Amanda Pendolino
June 16, 2013

Our 9 Favorite TV Dads of All Time

Is your dad like Tim Taylor from Home Improvement? Or perhaps Hal from Malcolm in the Middle? This Father’s Day, we’re just hoping he doesn’t remind you of Frank Costanza from Seinfeld.

Once you’ve sent your dad a cheesy card about beer, golf, farts or recliners (greeting card companies really need to step up their game), take a moment to appreciate the other dads in your life — the ones on TV! My picks aren’t always the most wise or helpful dads, but I love them anyway. I know I’ve missed some — there are just too many awesome TV dads to choose from!

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

Photo credit: NBC

Photo credit: NBC

Nobody rocks a sweater (or hilariously scrunched-up face) quite like Dr. Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby. For eight seasons that lasted from 1984 to 1992, Dr. Huxtable offered a dry, sarcastic brand of parenting to his five children, who couldn’t seem to grow up and leave him alone.

When the hit sitcom celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009, Bill said of the show, “I wanted to … show people that this is parenting, and this is home, and this is deep. And though these people have their careers, their lives, and they’re comfortable—paying their bills and such, the wheels can come off with the behavior of your children, and you have to deal with that. But you also have a lot of fun.”

Tim Taylor (Home Improvement)

Oouah! Uhhhah? How exactly does one write the onomatopoeia of Tim Taylor’s trademark manly grunt at the end of the theme song of Home Improvement?  By any account, Tim (played by Tim Allen) is one of my favorite TV dads, an oblivious but lovable idiot who always has trouble with construction improvements as well as family improvements. (I see what you did with that title, ABC.)

Home Improvement lasted just as long as The Cosby Show — eight seasons, which aired from 1991 to 1999.

Walter White (Breaking Bad)

Photo credit: AMC

Photo credit: AMC

Now, I’m not nominating Walter White for Father of the Year — but he had to make my list of best TV dads because he’s so much fun to watch. At the beginning of the series, Walt actually has noble fatherly intentions: he wants his family to be taken care of if he dies of cancer — and he’s willing to do anything to make that happen, including cook meth in the desert with a degenerate former student. Later, he’s basically a sociopath whose greed and hunger for power knows no bounds — but, uhh … he still got Walter Jr. a cool car?

Last month, actor Bryan Cranston told Vulture, “if Walter White has a true superpower, it’s not his knowledge of chemistry or his intellect, it’s his ability to lie to himself.” Now if he would just cook Walter Jr. some breakfast …

Uncle Phil (Fresh Prince of Bel Air)

Uncle Phil! Uncle Phil! The best thing about Will Smith‘s antics on Fresh Prince of Bel Air was they were always followed with incredulous looks and explosive frustration from Uncle Phil (James Avery). He may not have been Will’s dad, but Uncle Phil always stepped in with fatherly advice, like when he demanded Will and Carlton bring Geoffrey back “or they’ll never find your bodies. And I’m a judge. I can make it happen.” Aw, I’m getting all warm and fuzzy.

Hal (Malcolm in the Middle)

That’s right, Bryan Cranston made my list twice! His roles are just so different; Wikipedia calls Hal a “disengaged but loving” father to kids Francis, Malcolm, Reese, Dewey and Jamie in Malcolm in the Middle, which aired seven seasons from 2000 to 2006. Ironically, Hal was once busted on suspicion of cooking crystal meth. A sign of the future, perhaps?

Martin Crane (Frasier)

How are snobby Frasier and Niles Crane related to their blue-collar retired cop dad Martin (John Mahoney)? Few snarky dads make me happier than Martin, who sat in his hideous recliner for a whopping 11 seasons of Frasier (1995 to 2004). Mahoney actually admitted he wasn’t interested in being “third banana” to Frasier (Kesley Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) but “sanity always prevailed” and he “realized I’m part of a memorable ensemble, and so what if it’s not all about me.”

Sandy Cohen (The O.C.)

Oh, how I miss The O.C., which premiered almost 10 years ago. (Can you believe it?) The soapy family dramedy lasted just four seasons, from 2003 to 2007 — and offered awesome parents Sandy and Kirsten in addition to its hot troubled parents (Tate Donovan!) and hot troubled teens.

“I read this script and thought it was astounding,” Peter Gallagher said of playing Sandy. “I thought it was exactly the right story to be telling at that point in time. It was about a family living in a not very embracing community, one that doesn’t necessarily share all their values. They’re in a conservative community, he’s a leftie Jewish guy from the Bronx, she’s a conservative, and they don’t lose their sense of humor or their inclination to help.”

Keith Mars (Veronica Mars)

Being a single dad is tough — but on Veronica Mars, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) did an amazing job with his fiery, precocious daughter. I’m so thrilled Keith will be back for the upcoming Veronica Mars movie!

“I didn’t write Keith Mars with Rico in mind, but when his name came up on a casting list, I said, ‘That’s the guy,’ explained show creator Rob Thomas. “We didn’t take anyone else to network. There was no plan B.” I can see why!

Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett (Modern Family)

Photo credit: ABC

Photo credit: ABC

Two dads are better than one! Lily of ABC’s Modern Family is so lucky to have Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), even if they sometimes disagree about how to parent.

“It’s a great acting job, a wonderful character I get to play, and it’s certainly socially relevant,” Jesse said of his role. “We were the only gay couple on network television, and certainly the only one raising a baby. It’s nice there are several others emerging on network television and cable.”

Who are your favorite dads on TV?