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These TV dads taught us a lot about being a great (or really bad) dad


We love our TV dads. They reflect all the great things about our own dads, as well as give us a fantasy of things we wish our very human dads could be for us. They make us laugh; they make us cry. Some of them even give us a lesson in what not to be as a dad.

Today, on this Father’s Day, we give you lessons some very memorable TV dads have taught us. Didn’t include your favorite TV dad? Share your thoughts with this story online.

Sheriff Andy Taylor (“The Andy Griffith Show”)

Show, don’t just tell. Sheriff Taylor had plenty of folksy wisdom to share, and he backed up those words by treating people fairly, kindly and justly. He knew how to appreciate all Aunt Bee did for him and Opie, too.

— Sharon Chapman

Coach Eric Taylor (“Friday Night Lights”)

Coach Taylor had a demanding job (acting as father to a team of high school football players) but did his best to make quality time for his family. He also set a good example for his daughter by supporting his wife’s career and by showing that in a true partnership, both members need to make sacrifices. He also knew what he didn’t know and wasn’t afraid to admit when he was wrong, scared or confused.

He’s one of the few TV fathers who wasn’t characterized as a complete idiot. We remember him for these fatherly gems:

“Success is not a goal, it’s a byproduct.”

“You can’t beat yourself up because you’re taking chances on things. But don’t start giving up on what you set forth to do in the beginning. ’Cause that’s gonna get you nowhere. I can promise you that.”

— Matthew Odam and Jake Harris

Dre Johnson (“Black-ish”)

Dre Johnson isn’t afraid to tell his children the truth about the world around them. In one episode, Dre’s response to Ferguson and other officer-involved shootings is to prepare his children for the racism they might one day face.

— Nicole Villalpando

Jimmy DiMeo (“Speechless”)

Jimmy DiMeo loves his family. He brings the fun to their lives — lives that already are challenging. One thing he does really well is not argue with his wife. He knows Maya can be a little — well, a lot — crazy, especially when it comes to standing up for the rights of their son JJ. He just lets her get all worked up, knowing she’ll eventually calm down and find the world of reason again. Smart man.

— Nicole Villalpando

Homer J. Simpson (“The Simpsons”)

Homer is a lovable buffoon who allows his children to challenge and befuddle him. He heaps praise on his children and unintentionally forces them to be self-reliant. By playing the absurdist to their straight man, he haphazardly pushes them toward maturity (even though nobody ages on that show).

He also loves his children. In one episode, Marge and Lisa couldn’t find any of Maggie’s baby pictures in the house. It turns out that Homer had brought them all to his desk at work. The photos were taped on a sign from Mr. Burns that originally said, “Don’t forget: You’re here forever.” The photos covered up some letters so that it said, “Do it for her.” This teaches us to never allow the pressures of life to steal your joy away from you and to never be afraid to shamelessly overload your work area with pictures of your daughter.

All of this said, Homer also provides game-changingly excellent advice in child rearing. To wit, Lisa is complaining about something and says, “You don’t understand!”

Homer: “Lisa, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

Dads, memorize this one. It really comes in handy.

— Matthew Odam, Edward Guevara and Joe Gross

Phil Dunphy (“Modern Family”)

Unlike many previous fathers on TV, he’s not afraid to express his deepest emotions, especially about how much he loves his kids. He’s not rude to them. His sarcasm isn’t sinister. He’s goofy, not aloof. He’s active in their lives, perhaps to a fault, but there’s never any doubt he loves being their dad.

— Addie Broyles

Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker (“Modern Family”)

Lily’s two dads stretched the TV definition of fatherhood. They also prove that no matter what your sexuality is and how your child became yours, it is possible to fall head over heels for her and be slightly frightened by her.

— Nicole Villalpando

Randall Pearson (“This Is Us”)

Randall Pearson teaches us the power of forgiveness. More than one parent lets Randall down, more than once, as decisions surrounding his birth and adoption reverberate through his adult life. He is able to forgive and open his heart and life. It’s messy and real, with both pain and rewards. A lot like life.

— Sharon Chapman

Jack Pearson (“This Is Us”)

Jack teaches us that even in our good intentions, sometimes we fall short. That’s OK. It’s about our love, and it’s also about consistently being there, even when battling our own inner demons.

— Nicole Villalpando

Ignacio Suarez (“Ugly Betty”)

As far as portrayals of Latino dads on TV go, it doesn’t get much better than Betty and Hilda’s father, Ignacio, who is a former boxer, yet warm, cuddly and an amazing cook. As befits a show structured like a telenovela, he’s also the subject of semi-torrid love affairs, an ongoing immigration plot and a heart attack. But through it all, he’s always there for his daughters and his grandson Justin with the perfect flan or enchilada dish to make their troubles more manageable.

— Omar L. Gallaga

Bob Belcher (“Bob’s Burgers”)

Bob might be the best dad on TV. This animated family is full of quirky characters — mom Linda bursts into song at a moment’s notice; older daughter Tina is obsessed with butts, invisible horses and erotic zombie fan fiction; son Gene expresses himself artistically with fart noises on a keyboard; and younger daughter Louise’s schemes often border on criminal. Bob might sigh heavily at all the shenanigans, but he also accepts his family members’ unique personalities without question and is willing to do whatever he can to make them feel supported and happy. That unconditional love is the heart of the show and a great example for dads everywhere.

— Emily Quigley

Mike Brady (“The Brady Bunch”)

Mike Brady taught us that you must treat everyone in your family equally. The girls were not his biologically, but he devoted his time to them as much as the boys.

— Rick Cantu

Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister (“Game of Thrones”)

Never agree to become hand of the king. Aka put your family first over your job, or it might kill you.

— Dan Zehr

Don Draper (“Mad Men”)

Don Draper is a terrible father. He’s often not present in his children’s lives. He also treats their mother poorly by leaving for a younger woman. Don’t be Don Draper, dads. Be there for the mother of your kids and for your kids as well.

— Nicole Villalpando

Hank Hill (“King of the Hill”)

There are many Hank Hill gems of fatherly greatness. Remember this one? After a series of groin kicks by Bobby, Hank Hill teaches Bobby how to fight fairly only after Peggy Hill delivers a series of noogies on her son. Sometimes you have to do something absurd to get your kid to realize how wrong he has been.

— Amanda O’Donnell

Steven Keaton (“Family Ties”)

Sometimes your kids have completely different views than you, and that’s OK. Steven Keaton had to endure what he saw as an affront to the flower child he had been: His son Alex P. Keaton grew up to become the president of the Young Republicans group. Yet he listened to his son’s viewpoints, probably while secretly praying that this too shall pass. Let your kids be who they are.

— Nicole Villalpando

Luke Danes (“Gilmore Girls”)

Luke teaches us that sometimes the real father isn’t the one you’re related to by blood — it’s the one who shows up. Luke was always there for Rory, even when things were rocky between him and Lorelai. He also opened up his home to his nephew Jess and gave him the structure he needed. Luke wasn’t the most verbal of guys, but his actions spoke louder than words — like the time he set up a whole graduation party for Rory so the town could celebrate her.

— Nicole Villalpando



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