In honor of Father’s day, my top 5 favorite sitcom father’s. Fathers have come a long way in sitcoms, kind of the opposite of the mothers. In the old days, Father always knew best. Whether it be Andy Griffith, Danny Thomas or Dick Van Dyke, fathers were the head of their households and the wives were there to cook and be pretty. As the 80’s rolled around that changed more as mothers started to be more dominant and fathers fell to the background. In the 90’s fathers became bumbling overgrown kids, like Tim Taylor or Ray Barone, or they were just lazy dim wits like Homer Simpson. I guess someone decided that the cliche of the father who can’t fix things and likes to stare at the TV all day is funny. This hit bottom with “Still Standing” where Mark Addy played one of the laziest, most dim-witted, uninvolved fathers I have ever seen in a sitcom. When Al Bundy did this it was funny, but by the time Still Standing came along it was cliche.
Anyway, I am getting off topic. Here are the my favorite fathers, and they are my favorite because while they have a playful side they are also responsible, good parents who don’t hide the fact they love thei kids because “it isn’t cool”.
#5. Tony Micelli (Who’s The Boss?)
Some may be surprised by this choice, since that isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think “Who’s The Boss?” But say what you want about Tony, he was a great father. He took am embarrassing job, and left his friends and the city he loved just to give his daughter a chance at a better life. That’s a good dad. He then stayed involved becoming head of the PTA,Â True he could be overprotective and had trouble letting her grow up, that’s where Angela came in. I always loved how after he has gone a little overboard he could apologize but retain a firm hand. With Angela you knew she needed Tony to help her raise Jonathan, but Tony was not like that. He could have raised Sam by himself and been just fine I think. He would do anything for his daughter. An early example came in the episode where Tony bought Sam a bra for the first time. It was hard for him to accept his daughter was growing, and walking into a lingerie store, but he did it. He also became a surrogate father to Jonathan, stepping in and doing what Angela couldn’t.
The whole theme of the show was that Roseanne was in charge and her husband was not. However, in the final analysis I think Dan comes off as the better parent. He really works to give his family what they need and you can tell he really wants to get along with his kids. As fun loving as he can be, he can also be very strict and there are many times when the kids will actually confide in Roseanne first! It becomes almost a running gag in the show that Roseanne has no faith in Dan’s ability to parent, but that’s because she always has to be in charge while Dan has no problem taking his kids side once in awhile. One of his best moments comes after Becky runs off with Mark. Dan is so hurt he literally shuts her out, and then we get the scene where he forgives her. It’s never reallt made clear how and why, he just picks up the phone and calls her as if everything is fine. It’s a well done moment as we see as hurt as he was, Becky is still his daughter and he still wants to be love and care for her.
#3.Howard Cunningham (Happy Days)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Happy Days was a silly as hell show. The only reason it was, and is, loved was the actors and the characters they played so well. They brought there A game to every episode and that was why people tuned in. Howard was no different, being the kind of likable father we all would have loved to have. He was lovable but could also be strict when needed. He was even affectionate at times (they used the word frisky on the show). One of his best episodes was the one where Richie loses the big game, and Howard gives such a memorable father talk it has been parodied in other shows. Like with Marion, Howard was a surrogate father for the whole cast not just Richie and Joanie. The only bad thing about his character, which they thankfully changed, was how he hated Fonzie in the early days. It just didn’t work, making him a bit of a jerk, and eventually the creators must have realized that because it didn’t last. In the series finale it’s Howard who steps in and stands up for Fonzie when the adoption agency who won’t let Fonzie adopt a child. And he gets the final words of the episode, giving a very nice toast and sending the series off in an extremely fitting way.
