TV’s Best Dads

In honor of Father’s Day, I want to take a look at TV’s best dads.  Over the last few years, dads on TV have become the butt of all the jokes and are always portrayed as the buffoon who can’t get anything done without someone there to help him.  A recent article in The Daily Mail shows that TV viewers are starting to get tired of the way dads a portrayed on TV.  Let’s go back to a time when dad was a good guy and not a moron.  The dads on my list come from all ages of TV and are the types of dads that I think most of us strive to be.  Here they are, TV’s best dads:

Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best)

Photo courtesy of CBS

One of TV’s first dads and one of the dads that everyone talks about when you talk TV dads.  FATHER KNOWS BEST started as a radio show in the 40s and then moved to TV in the 50s.  The show was originally sponsored by a cigarette company which tells you about the times.  As a 50s family, this is about as ideal as it gets.  Mom the housewife, dad the head of household who offers sage advice to the kids and everyone loves each other and is happy.




Ward Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver)

Ward Cleaver is another of the 50s dads that when you think of TV dads, he comes to mind.  LEAVE IT TO BEAVERfeatured another nuclear family with the housewife mom who always wore a dress and the all-knowing dad who was there to guide the family through such difficult issues as why doesn’t the Beav do his homework?  Did everyone in the 50s always wear suits?


Carl Winslow (Family Matters)

Photo courtesy of ABC

Our first 80s dad on the list, Carl Winslow was the head of a large family in Chicago. He did the best he could and even gave advice to his amazingly annoying neighbor who as the years went on, became more and more a part of his family.









Tom Corbett (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father)

Photo courtesy of ABC

This show was on in re-runs in the late 70s and early 80s after school so even though it aired before I was born, I became familiar with it and used to watch it regularly.  The show was probably known more for it’s Harry Nilsson theme song but widower Tom Corbett was as good a dad as he could be.




Tom Bradford (Eight is Enough)

Photo courtesy of ABC

Based on the real life of newspaper columnist Thomas Braden, EIGHT IS ENOUGH featured dad Tom Bradford and his eight children.  Being a show of the 70s, real issues started to be dealt with such as the death of a spouse, the arrest of a child, drugs, teen pregnancy, and all the things that BLOSSOM  would cover in very special episodes in the next decade.  Tom Bradford after having been widowed had the job of taking care of eight crazy kids by himself.  Oh, and Ralph Macchio got his start on this show too FYI.




Jack Arnold (The Wonder Years)

Photo courtesy of ABC

Jack Arnold is a dad that was dealing with a lot.  From an older generation and trying to raise kids in the late 60s, there was a lot of turmoil.  The pilot episode dealt with the oldest son in the family being killed in Vietnam and how that would affect the rest of the family.  As dad, Jack did the best he knew how to do which is all that anyone can ask of a dad.


7 Comments on TV’s Best Dads

  1. Another Midwest Mike // June 17, 2013 at 8:35 am //

    How about a list of TV dads we are actually like?

    Tops on my list would be Phil Dunphy (but only his endearing qualities).

    • Midwest Mike // June 17, 2013 at 10:28 am //

      I like that idea Midwest Mike 2 but how long would that list be? I think Modern Family does a pretty good job with their dads. Phil is a good dad and while buffoonish at times, he isn’t always the idiot and while his wife rolls her eyes at nearly everything he says, she is shown to be wrong more often than not and Phil is the one who had the right idea. That’s rare for TV. Jay is a good character and he may be a lot like most dads (other than being insanely rich with a smoking hot younger wife). Jay has grown and developed as a character and learned to accept his kids more for who they are and he has done less ridiculing and mocking and more supporting and enjoying his family.

      • Midwest Mark // June 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm //

        On a side note, there’s two Midwest Mikes now?!? Frightening. Feel free to wax poetic on snack cakes and gummi candies.

  2. keith and megan's mom // December 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm //

    So glad you included Ward Cleaver. Even now, when I watch reruns, I can’t believe what a cool dad he was. He never over reacted and always knew when the boys needed some room. He was a great husband, too, without being patronizing to his wife (back in those days, it would pretty easy to do). He had a good sense of humor and ALWAYS helped with the dishes!!! Eddie’s dad rocked, too!! Thanks. that was fun

    • Midwest Mike // December 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm //

      I agree with you about Ward. He had the perfect balance that I’m sure parents even today wish they could emulate. You are right about how he treated his wife too because back then it would have been easy for him to not treat her well but he never did that. He always treated her with respect which is also the mark of a good dad, particularly a dad with boys. Your job is to teach your sons how to treat women and Ward did a good job with his responsibility.

  3. AWESOME post, Mike! And a great list. (I seriously lol’d at some of your points…like 7th Heaven.) I love that you covered all decades, too. A very comprehensive list. It was interesting how many of them were single dads. I didn’t realize there were really that many single dads on TV. Appreciate, too, the Carol Martin notation. 😉 An awesome, awesome post! LOVE IT!

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