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Top 10 Inspiring TV Fathers

billcosbypicforic.jpgSome TV dads are just buffoons, and others are sterling examples of exactly what not to do, but throughout the years, TV has idealized, even immortalized, the qualities of fatherhood.
Just in time for Father’s Day, I have put together a list of my all-time favorite and inspiring TV dads. It was a challenge to pick only ten, so feel free to start a discussion of your own favs in the comment box below.
Heathcliff Huxtable: “The Cosby Show” — He ruled his children with a firm but funny hand. while always leading by example. Besides, I loved those brightly colored sweaters!


Steve Keaton: “Family Ties” — He was a hippie who hung on to his ideals in the yuppie 80s while still loving his ultra-conservative Republican son. It made for humor and heart-warming moments.
Steve Douglas: “My Three Sons” — He was one of the first single dads on TV and had more than three sons before the shows twelve year run ended.
Keith Mars: “Veronica Mars” — As far as modern dads go, he was one of the best. He never put work before his daughter, and his trust in and honesty with Veronica were part of why she was such a super-sleuth.
Jonathan Kent: “Smallville” — It’s not easy being the dad of a superhero, but Jonathon always tried to instill values that would help Clark Kent use his powers for good, not evil.
Eric Camden: “7th Heaven” — Everybody’s favorite TV pastor did his best to manage his growing brood as well as his church flock, but wasn’t afraid to make mistakes in doing so. Plus, he had a sense of humor about his own shortcomings.
Father Mulcahy: “MASH” — Well I didn’t say everyone on the list was going to be that kind of father, did I? Father Mulcahy was the trusted, faithful priest of one of the craziest groups of medical professionals ever. Humble and pure of heart, he was the best priest ever on TV!
Charles Ingalls: “Little House” — If you need a little down-home common sense, where better to turn to than good ole Pa Ingalls. His homespun wisdom was as limitless as the prairie he lived on
Eric Taylor: “Friday Night Lights” –Coach Taylor is not only a good father to his two daughters, but he is a surrogate father to many of the young men on the Dillon Panthers football team.
Noah Bennet: “Heroes” — Is he a bad guy, or isn’t he? It took us awhile to find out, but Bennet would stop at nothing to save his family.

  • Ray

    I liked Bill Cosby in that role, and I actually think he has done more for actual race-relations in the U.S. than MLK or probably anyone else!
    Now, I think you also could have inserted “Andy Taylor” into the list.

  • Ray

    Charles Ingalls was definitely a great father-figure!!!

  • Sharon Cruse

    What about Robert Young in “Father Knows Best”. Before your time?

  • John O. Dalke

    Leaving off Andy Taylor makes your list meaningless.

  • mounu riddell

    Leaving off John and Grandpa Walton is unforgivable……….there were never two more inspiring fathers on TV!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Honora

    I totally agree that any list like this has to have Andy Taylor. The conversations between him and Opie are primers to this day in how to parent. Remember the one where Opie killed the bird? And talk about admitting mistakes: the one where Andy insists no one can play ball and an instrument and give both adequate attention is one of the all-time classic episodes in TV history. Opie’s coach comes to talk to him – an African-American man, groundbreaking itself for a show set in rural North Carolina and in the mid-late ’60’s – and after failing to convince Andy with words, sat down at the piano to demonstrate how a person could be both an accomplished pianist and a ball-player. It was fabulous, and done with minimal dialogue.
    I’d also put in a plug for James Avery as Philip Banks in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It wasn’t constant – there was plenty of sit-com boilerplate here – but there were more than a few episodes where Uncle Phil showed hidden sides of himself to deal with what life threw his way in the form of his nephew. Of course, he’s also a master of the throw-away comic aside. And he’s such a great actor he could infuse even routine dialogue with layers of meaning.
    But how can everyone have forgotten Ward Cleaver?! He was such a great dad – he modeled a kind of fatherhood unheard of in its time. He would get testy, even angry, and sometimes chew Beaver out over his idiot escapades. But he would always be honest, and apologize if he was wrong, and talk about his feelings – who did THAT then? – and make sure that Beaver knew, no matter what he had done or failed to do, that even when he made a wrong choice or did a bad thing (yes, we still said “bad” then) he was still his son and he loved him very much. Hugh Belmont was such a decent man and such a good actor, these scenes always shone with sincerity, patience, decency and love. He was a good man and a great TV dad.
    All those new shows with their trendy pseudo-sensitive dialogue and earnest expressions can’t touch Ward Cleaver and Andy Taylor. They were, and still are, the gold standard.

  • Paul W

    There have been many exclusions from your list
    1. Ward Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver )
    2. Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch )
    3. Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show )
    4. James Evans (Good Times )
    5. Danny Williams (Make Room For Daddy )
    6. Rob Petrie (The Dick van Dyke Show )

  • Nell Minow

    Making lists like this is fun and debating them is even more fun. I love all the fathers on all your lists, especially Andy Griffith. Don’t forget Tom Bosley on “Happy Days.” He always had just the right words of wisdom and support. I loved the late Sydney Pollack as Will’s father on “Will and Grace.” Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and Archie Bunker (Carrol O’Connor) had their moments! So did Jerry Stiller as George’s father on “Seinfeld.” And I loved seeing a glimpse of one of the all-time best TV dads, Bill Bixby in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” in the new “Incredible Hulk” movie (a nod to Bixby’s role in the Hulk TV show).

  • donna w. in ga.

    although he wasn’t their actual father, uncle bill on
    family affair was one of my favorites

  • windyblue

    John Walton was good, he really instilled values, and morals into his childern. Andy Taylor, being a single father is not easy, and he always had time for Opie, the best scene I loved was the opening part where the two of them were going off to go fishing. What a wonderful father and son thing to do.
    And Heathcliff Huxtable, he was great he taught his childern that School and college are very important, and one needs a high school diploma and should not drop out of school, and his childern learned responsiblity.

  • burnette

    Father Knows Best
    Classic fatherhood at it’s best. This was formulated at a time when ideas of parenting were taking on a change from the parents of the early 30’s and before who were who were dominating and overbearing to their children. This role of parents allowing their children to have
    independant ideas and able to express their ideas. Robert Young was kind, sincere, a good shoulder to cry on, and very distinguished.

  • Linda

    You watch waaaaaaay too much TV!

  • jestrfyl

    Where is Tool Man TIm? He may not have had the right answers but he hung in there and kept trying. He is both representative of what can go wrong as well as a model for good parenting, which is more struggling with ambiguity than having all the answers.

  • will washburn

    What about tim allen on home improvement tv show,I know he is a little self centered but over all I think his charter is a good father.

  • Allsion

    How about Ward Cleaver?? He was a pretty cool dad…

  • delight

    I think also the dad on “Medium” tv show is a cool dad and a cool husband !!
    I always loved the “Father Knows Best” dad !!
    The “Eight Is Enough” dad was cool also !!
    Ward Cleaver, and Bill Cosby, and the “My three Sons” show dad !!1
    I Used to watch a series.”Life With Father” which was really funny !!
    The father would come home and call out to his wife, “Vinny, I’m home “!!!
    The accent was on the word-I’m-so it was really funny.
    there were 2 little sons ..
    The family had to be very proper..
    The setting was in the 20’s or 30’s or ………

  • lizzie tanners

    How ’bout Maxwell Sheffield. Liked his British humor towards his kids.

  • iorek

    What about Father Knows Best????

  • gilbown

    hahaha… Here is some more stuff about watch bones

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