Cunningham’s firm, street-smart fathering earned for him a level of respect from teenagers only reserved for rock idols and peers.
Like Walton and Huxtable, Cunningham delivered on his promises. He met kids on their level. Sometimes getting into trouble himself, Cunningham shouldered both highs, lows, laughs and sighs, from one adventure to another.
Then there’s crime-buster Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson). The Die-Hard dad from Family Matters. Without Carl the career cop, and the Winslow fam, there’d be no Steve Urkel. The kid reluctantly taken in, after it becomes clear his family had abandoned him.
Not all TV dads are dads.
Plenty of standouts exist.
Father, widower and businessman Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) from Different Strokes.
Uncle Bill Davis (Brian Keith), Family Affair.
Uncle Jesse Duke (Denver Pyle), The Dukes of Hazzard.
One could also argue that the greatest example in this list was Sherman T. Potter from M*A*S*H.
The Colonel becomes a father figure to a ragamuffin mobile medical establishment. Stern, but fair. Cast-iron, but capable of empathy.
This list isn’t definitive. There’s plenty more of the good, the bad and the ugly. While some indoctrinate, most educate.
They show that fathers aren’t dispensable characters on a screen.
Being a dad can be messy. There will be bloopers.
Life is not lived out from a script or magical formula.
Some TV Dads are worth emulating.
Although fictional, the qualities in their fathering are real. Their stories resonate.
Their example confronts us.
The truth in these allegories grips us.
They inspire as much as they entertain. That’s why some of the TV Dads listed remain popular today.
Baxter, Bennett, Walton, Heathcliffe, Winslow, and Potter inspire us to be the kind of dad you’d want on your team in the heat of battle.
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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