The best TV dads

This Father’s Day, post up on the couch and binge one of these TV classics—all featuring memorable dads who lead by example.

By Eliza Berkon, Winn Duvall, Stefanie Gans, Beth Kellmurray and Lynn Norusis

If your ideal Father’s Day is hanging out at home with the family, we suggest posting up on the couch and binging one of these TV classics—all featuring memorable dads who lead by example.

Jack Arnold, The Wonder Years

Jack Arnold was the quintessential father of the 1960s. He worked his 9-to-5 job, returning home to eat dinner and retreat to his couch or garage. Weekends were spent doing housework or working on the car. He was the authority figure and doled out one-liners mostly of the “Just do what I tell you” variety. He is a great father figure because he set the example of hard work and doing your part as a member of a family and society but also was there when his kids really needed him. Most important though, he was one to admit when he was wrong and when he could have done better (as seen in the episode where Wayne attempted to join the Army). –LN

Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

Is there anyone more genuinely full of joy than Phil Dunphy? The lovable (and loving) dad’s goofball antics and attempts to be the cool dad are the perfect foil to wife Claire’s perfectionist tendencies, and you’ll have a hard time convincing me he isn’t the glue holding the sometimes-dysfunctional Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan together: He doles out humor, compassion and wisdom—in the form of Phil’s-osophy, expounded upon above—in the exact right measure, whether he’s dealing with one of his own kids or any of the overgrown children in the family. –WD

Philip Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Sure, we all strive to chill out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, but sometimes life gets flipped and turned upside down. Philly collides with Bel-Air. Cultures clash. You need a moral compass, a guide. Philip Banks was often that guide for his nephew. And the show as a whole demonstrated how shared identity prevails over divergent backgrounds. In this clip from season one, Phil throws down legal knowledge on a cop who mistakenly arrested Will and Carlton for car theft. –BK

Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

From the moment you meet Eric Taylor, better known as Coach T, you love him. That’s because he’s not only a father figure to his own daughter but also to every member of his football team and even to the audience. There’s no one who can speak extemporaneously in such an inspiring and un-Danny Tanner-like way as Taylor and no one who can convey such unconditional support through tough love. Plus, he’s got boyish charm and a Southern lilt that could make anyone feel at home. –EB

Jim Walsh, Beverly Hills, 90210

The top five reasons you watch(ed) Beverly Hills, 90210 are as follows:

1. The theme song
2. Brandon’s dimples
3. Brenda’s attitude
4. Tiffani. Amber. Thiessen.
5. Jim Walsh

Walsh was an undervalued component of the show’s success but truly integral. Not only does he provide the best moment of the opening credits with his, “Yeah, I’m Jim Walsh,” laugh-nod (shout out to Bill Simmons’ unforgettable 90210 podcast), but he was also there to pick up the pieces on so many occasions (Brenda getting stuck in Mexico after sneaking off with Dylan, Brandon getting thrown in jail for a DUI) and loved his wife endlessly, refusing to cheat on her with his hot secretary even after Cindy Walsh had a romantic tryst with a photographer. Jim is a man with a conscience. A man with character. A man, who though balding and endowed with a hearty helping of chest hair, was a beautiful example of fatherhood. –EB

Dan Conner, Roseanne

I love Dan Conner not for his (lack of) money or his (teddy bear) looks or his (sometimes) temper. I love him because he is a dedicated family man. He is tender and quick with a joke. He can handle three obnoxious kids, an always-there sister-in-law and one of the most deliciously disobedient wives TV has ever known. Is he the dream dad? No. Is he the dad who would pick me up from god-knows-where in the middle of the night and keep it from mom, while simultaneously reprimanding me and making me feel safe? Yes. And that’s good enough for me. –SG

Louie, Louie

Now that I’m a parent I insist on knowing the ugly, ugly truth about raising children. And there is nothing more real than watching the naked panic reverberating through Louie’s whole body as he searches for his daughter in New York’s subway. This show is sometimes funny, usually dark, but always illuminating in how this particular father tries to be there for his girls, and it is scary and real and honorable. –SG

(June 2017 Father’s Day Guide)

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