Tales From A Hungry Life

June 12, 2013

My Top TV Dads

by Maria Schulz

Last month, I listed some of my favorite TV Moms of all time in my blog post, Happy Mother’s Day. Now, in honor of Father’s Day, it’s Dad’s turn.

My Top TV Dads


Archie Bunker, All in the Family

Yes, Archie was prejudiced and ignorant. But when it came to his wife, daughter, grandson, and yes, son-in-law (the one he called Meathead), Archie was a softie. He would sit with his grown daughter, Gloria, in his lap and comfort her about everything from miscarriages to marriage troubles. You may not have agreed with his politics, opinions, or worldview, but you had to love Archie’s fathering style.

"Eight Is Enough Wedding" Dick Van Patton

Tom Bradford, Eight is Enough

Journalist by day, no-nonsense Dad by night, Tom Bradford was a good guy who kind of let his kids go way out there before reeling them in. As someone who came from a family with seven children, I could understand how he might have a hard time keeping up with everyone’s antics. His hands-off approach to parenting felt very familiar. However, his fathering style was way different from my Dad’s, since he didn’t respond with the same fury as a volcanic eruption. He would get red-faced and stern, and maybe yell (although that wasn’t really yelling where I came from). I attributed his quiet rage to the fact that he wasn’t Latin or Catholic. In the end, it took a lot to get Tom mad, but when his kids did finally flip that switch, he went crazy. I thought he was a great Dad…even if he was too nice.

The Addams Family

Gomez Adams…The Adams Family

Gomez may have been over-the-top eccentric, but he was a fun-loving Dad. He let Pugsley play with his trains and encouraged him to blow them up. He kept Wednesday in Marie Antoinette dolls and didn’t get mad when she cut their heads off. He let them have all sorts of crazy pets, including a lion they called Kitty Cat, an octopus named Aristotle, a pair of piranhas named Tristan and Isolde, a vulture named Zelda, and an African strangler plant named Cleopatra. He was crazy over his nutty wife and patient with all of his relatives—including Cousin Itt, whose lack of facial expressions and wacky language never made Gomez give up on him. In fact, he understood him perfectly! He’d laugh at Uncle Fester’s light bulb joke over and over and never had a mean word for Grandmama. He was even kind to poor, long-suffering Lurch. I guess being rich and crazy really helps you maintain your sunny disposition.

jack arnold

Jack Arnold, The Wonder Years

You’ve got to hand it to Mr. Arnold. He works hard every day to support his family, loves his wife Norma dearly and tries to connect with his kids, although it isn’t his top priority. The way he loses his patience and blows up at them is legendary. It’s the late 60s, early 70s, and Vietnam is raging. He’s a Korean War vet who has to listen to his hippy daughter, Karen, spout anti-war diatribes. His oldest son, Wayne, is a big mouth and a troublemaker who often wrecks his car. His youngest son, Kevin, seems dreamy and unfocused. When Kevin asks his father one day to sum up his life, Jack says: “I get up. I fight traffic. I go to work and bust my hump. Then I go home and fight traffic. And I pay my taxes.”

He sounds a lot like every father I ever met in the 60s and 70s. Come to think of it, he sounds a lot like the fathers I know now.

phil dunphy

Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

I wasn’t so sure I was going to like Phil when this series started. He seemed dumb, and his giant crush on his father-in-law’s trophy wife was irritating. But instead of asking, “how can his wife stay with him?” or “how can his kids stand him?” I think I understand now.

Yes, he still does stupid things and his wife, Claire, gets annoyed by the longing glances and comments he throws Gloria’s way, but he is clearly over-the-moon for his wife. Plus, he’s the kind of Dad whose easy-going demeanor disappears when one of his kids is threatened. One of the funniest episodes showed Phil wanting to kill his oldest daughter’s creepy, wrong-in-every-way-imaginable boyfriend, but holding back on Claire’s advice. His suffering is evident to everyone except his daughter…for a little while, anyway.

homer donuts

Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

Okay, so Homer is hardly the poster boy for fatherhood. He never listens to his wife, Marge, and would rather lay on the couch drinking a Duff beer and eating donuts while watching TV than helping his kids do…well, anything. He treats his next-door-neighbor, Flanders, in the most appalling way. Here’s a typical conversation you might hear Homer having (from The Simpsons Movie):

Bart Simpson: You know, we are on the roof. We could have some fun.

Homer Simpson: What kind of fun?

Bart Simpson: How bout a dare contest?

Homer Simpson: That sounds fun! I dare you to… climb the TV antennae!

Bart Simpson: [Bart climbs it easily] Piece of cake.

Homer Simpson: [starts shaking the antennae] Earthquake!

[Bart falls off and hangs onto the railing]

Homer Simpson: [starts shaking the railing] Aftershock!

Ned Flanders: Uh, Homer? I don’t mean to be a nervous Pervis, but if he falls, couldn’t that make your boy a parapleg-erino?

Homer Simpson: Shut up, Flanders!

Bart Simpson: Yeah, shut up, Flanders!

Homer Simpson: Well said, boy!

But deep down, Homer is lovable and kind, and he’d do anything for Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Flanders, however, is on his own.

happy days

Howard Cunningham, Happy Days

Mr. C. was the kind, friendly, but firm Dad that kept Richie, Fonzie, Ralph and Potsie on the straight and narrow. He ran his hardware store honestly and barely lost a step when his mid-life crisis set in following a “This Is Your Life” moment at his 50th birthday party. Mr. C. never stopped being a stand-up guy. He had a hug and a pack of lifesavers for Richie when he missed the final shot at his basketball game! He cheered on Fonzie when he jumped the shark! He let Joanie love Chachi! And he even forgave Fonzie when he thought he was cheating with Mrs. C. (of course they weren’t cheating; Fonzie was her dance partner in a local ballroom competition).

