The best TV dads and what they taught us about life

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It’s not shameful to admit that sometimes TV dads act as a supplemental parent in our lives.

Whether it’s Homer Simpson of The Simpsons teaching you important lessons (“It’s always better to watch stuff than to do stuff”) or Coach Taylor of Friday Night Lights imparting inspirational, confidence-boosting advice (“If you give 100 per cent of yourself tonight, people are going to look at you differently”), each TV dad has their own distinct parenting style.

What better time to celebrate these surrogate dads than on Father’s Day? Here, in no particular order, are the men on TV who somehow managed to reach through the screen and impact our lives.

Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

If there’s a TV dad we all wish we could have, it has to be Coach Taylor. Filled to the brim with sayings, stories and sincere compliments, Coach is the kind of dad you’d want in your corner at all times. (We’ll say it: his eldest daughter, Julie, didn’t deserve him.) One of his best qualities was his honesty; it was never hard for any of the kids (many of them players on his football team) to approach him with serious life problems. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Sniff.

Philip “Uncle Phil” Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

You’d think a judge would be scarier, but Uncle Phil (except on a few occasions) was a big, warm teddy bear. He took in his nephew, Will, from Philadelphia and raised him like his own child. Smart, rich and funny, Phil was the lifeblood of the Banks family, and you could always count on him to lay the smack down, when necessary.

READ MORE: The best TV moms and what they taught us about life

Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

Over 20+ seasons, Homer has gone from nincompoop to full-blown buffoon, and it’s tough to pin down exactly who he is anymore. Throughout the years Homer fluctuates in his parenting, but ultimately, he’s a great dad beloved by his kids (despite their constant insults and remarks about his weight, his hair, his stupidity, etc.). Sure, he compared fridges to women, tried to drink ocean water while he was dehydrated, and told a little boy that dolphins weren’t mammals, but on the whole Homer is a dad we’d love to have.

Phil Dunphy, Jay Pritchett, Mitchell Pritchett & Cam Tucker, Modern Family

We couldn’t just pick one dad from Modern Family; they’re all rather similar in terms of parenting (Read: goofball). It takes many, many mistakes before they arrive at the right conclusion, with a few pratfalls along the way. A shout-out to Mitch and Cam, who’ve gone a long way in normalizing a same-sex union for a mainstream audience.

Johnny Rose, Schitt’s Creek

The beauty of Schitt’s Creek is that father Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) actually is the real-life dad to TV son David (Dan Levy). What we’re seeing is a semblance of their relationship, plastered onscreen for all to witness. Luckily for Dan, his actual dad isn’t as flighty or clueless as Johnny.

Dr. Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show


Bill Cosby’s current difficulties in no way reflect on the huge influence of Dr. Cliff Huxtable. For families of any racial background, but especially for black people, there’s no questioning how important The Cosby Show was. There’s also no denying how wonderful a father Cliff was, and his easy blend of humour and empathy simultaneously taught his kids lessons and made them laugh. Now if only we could have done something about those sweaters.

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Dan Conner, Roseanne

With the exception of his chronic underemployment, Dan was pretty much the best TV dad of the time. Kind and realistic, Dan didn’t bother embellishing things for his kids, instead using open honesty to parent. With a wife like Roseanne, who easily drove points home with her voice and hurtful jokes, Dan was the perfect counterbalance.

Dr. Jason Seaver, Growing Pains

It was pretty handy (and admittedly a tad annoying) for the Seaver kids to have a psychiatrist father living and working at home. He was a mere stone’s throw away if he was needed to answer your questions or have long talks about life. And sure enough, late Canadian actor Alan Thicke used his voice, soothing and calm, whenever his fictional kids had a problem. Even neighbours would pop by and chat with Dr. Seaver. Wouldn’t you?

Steven Keaton, Family Ties

Steven Keaton, the father of the four Family Ties kids, is that kind of dad who lives on the idealism of his youth and seeks to impart that to his children. Unfortunately for Steven, his kids were all hard-headed and strong-willed, so his lessons often fell on deaf ears. There was a palpable love in the Keaton household, however, and many, many family group hugs in the kitchen.

