Top 10 Best TV Dads

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Father’s Day.  A time to honor the men who are either our biological fathers or who have been like fathers to us.  If you’re a child of the television age, some of those dad might well be TV dads.  They teach us important lessons, lead us by example, spend quality time with us (and with their TV children), and love their kids unconditionally while keeping an open mind.  They are uber-dads – and they can set examples for us while we watch them sitting next to our real-life dads.  Because dads love good TV dads, too.

10.  Rick Castle (Castle)

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This new Nathan Fillion vehicle hasn’t been around for very long, but one undeniable trait of the rakish Castle is his love for his daughter (played by a lovely Molly Quinn).  Time will tell if Castle will make it into the TV Dad Hall of Fame, but after the first season, he’s off to a pretty good start.

9.  Seeley Booth (Bones)

Taking a stab at a more paternal character than his stint as a TV dad on Angel, David Boreanaz convincingly plays a doting single dad.  He spends as much time as possible with his son, Parker.  He tries to lead by example by being a good cop and a good Catholic, and he wears awesome socks.  In fact, some fan loves their relationship so much they made this tribute video for them:

8.  Danny Tanner (Full House)

It’s hard to be a single dad, but it’s sometimes even harder when you have two man-children to take care of, as well as your own kids.  Danny Tanner was the voice of reason in a world of chaos.  He took great care of DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle, while accepting the sometimes-help and more often hindering of Uncle Jesse (John Stamos), and Uncle Joey, his bestie from college.  The best part?  Tanner was convincingly played by Bob Saget, a one-man potty-mouth machine.  On Full House, however, Danny Tanner was a strong, if not neurotic, awesome dad.

7.  Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)

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Not only did Mike successfully play father to his three children, he adjusted to a double dose of kids when he married his lovely wife Carol.  So, faced with the task of being father to Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy, he made an office inside the home and spent a lot of time being counselor, punisher, and comforter to his many children.  Robert Reed’s portrayal of husband and father was absolute, despite the many bits of gossip that have surrounded him since his death, and he goes down in history as one of the most-beloved TV dads.

6.  Eric Camden (7th Heaven)

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Reverend Eric Camden and his wife Annie (played by Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks, respectively) are the parents of SEVEN children (take that, Brady Bunch!) and do their very best to teach their children and their congregation the right way to live.  Sounds schmaltzy, but this series was the most viewed on it’s network (the WB) and is still widely watched in syndication.  Something about Collins’ portrayal of Eric Camden hit home for a lot of viewers, and his authentic and caring character make him a great TV dad.

5.  Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best)

Loving father?  Check.  Sensitive and caring?  Check.  Able to dole out good advice and lead by example?  Check check.  Jim Anderson was a model 1950’s dad who put his family first.  Played by a troubled Robert Young, Anderson provided the stability and confidence that his real-life counterpart just couldn’t find, but the television result was pure gold.  Ask anyone who was around when the show was airing – Jim Anderson was a top-notch TV dad.

4.   Ward Cleaver (Leave It To Beaver)

He might not have been the most progressive of guys, but it was the 1950’s, after all.   Stern but fair, Ward (played by Hugh Beaumont) has his hands plenty full with Wally and The Beav’s antics and hijinks, but Ward always knows just what to say to make his boys do the right thing, and to make them feel good about it, too.  Just don’t ask him about women’s liberation, because he wouldn’t know a bit what you were talking about.

3.  Jonathan Kent (Smallville)

From Bo Duke to Superman’s dad.  Who know that John Schneider had such range?  Jonathan Kent had tough duty as adoptive father to Clark.  He had to hide the secret of his son’s incredible abilities, guide and coach that son through some very difficult ethical dilemmas, and then eventually take on Clark’s extraterrestrial biological father’s strength in order to save Clark from himself.  He lived solely for this child who arrived via meteor, and TV’s rarely seen a better or braver dad.