So…how does my Dad compare to these TV greats?

  • He let his kids go WAY out there before reeling them in
  • When his kids flipped his switch, he went crazy
  • He got up, faced traffic (or the subway), busted his hump, and paid his taxes
  • He may have been over-the-top eccentric, but he let his kids have lots of crazy pets, including a hamster named Columbus, a mouse called Ben, a rat named JW, a litter of abandoned kittens, adult cats, a string of dogs and a Minah bird with an Italian accent
  • He was pretty funny when he didn’t like our girlfriends or boyfriends
  • He had a mid-life crisis but he was still a stand-up guy
  • My Dad would’ve preferred a Rolling Rock beer and a snooze on the couch to playing with us as kids
  • He has been known to hold his grown daughter close when comfort was needed
  • If we’d been on the roof together, I’m sure he would’ve shaken the antenna I was holding on to
  • He would have cheered me on if I ever decided to wear a leather jacket and jump the shark


french onion soup

French Onion Soup

My Dad got interested in cooking when I was a teenager. So, every Sunday, we would march in and try his latest culinary attempt. Some dishes were great, and some dishes were…not so great. I dedicate an entire chapter to this phase of my father’s life in my book (yes, I’m still working on it and hope to have it out soon). Here’s a recipe for French Onion Soup, which was one of his favorite dishes to make.


So, Hungry Lifers…which TV Dad most resembles your Dad? What recipe would you choose for him? What’s the best thing your father ever taught you? Since Father’s Day is just a few days away, I wanted to thank my Dad for everything (including reading & commenting on my blog every time). Happy Father’s Day to my husband (another great Dad) and to my brothers as well.

To all the men who have ever taught their kids how to ride a bike, drive a car, fix something that’s broken, shoot a basketball, hit or catch a baseball, or be a stand-up person from their example: Happy Father’s Day!



  1. Ed Neil’s Jay Pritchett on Modern Family. Come on being a father of a baby at his age. That among other things. He’s my favorite TV father. Also Archie was a real softie but besides that he was a great ballplayer who had to give it up because he had to go to work to help support his Mom. You know how many guys had fathers that had to give up dreams because they they had other responsibilities? I knew quite a few but not of the present day. Maybe they don’t confide in me. But my favorite father of all time is my Father. He got up, went to work, busted his hump, came home , ate, listened to the radio, went to bed, got up and did it all over again. But he always had time to laugh and when we were little and he could understand us, he was a real softie who called me “Tuna Fish” and “Little Mither” while he took me in the carriage for a ride around a pond in a park in Corona. He really was a good role model. My French Onion soup was great just ask Tony for the effect it had on him.

    Comment by Bglou — June 12, 2013 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

    • I like Jay Pritchett, but stand by my choice of Phil Dunphy. He is such a lovable character. Hey…your father was one of my favorite real Dads of all time too! I wish I had been able to spend more time with him.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 12, 2013 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  2. I will use this moment to also give a shout out to my father, Bruno. After my mother became sick with MS in the 70’s, there was talk that they would divorce, but my Dad and Mom did not know the meaning of that word. My Dad’s family was not very nice, and thought a man in his 40’s should have an able bodied woman. They never divorced. Mom’s bedroom was downstairs and Dad slept upstairs, but it always made me and my brothers giggle, when Dad would swoop Mom in his arms and carry her upstairs to the ” marital bedroom. ” We were then told to go out and play. When Mom passed in 1988, we often told Dad to go find another woman. He did not seem interested. Gambling and ” fast woman ” became his passion. When Dad got older and the docs told him to take a pill for his blood sugar, blood pressure, salt and other things, he basically refused, and Dad passed on in 2004. I will always remember him as strong man who lived his life his way, and cared and provided for his wife and kids tirelessly.

    Comment by John Berghino — June 12, 2013 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

    • What a great tribute to your Dad! I remember both of your parents. They were always kind and welcoming to me when I was in your home. Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Bruno! I hope your Mom and Dad are having fun there.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 12, 2013 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

  3. Big props for the Jack Arnold pick! (You thought I was going to say Homer, didn’t you…)

    Comment by turafish — June 13, 2013 @ 12:15 am | Reply

    • Thanks, I loved Jack Arnold. What a great character. And you know I have a soft spot for Homer, too!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 13, 2013 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  4. None of the TV Dads I can think of really remind me of my Dad, but I guess I could take bits and pieces of many of them and put together a reasonable comparison. However, the one Hollywood scene which truly reminds me of fond childhood memories of my father is the scene at the end of Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner asks his Dad, when his Dad was a young professional baseball player trying to make it in the big leagues and who just walked out of the corn field, to have a catch. That scene vividly illustrates an activity which countless fathers and sons have shared for generations but it brings me to tears every time I watch for that lost innocence and pure joy of playing ball with my Dad.

    Comment by John Wagner — June 17, 2013 @ 11:21 pm | Reply

    • That’s beautiful! Your Dad was always ready with a smile and a kind word for me. Thanks for the comment and for always reading my blog. I appreciate it!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 19, 2013 @ 12:05 am | Reply

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