Tomorrow is Father’s Day, but I’ll be doing my “Top 10 TV Dads” today. (Actually, it’s 11, but I combined two of them, since I admire them for the same reason).
1. Ed Conner (Roseanne) and Martin Crane (Frasier): Both lied to their kids to protect their mother’s reputation, thereby placing their own reputation on the line. Ed did not tell his son Dan about his mom’s long mental illness, taking Dan’s put-downs when Dan blamed him. And Martin told his sons he had an affair, when actually their mom Hester was the one who cheated on him! Martin knew they were closer to their late mother than to him, so he wanted to protect her memory.
2. Jack Arnold (Wonder Years): I once read in TV Guide that Jack Arnold was probably the most realistic dad on television. He was moody. He hated his job. He wasn’t always the most communicative person in the world. But we learn in the course of the series that Jack had his own hopes and dreams, which he fulfilled when he started a hardware store. And there was an especially tender moment between him and his son Kevin. After Winnie had dumped Kevin, Jack gave him a big hug and told him that thing’s wouldn’t get easier, but he’d make it. But Jack could also be tough. After Kevin falsely told his friends that he’d slept with Winnie, he informed his dad about it, expecting Jack’s sympathy as a fellow male. Instead, Jack replied, “Get on your bike and apologize to her right now.” “But what if she doesn’t forgive me?,” Kevin asked. “I wouldn’t,” Jack said.
3. President Jed Bartlett (West Wing): Jed was always closer to his daughters Zoe and Liz than to his other daughter, Eleanor, a medical student who took more after her mother. Eleanor usually avoided the limelight as the President’s daughter, until she told a newspaper that her father would never fire the Surgeon General, her godmother, who had recently promoted the legalization of marijuana. Jed was upset with his daughter, and he reflected on their tense relationship. “Why does she hate me so much?,” he asked the Surgeon General. Later in the conversation, he remarked, “She said I’d never fire the Surgeon General. That’s probably the nicest thing she’s ever said about me.”
When he came face-to-face with his own favoritism to his other daughters, he made an effort to reconcile with Eleanor. He joked with her about her medical studies, and he said, “You know, I don’t want you to be something you’re not. I just wish you visited every once in a while.” He let her know that he loved her and that she was welcome.
4. Maude’s father (Maude): There was an episode in which Maude talks to a therapist, and she tells him about her life growing up. She has bad memories about her father, claiming that he never did anything for her. Suddenly, she remembers that he once waited in the rain so he could give his daughter her prom dress (or something like that). “How could I forget that?,” Maude lamented.
5. Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith Show): One episode that comes to mind is the one in which Opie’s date to a party dumps him for someone else. Opie had a crush on this girl for a long time, and he’s reluctant to go to the party. But Andy tells Opie (in his usual folksy manner) what he did when he was younger and a girl did the same thing to him: he went to the party and had a good time. Andy was helping his son with his own life experience.
6. Cliff Huxtable (Cosby Show): I always liked the way he used humor when he lectured his kids. Even his kids got a kick out of his lectures, although he was joking at their expense! And they got new ways of looking at their situation.
7. Ward Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver): he was loving, wise, fair, and he dressed like a million bucks! There are two daddy moments that come to my mind. In one episode, little Beaver is kissed by an attractive neighbor lady, and Eddie Haskell tells Beaver that the lady’s husband will want to kill him for that. When the lady and her husband visit the Cleaver’s, Beaver defiantly says that he won’t go down to say “hi” to them. Ward at first commands Beaver to go, but, once he sees the intensity of Beaver’s defiance, he says, “Beaver, I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do!” He tries to get to the bottom of why Beaver won’t go down.
In another episode, Beaver tells his dad that he didn’t think parents made mistakes. Ward assures his son that parents are learning just like everyone else.
8. John Camden (7th Heaven): John wasn’t the best father to his kids Eric and Julie, but he thought he was doing the right thing. A colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, he ran his household like it was the armed services. He was tough and gruff, and he didn’t help Eric get through college, thinking Eric would build character by paying his own way. When Julie drank heavily, John remarked that her alcoholism was a result of her “poor character.”
But he and his wife become close to an orphan boy, George, and they adopt him. John resolves not to make the same mistakes with him that he made with Eric and Julie.
9. Tom Baldwin (The 4400): I can’t really pin-point why I like Joel Gretsch as a father, especially when he was so terrible at it in Stephen Spielberg’s Taken! In the 4400, he and his son are not particularly close, but he still cares about his son’s well-being and is always willing to listen when his son has something to tell him.
10. Noah Bennett (Heroes): Noah is a cold employee of the Company, which searches for mutants in order to keep track of them, sometimes killing them. But he has a soft spot for his adopted daughter, Claire, who is herself a mutant. He was reluctant to adopt her at first, since he wasn’t sure that he’d make a good father. But he turned out to be an excellent dad: one who cared for his daughter’s safety above all else, listened to his daughter’s concerns, etc. Although Claire was mad at her dad on a number of occasions, she always respected his authority, at least to his face. This, even though he wasn’t her biological father!
Have a happy Father’s Day tomorrow!