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Famous TV Fathers

We’ve welcomed some pretty memorable TV dads into our homes over the years. From Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best to Robbie Stewart in Hanna Montana, we look at what makes a few of those fathers stand out.

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Which famous fathers stand out in your mind?

Jim Anderson
Show: Father Knows Best
Actor: Robert Young

This ’50s family comedy seems quaint today, but viewers adored Jim Anderson and his idealized family. Jim, who worked as an insurance agent, was a congenial and reassuring father who usually did know best. In one episode, when his son, Bud, was discouraged from bringing his bongos to a party, Jim secretly phoned the hostess and let her listen in on Bud’s playing to change her mind. The show espoused moral lessons, but it was Jim’s wit and humorous antics that kept viewers tuning in. Funny gags and snappy one-liners gave life to the show and earned Young two Emmy awards.

Michael Paul Brady
Show: The Brady Bunch
Actor: Robert Reed

Though the ’70s were rife with feminism, The Brady Bunch, still promoted traditional family roles. As such, Mike Brady was the head of his blended family-consisting of his three sons, wife Carol and her three girls. In changing times, Mike’s steady and trustworthy persona had a certain appeal. Though he consulted his wife, Carol, about the everyday challenges of raising six children, Mike was the one who meted out discipline. When the kids racked up a huge phone bill, Mike had a pay phone installed for their use. Mike was also the moral compass of the family, reminding the boys when they lost to the girls building card houses, “Isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” He was an architect and took his job seriously, but we liked the fact he was first and foremost a family man.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable
Show: The Cosby Show
Actor: Bill Cosby

During the ’80s, the Huxtable family challenged the negative portrayal of African Americans on television. Cliff and his wife were affluent, successful professionals who had a functional family. That was significant, but it was Cosby’s gentle and intelligent brand of comedy that drew an audience. Life lessons were always delivered with humour and empathy. During one episode, Cliff uses Monopoly money to demonstrate the cost of living to Theo in order to disabuse him of the romantic notion he has of living on his own like a “regular person.” Cosby’s comic timing is impeccable as Cliff asks his son if he plans to have a girlfriend and then snatches the last few dollars from his hand. No wonder the results from a 2005 Harris Poll showed that Cliff Huxtable is the television father adults would most like to have had growing up.

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Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor
Show: Home Improvement
Actor: Tim Allen

Suburban father of three Tim Taylor was a man’s man-or at least he tried to be, and it was these bungled attempts that made his character so appealing. Tim was the host of a local TV show called Tool Time, but it was actually his assistant Al who knew how to use the tools. Whenever Tim got near tools or machinery, unfortunate accidents occurred. In one episode, he’s operating a crane and accidentally drops a beam on his wife’s car. Despite his chest-beating axiom of “more power,” he was still a caring husband and dad. That duality played out in the advice he gave his kids-less wholesome than Mike Brady’s but not as mean-spirited as Homer Simpson’s. He advises youngest son Mark, for example, that if something good happens and his older brothers are happy for him, then something’s wrong. Home Improvement was immensely popular in the ’90s, and Allen’s performance earned him a Golden Globe in 1995.

Homer Simpson
Show: The Simpsons
Actor: Voiced by Dan Castellaneta

When Homer Simpson ambled onto the American television landscape in the ’90s, he was the antithesis of role-model fathers such as Jim Anderson and Cliff Huxtable. Homer was rude, crude, overweight and lazy. He was also morally questionable. For example, when Homer organized a citizens’ watch group, they ended up breaking more laws than they protected. In another episode, he dispensed this advice: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” Nevertheless, viewers identified with and embraced this working-class stiff. The genius of Homer is that while he comes up short in many areas, he’s devoted to his wife, Marge, and three kids, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. And that makes the lout endearing and even admirable in spite of everything else. D’oh!

Robby Stewart
Show: Hannah Montana
Actor: Billy Ray Cyrus

Forget the cringe-worthy “Achy Breaky Heart” and the mullet. Billy Ray Cyrus is back with a better haircut and a better gig as Robby Stewart on the show Hannah Montana, which debuted in 2006. The premise of the show is that Robby’s daughter Miley Stewart (played by Billy Ray’s real-life daughter Miley) lives a double life as both a regular teenager and pop star Hannah Montana. When Robbie isn’t writing songs or managing Hannah’s career, we can’t help but crack a smile at the plucky widower who inadvertently embarrasses his daughter with his goofy behaviour and what Miley calls “fortune cookie advice.” A modern dad, Robby doesn’t always have to be in control and lets his own insecurities show-as when he goes on a date with Miley’s best friend’s mom.