In honor of the Fall TV Season (finally) starting up again, I decided to make a list of the ten best TV dads in my lifetime. I know you’re probably wondering why I’d highlight dads when I’m a mom and all, but while I do believe that moms don’t get the credit they deserve, I think dads as a whole also get shafted. Oftentimes, they are seen as idiots who need directions for even the simplest things. It’s unfair to moms, who get judged for every little thing, but it’s also unfair to dads, as it seems society’s expectations of them are so low that they are celebrated for getting the tiniest things right.
These dads, though, have put in the work. They’re by no means perfect, but they love their kids, and do their best to do right by them.
So without further ado, I give you the best TV dads from my lifetime (in my humble opinion).
10) Marvin Eriksen Sr., How I Met Your Mother
Marvin Eriksen was Marshall’s dad, and over the course of his brief appearances in the show, it was clear how close he was to Marshall, and how Marshall saw his dad as his best friend. Marvin was always there for Marshall, and they spoke every single day until the day he died. While he may not have been a main character in the show, I included him because when I think of good guys in tv shows, Marshall always comes up. Marshall is a loving, caring, and confident husband and father, and that, I think, is in no small part thanks to his dad.
9) Adam Braverman, Parenthood
This is a dad who, like most of the dudes on this list, will do anything for his family. This can include teaching his nephew Drew how to dance, or dressing up like a pirate to connect with his son, or punching someone out for being derogatory towards his son, or even trying to dress hip to win over a rapper’s business so that his business can survive and he can continue to support his family. He may be a bit overprotective and resistant to how his children are growing up faster than he is ready for, but he is, at his core, a passionate, devoted and loving dad.
8) Ned Stark, Game of Thrones
His sense of honor is what got him killed, but you can’t deny that Ned was a good dad. He also was a good father to Jon Snow and to Theon Greyjoy, two kids who he knew were definitely not his own. But I think the best about Ned is that he saw all his children for who they were, and never tried to change them, while also instilling the same sense of honor and loyalty in them. You can see this especially in his relationship with Arya. In a world where noble girls are supposed to just grow up to be ladies, he knew that’s not who she was and helped encourage and cultivate that. He didn’t stop her from learning how to shoot an arrow, and also got her a “dancing instructor” to teach her to use her sword. He was supportive and loving until the very end (you know, when a-hole Joffrey had his head chopped off).
7) Jason Seaver, Growing Pains
There was a plethora (relatively speaking) of really positive Dad role models on tv in the 80s: Steven Keaton from Family Ties, Tony Micelli from Who’s the Boss, and Cliff Huxtable, the reigning TV dad on most “Best TV Dad” lists. But to me, Jason Seaver was the cream of the crop. He moved his psychiatric practice home so that he could be a stay at home dad while his wife Maggie went back to work, and he was great at it! He wasn’t your stereotypical idiot dad who didn’t know how to run the household when his wife was away. He was a fully capable dad who was always there for his kids. He was a perfect balance of that lovable fun dad who gave his kids guidance and help when they needed it. When his kids made mistakes, he wasn’t just quick to punish them. Instead, he showed concern and exhibited grace and patience. It is those qualities that made it easier for his kids to turn to him when they needed help. And quite unlike Cliff Huxtable, he wasn’t always trying to get his kids out of his house.
6) Phil Dunphy, Modern Family
The fun dad! He is goofy, and cheesy, and loves his children fiercely. He is not afraid to be silly or affectionate. He would do anything for his kids, like going into a crawl space to get Luke’s favorite truck, even though he’s terrified. He shows through example that his kids can be confident and true to themselves, and is always there to support them in their endeavors. At the same time, he is also not afraid to give them a reality check when they need one, and he is capable of being a parent instead of a friend when necessary (as evidenced in the episode where he punishes Haley and Alex when they try to take advantage of his niceness, or when he yells at Haley after she gets arrested in college).
