Daddy dearest: The best fathers on TV

Just in time for Fathers’ Day, we look at the best TV dads and find the pickings are slim

Think of TV dads. There are a few names that spring to mind pretty quickly: Homer Simpson, Tony Soprano, Walter White… not a list of names that inspires confidence in the role of the male parent. True, the former often makes an appearance in this kind of list, but despite his sporadic good deeds, I can’t see anyone wishing they could count themselves among his progeny. Indeed, there seems to be a trend in TV dads of being negligent, selfish, absent, disinterested or downright murderous. Great TV mums are easier to come by, but luckily there are a few decent men to be found, saving us from the point where the only criteria for making the list would be not killing your child.

Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights – Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) should teach classes in parenting. The stern-but-caring football coach is a ‘no bullshit’ father figure to the Dillon Panthers and East Dillon Lions, helping his young charges through a wide range of trying times. He’s also a strong, reliable actual father to his teenage daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) and his weirdly cute troll baby Gracie Bell. His indefatigable marriage to the wonderful Tammy (Connie Britton) is an example to us all and one of the few on-screen relationships that feels utterly real and inspirational at the same time. Eric’s doesn’t always get it right, but watching his usually unshakeable demeanour crumble in the face of a teenage daughter is nothing if not endearing.

Bob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers – The TV tradition, particularly with animation, is that the wife is the solid, reliable parent and the father is the raving lunatic, prone to impossibly awful decisions and terrifying spontaneity. Bob and Linda Belcher are one of the few examples of that dynamic being reversed, Bob’s best efforts to keep things on an ev en keel regularly disrupted by Linda’s flights of fancy. But there is never anything less than 100 per cent devotion to and love for their children behind everything they do, whether it’s trying to trick Louise into going to the dentist or treating Linda to a Mother’s Day of free food at open houses.

Ned Stark, Game Of Thrones – HBO’s bloody adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series is so full of awful fathers, you’d worry for Martin’s childhood, were it not for Stark (Sean Bean). Tywin Lannister raised two of his children to kill everyone and fornicate with each other, Stannis Baratheon [SPOILER ALERT] burned his daughter to appease the same witch he impregnated with a shadow assassin and Roose Bolton turned Ramsay into an unnatural abomination. Ned, on the other hand, raised two sons to become kings and his daughters to be two of the strongest women in Westeros, capable of surviving terrible ordeals. Still, all that great parenting didn’t help Ned keep his head.

Phil Dunphy, Modern Family – I’m not saying you’d necessarily choose Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) as a dad, but he has a lot of plus points. He’s got a heart of gold, he tries his absolute hardest to relate to his kids (often to hideous fault) and there’s the consolation that you’ll never be the least cool person in your family. Still, he should be able to teach you some things. I mean, this is a man who has made being embarrassing into an art form and still somehow managed to marry someone like Claire.

Hal Wilkerson, Malcolm In The Middle – Hal (Bryan Cranston) is every bit as much of a kid as his kids, so it’s very easy to understand why his wife Lois is permanently lingering somewhere between exasperation and fury. But there something incredibly endearing about his puppyish enthusiasm and sweet-natured goofiness. He may be inept, but he’d be the most fun dad ever and a damn sight better than Cranston’s other famous TV dad, the megalomaniacal Walter White.

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