2.  Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

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Even if you didn’t know that The Cosby Show was one of the most popular shows in American television, one episode of it would make a strong impression.  Bill Cosby (as Dr. Huxtable) provided fun, laughs, and good common sense to his large family (and thus to his millions and millions of viewers).  Some of the best moments of television history come from the eight seasons of The Cosby show, and practically every single one center on Dr. Huxtable and one of his adorable and precocious children.  He might not have been the cuddle bug dad that some others have been, but in the category of cool, funny dads, he’s number one.  But there is one TV dad who beats him by just under a millimeter…

1.  Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

Andy Taylor:  single father, Sherriff, community leader, friend to the less fortunate, and folk-wisdom-imparter extraordinaire.  His calm, cool, and collected character got Mayberry through tough times while all the time he was a great father to his son Opie.  He took him on fishing trips, marveled at the wonder of Opie’s youth, and wasn’t too arrogant to think he couldn’t learn from his child.  Even now, watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show makes you feel like you’re a part of a world that makes a lot more sense – as much as a fictionalized sleepy southern town can make more sense than the world you live in – because Andy Taylor’s there to tell you how it is.  His understated humor and realistic kindness make him the best TV dad of all time.


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37 Comments

  1. Great list! Especially #'s 1 and 10. Rick Castle is funny and lovable in a unique way (plus quite adorable for us older women), but you can tell how much he loves his daughter. But hands down, Andy Taylor is still the best dad ever. Always just the right amount of punishment and fun-loving…maybe it should be required watching for new parents.

  2. I would have had a hard time choosing between Heathcliff Huxtable and Andy Taylor, in fact, I probably would have had them in a tie! Archie Bunker wasn't an exceptionally great father, I mean, I loved the character but he was not very positive towards Gloria, now was he?

    In the also-ran category: Tony Danza, Who's the Boss?

  3. Tony Danza is totally an also-ran, as is Michael Seaver from Growning Pains and Whats-His-Name Keaton from Family Ties. Eighties shows – another list for the future?

  4. Jonnie Downing on

    What a great, concise list of dads! I totally approve of Rick Castle, I think he plays a great dad! Heathcliff Huxtable as #2 is also right on the mark and Andy Taylor as #1 is a great choice! Well done!

  5. Andy Griffith was a great TV dad and surrogate father to many a latchkey kid through reruns. Excellent #1 TV Dad!

    Stephen Keaton from Family Ties would have been a nice addition, agreed.

  6. Great list, but what about Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) from Growing Pains?? He's the 1st one to pop into my head when I think of the best TV dad.

    I'm surprised you didn't include Tim the Toolman Taylor, & thrilled you didn't include the dad from Blossom , yuck.

  7. Homer Simpson? How about the 2 dads from My Two Dads? They both agreed to raise the girl together without knowing who;s kid it was. That is actually creepy.

  8. Tony Danza on who's the boss was a moron that made people think anyone of Italian heritage had an IQ of 3. Keaton and Thicke were wimps of the highest order.

    Ward Cleaver was the coolest. He liked guns and hunting, had power tools in his garage and wasn't portrayed as a bumbling twit like so many tv dads are now and Sheriff Taylor is absolutely #1.

    And the

    “Ward, weren’t you a little hard on The Beaver last night?”

    should be added to the dead horse joke hall of fame.

  9. While Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and Jack Arnold were ICONIC dads, I don't think that automatically makes them GOOD dads.

  10. Ben Cartwright from "Bonanza".

    Charles Ingalls from "Little House on the Prairie".

    Carl Winslow from "Family Matters"

    the dad from "Boy Meets World"

  11. DUMBASS!

    im gonna shove my foot up your ass

    so wheres red foremen? clearly anything from that 70s show is the best

  12. The Blackbird on

    This list sucks. Why are they all goody-two-shoes dads? My top three would be Al Bundy (Married with Children), Archie Bunker (All in the Family) and Homer Simpson (The Simpsons).

  13. Fred McMurray, My three sons: He adopted the youngest son ernie, and continue to let his oldest son, Robbie and daughter-in-law and the triplets live with him. Great dad. Also, Family Affair, Uncle Bill raised his brother’s orphaned twin children Buffy and Jodie. That made him a great dad.

  14. What about Little House on the Prairie’s Charles Ingalls? He was the best father by far…. he guided his children with love, strength, and compassion. In fact he was a leader and moral compass for nearly everyone on the show, and not in an overbearing way. He was amazing!

    And Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko. He was amazing with Jake. Old fashioned values in the new frontier. Love him!

  15. I think Uncle Phil was a damn good dad too. Lawyer to judge and being the father to Will when his own didnt want’em.

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