5) Louis Huang, Fresh Off the Boat
Out of all the dads on this list, Louis Huang is probably most like my own dad. And it’s not just because he’s Asian….hahaha! It’s because he immigrated to the US in early adulthood and worked really hard to give his family a better life than the one he had. Like my own dad, Louis wanted to give his children the American dream. At the same time, he teaches his children the value of hard work, instead of just giving them what they want so easily. He gives them the means to achieve what they want, like when he gave Eddie a job to earn enough money to buy the overly hyped Shaq Fu game. Like a lot of dads on this list, he also lets his kids be who they are and appreciates their differences. He lets Eddie be the hip hop obsessed slacker, Emery be the sweet and gentle one who is naturally good at most things, and Evan be the star pupil, precious angel mama’s boy without comparing one to the other or trying to change them.
4) Alan Matthews, Boy Meets World
Yet another dad who wasn’t the forefront of the series to make this list, Alan Matthews is arguable the best of the TGIF dads. (Suck it, Danny Tanner!) He made sacrifices for the good of his family, getting work at a grocery store when he ended up starting his family young. At the same time, he was always there to give wise advise, support, and tough love to Cory, Eric, Morgan (both of them! lol), later Joshua, and even Shawn and Topanga. But the main reason he’s one of my favorites is how his children turned out. If you’ve watched any of Girl Meets World (which I, a 30-something mother with a grown up job and stuff, am now freely admitting that I have watched ALL OF IT) you’d know that Eric is still goofy, yet unusually wise; Morgan has finally been released from the confines of her room; Joshua turned out to be a sensitive, caring young adult; and most importantly, Corey became an amazing dad and teacher to his kids Riley and Auggie. This is largely due to Alan Matthews (and obviously Fee-heee-eeee-ney!).
3) Philip Banks, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Strict, but ultimately loving, Uncle Phil is an amazing father to not only his children, but to his nephew Will. He was patient, hard working, and an excellent provider for his family; but more than that, despite his surly demeanor, he loved his children, and was always there to comfort and protect them. This was especially evident in that unforgettable episode where Will breaks down after his deadbeat dad leaves him (again). Uncle Phil showed us that being a father meant more than being someone’s flesh and blood; it meant being there for everything: the good times, the bad times, and, for Will, all the crazy schemes in between!
2) Bob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers
Yet another dad on this list who will do literally anything for his children, Bob Belcher is quite possibly the best ever “average” dad. He does whatever it takes to provide for his family, which includes taking on a second job so he can give Tina a kick ass birthday party. He waxed his legs with Tina when she was too afraid to do it. He helped Louise get through her fear of the dentist by distracting her with an elaborate spy-themed game. He helped the kids put on the “Nice-capades” to help them try to convince Santa that they’re good kids, even if it meant paying a premium on felt at the craft store because they always jack up the prices on Christmas Eve. But aside from his willingness to do all the crazy stuff, Bob is a great dad because he gives his kids the freedom and the confidence to be themselves, in all their weirdly awesome glory.
1) Jack Pearson, This Is Us
The only reason Bob Belcher is not No. 1 on this list is because Jack Pearson is not your average dad. In fact, he’s so far above average that he was almost perfect. Obviously not completely perfect, as he DID have a drinking problem, and still made mistakes, but, according to his own wife, he was “pretty damn close. As close as they come.” This is a dad who, after finding out they were having triplets, knew he’d have to step it up and provide for his family. He sold his sweet ride to try and make some extra cash; and he set aside his pride to ask his dad for financial help when selling the car was not enough to secure a down payment for a home. He gave up his dream of owning his own home construction company in order to continue to provide for his family. He continually stepped it up for his family. This is a dad who made his daughter Kate feel beautiful when other girls were being mean to her about her weight. This is a dad who recognized that his son Randall was an exceptionally smart kid who was hiding his smarts to try to fit in, and encouraged him to be himself. This is a dad who showed by example how to be strong, loyal, and compassionate. If he had been any less, Randall would not have been able to open his home and heart to his birth father William. If he had been any less, Kate would not be as vulnerable and passionate, or as loyal or supportive of her twin brother, Kevin. If he had been any less, Kevin would not have realized in a random phone call that Randall was on the verge of a mental breakdown, ditched the opening night of his play, and run off to support his brother. Jack Pearson, for the win.