Bob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers

The Belchers are the insane family to end all insane families, and Bob is the figurehead. You’d think that would mean he’d hold all the power, but it actually means the exact opposite. Not only does his wife, Linda, take control most of the time, but his three eccentric kids dominate his very existence with their shenanigans. Still, having a dad like Bob would be awesome, and you get to live above a restaurant. That’s pretty sweet, right?

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Danny Tanner, Full House

The king of cheese, otherwise known as Danny Tanner. His life lessons and lectures to his daughters were some of the most clichéd in TV history, but they somehow worked. Case in point: those girls toed the family line for almost the entire series. We suppose the other “fathers” in the house — Joey and Uncle Jesse — played a part in the girls’ well-roundedness.

Carl Winslow, Family Matters

We feel the most sympathy for Carl because he had to deal with uber-nerd Steve Urkel, who obsessively chased after his daughter, Laura. (Looking back, it was way past over-the-line.) Anyway, as a dad, Carl was very doting and caring, and a police officer to boot! Not unlike its distant cousin, Full House, Family Matters didn’t exactly delve into super-deep issues,  but when it did, Carl was the steadfast dad we all crave in life.

Jim Walsh, Beverly Hills, 90210

Jim is the reason the Walshes moved to Beverly Hills in the first place: his job relocated them from snowy Minnesota to sunny, glamorous California. It took many years/seasons for Jim to adjust to the new climes, and he always seemed a shade paler than the rest of his family. He was an amazing dad to twins Brandon and Brenda, whose numerous teenage dramas would have made an average parent go grey overnight. Jim always took everything in stride, though he didn’t always make sense.

Tim Taylor, Home Improvement

Unsurprisingly, Tim Taylor was all about the tools, the renos and Tool Time, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t dedicate his home time to his three boys. As a dad, he was straight to the point, and all the handyman gruffness disappeared if one of his boys was in trouble. Bonus points go to neighbour Wilson for also being half-there for the kids.

Charles Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie

There’s no doubt about this one — Charles Ingalls loved his kids more than he loved anything else (OK, except maybe Caroline). If we ignore the fact that he obviously played favourites (“Half-pint,” a.k.a. Laura, was always #1), Charles was a perfect father in every sense of the term. From sunrise to sunset, Charles was working to earn money for his family, even if that meant backbreaking farming or mill work. He even (usually) had enough energy to play a tune on the fiddle for his kids before bed.

Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch

If there was ever a speech-giver, it was Mike Brady. Mocked endlessly in the eventual satirical Brady Bunch movies of the ’90s, there was no topic Mike couldn’t transform into an endless train of clichés, metaphors and circular reasoning. Regardless, he was a loving dad to his six kids, and his earnestness was never in question. Now if only there was something we could do about his polyester collared shirts and loud pants.

Dre Johnson, Black-ish

OK, so his advice might not be the best, but hey, he is non-stop entertainment. Despite his outer shell of comedy and one-liners, underneath it all Dre is a compassionate, caring dad who just wants the best for his kids. At least he understands the importance of having cool sneakers in school.

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Tony Micelli, Who’s the Boss?

Angelaaaaaa. Samanthaaaaaa. Jonathannnnnn. Monaaaaaa. You can hear him, right? Tony is the kind of dad any ’80s child would dream of: he’s cool, he’s easy to talk to, and he’s not stuffy in any way. The only con is his job; as a housekeeper, he’s open to mockery. Amazingly, this was never really a problem for him or his daughter. Oh, also, Tony, we need to talk about that creepy van you drive around in.

Red Forman, That ’70s Show

Red is scary, there’s no denying that. That stern glare and that no-nonsense military vibe terrified Eric, and made it difficult to approach his father. Thank goodness for Red’s wife Kitty, who tempered his rage and anger with sweetness. Red’s curmudgeonly ways made it all the more adorable when he caved in and became emotional, which happened far more than we think he’d like.

Al Bundy, Married With Children

Maybe Al isn’t the best father, and yes, maybe he does express how much he hates his wife and children on a regular basis, but we all know that deep down Al loves them all. Lucky for Al, as a shoe salesman, he can teach his two kids what not to become. Interestingly, Al actor Ed O’Neill appears twice on this list. By this age, he must have this dad thing down pat.

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