Not all TV dads are the same.

Take examples like Tim Allen’s sharp-witted Mike Baxter, and contrast him with Matt Groening’s, feckless Homer Simpson.

Forget for a moment that we’re talking about cartoon vs. human.

In any greatest-dad-of-all-time celebrity boxing match, we know Baxter would win.

The outdoor man vs. the “Duff” guzzling, obese, inattentive, drooling, lounge lizard.

A father with strength, humility, and a no-nonsense embrace of free speech, up against a slow, go-with-the-flow, disinterested dad.

Even if Homer were capable of a quick jab and block, the consequence would be an instant K.O.

The scene would resemble Balboa’s first bout against Mr. T in Rocky III.

Baxter would be ‘the last man standing.’


Not all TV dads set great examples.

Put aside the dry sarcasm of Ed O’Neil’s Al Bundy. What’s left is a joyless, negative stereotype of fatherhood.

Both Married with Children and The Simpsons mock marriage, fatherhood, and masculinity.

These dads might be good for a laugh, but their exaggeration exalts weak men.

The line between education and indoctrination melts away. “Smash-the-patriarchy” caricatures preached as normative, shouldn’t be accepted as the norm.

Not all TV dads should be emulated.

Minus an overuse of profanity padding scripts for Netflix’s The Ranch, what sets Sam Elliot’s Beau Bennett apart from Homer and Bundy are his Baxter qualities.

Bennett is flawed and he knows it.

He’s a lot like my maternal grandfather. To anyone looking to him for an example of gold standard parenting, he’d probably say, “look elsewhere.”

Bennett won’t win dad of the century. Nor would he want to.

What offsets Beau Bennett’s faults is the ability to recognise limitations as well as strengths. He’s stubborn, but teachable.

His brutal honesty and disdain for people-pleasing helps him command respect. Especially from his just-as-stubborn, smart-mouthed sons.

Not all TV dads should be written off as dead-beats.

Here are three all-star TV dads who communicate real life dad skills.

John Walton (Ralph Waite). The Waltons aired for 9 seasons. A 10th if you include 6 reunion movies filmed across a span of 15 years.

The words “goodnight everybody” comforted a generation.

According to Judy Norton, the actress who played the eldest Walton daughter:

“He was the father everybody would like to have.”

Walton’s example of ‘uncompromising honesty’ still holds true.

The woods were his cathedral. From its high and low places, Walton forged out a love for God, country, family and healthy tradition.

He fought for, not against his family.

Another example is Dr Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby).

Remove the character from the controversial actor. Heathcliff’s real strengths were pitch-perfect warm humour, attentiveness to his wife, and hawkish dad skills.

Add Happy DaysHoward Cunningham (Tom Bosely).

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.

The type of dad who fights for his wife and kids, not against them.

[Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels]

About the Author: Rod Lampard

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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