No matter how good a father is, they’re always going to have faults, quirks, and personality traits that get on our nerves as their children. A dad might be an incredible provider, but that could leave him emotionally unavailable when he gets home from a long day at work. Another dad might be nurturing and tender, but that leaves him bare when it’s time to lay down the hammer and bring some tough love to the family table.
There are no perfect dads, except if you combine all of the best traits of our favorite TV dads into one unrivaled super-dad! Examining fatherhood has always been an iconic part of watching television, with great dads setting the standard for their real-life counterparts all of the time. We’re going to compile all of the most vital parts of being a good dad, and manifest them through a combination of our favorite small screen fathers!
Ward Cleaver’s Wisdom (Leave it to Beaver)
Not many shows tried to paint a more idealized picture of family life during the mid-20th century than Leave it to Beaver. Children Beaver and Wally Cleaver (Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow) were the beneficiaries of approachable and honest parenting from June and Ward (Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont), the latter of which was always good for a rock solid gold nugget of wisdom at some point in the episode. Ward always knew exactly what to say so that his sons could correct their behavior and change their lives for the better. Dads are often supposed to be sage, but not many were as astute as Ward.
Walter White’s Ambition (Breaking Bad)
Before Walter White’s (Bryan Cranson) canyon-sized ego sat down in the driver’s seat in Breaking Bad, the middle-aged high school chemistry teacher who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer was actually a symbol of unselfish, uninhibited desire and ambition. Knowing that his family would struggle to bring home the bacon without him after his death, Walter’s plan to become a cash cow through the manufacturing of methamphetamine had semi-moral intentions. If only Walter could have translated these zealous ideas into something more sustainable and humane, but then there’d never be a show for us to watch!
Danny Tanner’s Hygiene (Full House)
It may not seem like a big deal to some, but parents are certainly responsible for teaching their children healthy habits to take throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Personal hygiene is an overlooked topic for many men, and having a father who is good with cleanliness could potentially make the world a little less germ-filled. Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) is certainly a hyperbolic exaggeration of what it means to be clean, but we appreciate his dedication to decrying dirt in his home. From cleaning his vacuum to scrubbing liquid soap, there is no extreme Danny won’t go to in the name of hygiene.
Joel Miller’s Selflessness (The Last of Us)
Sometimes being a dad is about so much more than just a blood relation to your children. The best fathers are able to adopt others, take them under their wing, and mentor them until they’re ready to fly on their own. Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) is the embodiment of surrogate fatherhood, serving as the much-needed father figure that Ellie needed during the cordyceps outbreak in The Last of Us. Every man should pride themselves on being a safe space for the young people in their lives like Joel is to Ellie (although we don’t necessarily condone his violent tendencies that made it happen!)
Tony Soprano’s Vengeance Vibes (The Sopranos)
The mob boss and patriarch of the Soprano family is a narcissist and a psychopath, but there is no doubt he will go to unimaginable lengths to exact revenge on those who hurt his family. And although it is illegal and criminal to assault or turn to other forms of violence to help your family, Tony is the type of vengeful father we all wished we had when the bullies attacked us at school, or when the creepy dude in the next cubicle over starts making snide quips about our appearance. Vengeance is sometimes the only method to someone’s madness, and a good father will certainly right any wrongs that occur to their children, just hopefully not in the exact way that Tony does it. It’s the thought that counts, right?
Mohan Vishwakumar’s Optimism (Never Have I Ever)
While many people fell in love with Mindy Kaling’s popular Netflix romantic comedy Never Have I Ever due to its love triangle and high school drama, we want to honor the heartbeat of the show: Mohan Vishwakumar (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the father of protagonist Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). Mohan posthumously appears in Devi’s mental state and stream of consciousness throughout the series whenever his daughter is at her darkest hour, always ready to provide a spark of mirthful memories and positive reinforcement. Mohan sees the light in the blackness, and he fights depression and negativity with infinite optimism. All fathers and men in general should look to see the world half glass full like Mohan does.
Armando Salazar’s Acceptance (Love, Victor)
Armando Salazar (James Martinez) is the supportive father Victor (Michael Cimino) needed when he came out to his family on Love, Victor, especially because Victor’s mother Isabel (Ana Ortiz) was overcome with deep-seated bigotry from a religious upbringing that takes her the entire second season of the show to overcome. Fathers are often not the parent LGBTQ+ children come out to first, demonstrating the ways that men are perceived as more homophobic than women. The fact that Armando debunked this trend all while doing so in a Hispanic family (a group that receives more hate for being queer than their White counterparts) makes Armando an inspiration for all fathers.
Red Foreman’s Wit (That ‘70s Show)
Red Foreman (Kurtwood Smith) is the type of dad to tell you to get off his lawn otherwise he’ll shove his foot up your ass. This doesn’t sound like a pleasant or loving way of negotiating with your children, but any fan of That ‘70s Show knows that Red is a rock for his family. Underneath his gruff demeanor is a man who means well, and he often communicates his feelings with a dry, sharp wit that ripples through the TV screen. Being called a dumbass is a term of endearment when it comes from Red, and every father should be able to deliver his opinions with the honesty and humor of the Foreman clan.
Hal Wilkerson’s Childlike Wonder (Malcolm in the Middle)
Adult men often lose their innocence in a tragically sad way the deeper they get into adulthood. That’s why the perfect dad would hold on to their most childlike traits, much like Hal (Bryan Cranston) on Malcolm in the Middle. Hal is married to a domineering wife and has five incredibly obnoxious children that would drive most other fathers up the wall. Hal copes with the craziness of his situation by being game to try anything, whether that be roller skating in tights or speed walking in a jumpsuit. Fun shouldn’t be a dirty three letter word as a father, and Hal is the epitome of this liberating desire to remain a child at heart.
Julius Rock’s Financial Literacy (Everybody Hates Chris)
Nobody likes a cheapo. It’s not becoming of a man to take the almighty dollar over everything else in his life, but Julius Rock (Terry Crews) makes it charming. Julius has a genuine desire to protect the financial well-being of his wife and kids, going to unrealistic lengths to save money. His financial literacy is surely useful to some extent for his children, as the Rocks will always know the value of a dollar and never go broke from frivolous purchases.
Philip Banks’ Protectiveness (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
There is no greater sitcom role model than Uncle Phil (James Avery) on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tasked with instilling real values and beliefs into the wandering young mind of Will (Will Smith), Philip Banks is the protector and guardian we all need in our lives. Uncle Phil may not always approve of everything his nephew does, but he’ll never stop believing in his potential, and he certainly will protect him from those who try to derail his future.
Homer Simpson’s Naiveté (The Simpsons)
A lot of the time men are poor fathers not because they are intentionally trying to be, but more because they don’t know any better. Homer Simpson is a symbol of all of the naive dads who wander through their fatherhood trying to learn about themselves and their children in the process. Fathers who are willing to fight through their absent-mindedness like Homer typically come out looking not too shabby in the end.