Column: Celebrating television’s top dads

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

This Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day.

While many countries honor their patriarchs, the United States celebration is said to have started in 1908 in West Virginia as a church service.

My dad is no longer with us, so, to be honest, Father’s Day is one of those holidays I’d just as soon skip over.

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But, I don’t want this Father’s Day column to be a downer, so we’re going to celebrate the most memorable fathers who ever appeared on television.

I’m sure you’ll have your own to add to this list, but these are mine – hope you find at least some you agree with.

Homer Simpson of “The Simpsons.” Doh! What better way to tell your children that you don’t have to be perfect. You can just show them. And, in the end, he always brings the family together.

Al Bundy of “Married with Children.” As helpless as Al was sometimes, he would have been completely hopeless without his family. Deep, deep down inside, Al seemed to know that.

Cliff Huxtable of “The Cosby Show.” Bill Cosby truly created the perfect father with this role. Sometimes his kids, or his wife, got the best of him, but most of the time he taught them life lessons in funny and touching ways. Besides, what kid doesn’t like for their father to fix breakfast? “Dad is great. He gives us chocolate cake.”

Charles Ingalls of “Little House on the Prairie.” Call me sappy. It’s okay. I admit it. I cry like a baby when I watch this show. For any child who ever felt disenfranchised or unloved, Michael Landon was a great substitute father. He could be stern, but never hit his kids. He worked hard, but managed to make time for fishing and playing ball. There is perhaps no father on television who showed more love for his family.

Zeb Walton of “The Waltons.” I know I skipped the father here, and he was a great character as well. But who didn’t love Grandpa Walton. He was mischievous and fun-loving, but passed on wisdom with almost every breath.

Archie Bunker of “All in the Family.” There is no grumpier father figure than the one portrayed by Carroll O’Connor. He was a whining bigot who constantly argued with his liberal son-in-law. But, he was also a family man – a blue-collar worker whose heart was always in the right place.

Andy Taylor of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Talk about cutting edge, progressive television. Andy Taylor was a working, single father who dated various women, but always made it clear who was No. 1 in his heart. Of course, he had Aunt Bee to help him out, but the heart-to-heart talks between Andy and Opie are some of the most memorable. For a show that’s about 50 years old, it was ahead of its time.

Tony Soprano of “The Sopranos.” Yes, he was a murderer, an adulterer, a crook, a mob boss and he had no problem cracking someone’s skull if they crossed him. He even had his nephew’s girlfriend whacked. But, he was always a concerned father. His dirty money bought his son an SUV and paid for his daughter’s college education. Never has there been a television father as protective of his family. Never did one have to be.

Dudes from “Family Ties,” “Growing Pains,” “My Two Dads,” “Step by Step” and “Family Matters.” They are all really about the same guy. Just normal, every day fathers who sacrifice, look silly and take the fall, all in order to do what’s best for their children.

And isn’t that that fatherhood is really all about?

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.