtues (honesty, personal responsibility, the value of education) with a great wisecrack to boot. And if you were really lucky, he might even dance!
Howard Cunningham (played by Tom Bosley on "Happy Days")
Good ol' Mr. C, as the Fonz lovingly called him, was not only a funny, hands-on dad to Richie and Joanie, but he also let the Fonz move into his family's garage when he needed a place to crash (remember that episode?). Not afraid to step in as a father figure to the impressionable Fonz, Mr. C always offered the grown-ups-in-training thoughtful, sage advice that had the authority and grace of someone who'd been there.
Bernie "Mac" McCullough (played by Bernie Mac on "The Bernie Mac Show")
When your dad is a stand-up comic for a living, you know you aren't going to have a "normal" childhood. And that's exactly what made Bernie such a funny, standout dad on his long-running series "The Bernie Mac Show." While his adjustment to parenting wasn't exactly easy, his love and concern for his kids (filled with one humorous quip after the next) was definitely apparent from the get-go. Mac's untimely death in 2008 certainly left a giant hole in the hearts of many devoted fans.
Martin Crane (played by John Mahoney on "Frasier")
With two sons as fickle, snobbish and drama-prone as Frasier and Niles, I always believed that Martin Crane deserved the "Most Patient Dad of the Century" title. Really, it's no wonder he liked that recliner so much. But despite his love of watching TV in the comfort of his Lazy Boy, Martin was always the practical voice of reason that helped keep his sometimes-elitist sons grounded. Gotta love him for that.
Danny Tanner (played by Bob Saget on "Full House")
After the unexpected passing of his wife, Danny Tanner had to step up and take care of three young, and occasionally headstrong, daughters. While a bit neurotic about the cleaning and overprotective (especially when the girls start dating!), his love for his daughters, not to mention his interest in their well-being, is ultimately what drives him. And when the going gets rough, he's got two father figures in Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) and Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier) to help out, which always makes life on "Full House" more interesting and fun.
Luke Danes (played by Scott Patterson on "Gilmore Girls")
As far as "Gilmore Girls" goes, it's the unlikely relationship between the two Loraleis, the fast-talking mother and daughter protagonists the show's named after, that tends to get all the ink. But when everybody's favorite grumpy, flannel-shirt-wearing diner owner, Luke Danes, finds out he's a dad to a brainy teenager named April, (his ex never told him she was pregnant), well, a new side to his character is brilliantly revealed. While his ex gives him every opportunity to fly the proverbial coop, he's determined to be an integral part of his daughter's life, even if it means chaperoning a field trip to Washington D.C. with a bunch of rowdy teenagers rather than enjoying a quiet evening at home with his girlfriend.
Copyright 2011, watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, Crosswalk.com (she reviews movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media, Songs4Worship.com, PassAlong.com and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.
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