What can you say about a father who will postpone a meeting to help his daughter with math, or cancel a golf date to help his son look for the lost family dog? Mike Brady was the perfect sitcom dad. He married Carol and took her kids into a situation which others my be afraid of, and blended the families perfectly. He knew how to have fun, and how to be serious. I loved the way he was when punishing the kids, cool but dead serious. In facr he didn’t really get angry unless he was really pissed off. Usually he had a reserved calmness. Yes his lectures got silly, but that was all part of his charm. He always stood up fro his kids, whether it be taking time to yell at the Santa who promised Cindy her mother would be able to sing at Christmas, teaching Peter how to fight to ward off a bully, or even supporting his Marcia when she wanted to be a frontier scout. I guess the good thing about Mike is he was always fair, and never talked down to the kids. In the episode where Greg thinks he is going to be a star Baseball player, he comes back from the game after being shelled. Mike gives a very good talk telling him that Baseball is a great game but it shouldn’t be Greg’s sole focus. Maybe he will make it, but maybe he won’t. A nice lesson and Mike delivers in a way that is honest and not condescending. Just a great dad.
So if Mike is the perfect father, why is Cliff #1? Especially when in a previous article I said that Mike was the stronger character. In that article I was comparing the characters as a whole, and Cliff had more flaws. However, just comparing them as fathers then Cliff is number one here because The Cosby Show was much more realistic and honest than the Brady Bunch. Not every problem had an easy solution and not ever episode ended with a laugh and a smile before the credits. Well, he was called America’s favorite father when this show was on and you probably still find him on the top of “Greatest sitcom fathers” lists. There is a simple reason for that.With Mike you got a lecture and a pat on the back. Cliff was a little more three dimensional than that. Take the episode where Rudy is upset Denise is leaving for college. Cliff could just give a speech telling her to get over it, instead he uses reverse psychology to make Rudy see that even though Denise is moving away doesn’t mean that they will never see her again. In another episode we see Cliff did not return the shirt he forbade Theo from buying because he knew Denise’s plan to make her own would blow up. It’s why neighbors and friends will even seek his counsel.Â The only episode to show Cliff firmly in charge was the first episode with Sondra, in hindsight this show is out of step with the rest of the series as we see the family struggle to convince Cliff to let Sondra go away for the summer. It takes some convincing, but of course he lets her go on the trip. On this show Cliff and Claire didn’t wait to the kids to get in trouble to talk to them, they were honest with them all the time.Â You also had to love how he had no trouble letting Claire step up and be the parents, but that didn’t mean Cliff was a push over. He could get as upset, or more, than Claire. He was also very protective of his kids, insulting and even terrorizing the poor boys who dared to date his daughters. He was certainly a fun dad, entertaining Rudy’s, and later Olivia’s, friends in several episodes as an example. The stand out scene for Cliff was in the pilot episode, after Theo asks Cliff why he can;t just accept that may he is not meant for college and he is mean to be “ordinary”. Cliff proceeds to get up and say the classic line, “Theo, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” This was a genuine moment, what parent is going to say to their kid it’s ok to stop trying because they won’t amount to anything? That is what Bill Cosby brought to Cliff and The Cosby Show, an honesty you just don’t see in other shows. That is why he is the number 1 sitcom father.
Of course there are lots of names not here from Ozzie Nelson, Ward Cleaver, Andy Taylor, and even Ricky Ricardo to Steven Keaton (Family Ties), Jason Seaver (Growing Pains), Danny Tanner (Full House), Carl Winslow (Family Matters), Hal (Malcolm in the Middle), Red Forman (That 70’s Show), Paul Hennessey (8 Simple Rules) and even unique fathers like Fred Flintstone, Herman Munster, Dick Solomon (3rd Rock From The Sun). and even Earl Sinclair (Dinosaurs). That isn’t even a drop in the bucket of course. Did I miss your favorite?
Final note, I really wanted to make this list different from the mother list but when it comes right down to it The Cunninghams, The Bradys, and The Huxtables were three of the best parentel units ever seen in sitcoms. Those shows allowed both parents to be strong and respected and that is probably why these programs have and will withstand the test of time.