Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Twelve Dads

So yesterday I had an amazing idea for a documentary. Someone should interview all of the TV dads from 80s sitcoms, the guys who helped shepherd all of us 80s children into adulthood, and find out where they are now and how they coped with being pop culture patriarchs (and also why all the moms were always dead before the show started. WTF?). Another angle could be more of a reality TV show, in which the dads live together in a house and compete in challenges like "talk to your teenager about the dangers of drunk driving while wearing a hideous sweater," and "chaperone your adolescent daughter's middle school dance with embarrassing and/or hilarious results."

Anyway, here are my top 12 dads, in no particular order:

1. Steven Keaton from Family Ties, aka Michael Gross

What would we do, baby, without us? The Keatons were such hippies, which was awesome, and I always thought Steven was sexy in a dorky way. I had a thing for men with beards as a kid, probably because my actual dad had one... gross.

2. Troy Garland from Out of This World, aka Burt Reynolds (voice)

He's an alien dad that talks through a Tetris-looking crystal! That sounds like the Bandit! Best dad ever!

3. Willie Tanner from Alf, aka Max Wright

So nerdy and world-weary (presumably from having to put up with aiding and abetting an illegal alien), I love Willie Tanner, but mostly I want him on the show to bicker with the other Mr. Tanner (see below).

4. Jack Arnold from The Wonder Years, aka Dan Lauria

Mr. Arnold was so scary and hardcore that I used to hold my breath when he came into a room, even though we were separated by, like, electrodes and time-space continuums and, probably, 3,000 miles. He was comforting, too, though, like a protective pit bull.

5. & 6. Michael Taylor and Joey Harris from My Two Dads, aka Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan

If I had been Stacy Keanan, I would have demanded the results of that DNA test, because if Greg Evigan was NOT my dad, I would want to make out with him. (Related: OH MY GOD do not click on this Wikipedia link if you want Greg Evigan to remain forever hot in your mind's eye.)

7. Dr. Jason Seaver from Growing Pains, aka Alan Thicke

Confession: I never really liked Jason Seaver; he always struck me as kind of a dick. But he lorded over my formative years with that magnificent white man flat-top, plus he faux-sired dreamy Kirk Cameron (who I will always remember as he was before he found Jesus in the mid-90s). So that's something.

8. Tony Micelli from Who's The Boss, aka Tony Danza

Do you ever wonder if when characters have the same name as the actor who plays them it's because the actor is too dumb to respond to another name? No matter. I love Tony Danza, Tony Banta, and Tony Micelli. His good-hearted but clueless efforts to parent Alyssa Milano without a mom always tug at my heartstrings. (P.S. Someone put Katherine Helmond back on TV. Mona rocked.)

9., 10., & 11. Danny Tanner, Joey Gladstone, and Jesse Katsopolis from Full House, aka Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos

Danny and Joey always irked me (especially the latter. No, really--CUT. IT. OUT, motherfucker.), but these three are kind of like a single, three-headed dad so I feel they must all be recognized. Actually every single character on this show--with the exception of DJ, who I sort of identified with and whose crimped hair I coveted, and Uncle Jesse, who is hottttt--made me wince. And yet I watched Full House anyway. Ah, my devotion to even horrendous television was always there, as if from birth...

...and of course, the Grand Poobah of sitcom dads,

12. Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable from The Cosby Show, aka Bill Cosby

Who didn't want to be a stow away in the Huxtable's Brooklyn brownstone? Cosby's Cliff remains one of the most lovable, drily hilarious fictional dads of all time. Although to interview Cosby himself might be depressing, as his real life seems, um, darker than Cliff's (see also: his sexual harassment suit).

Some dads didn't make this list, either because they're probably dead almost dead (oh, oops, Conrad Bain and Bob Uecker are still alive, so sayeth Wikipedia. My bad.), originated in 1990 or later (I'm looking at you Nick Russo, Jim Walsh, Graham Chase, and Philip Banks), or appeared on shows I didn't really watch (Silver Spoons, Just the Ten of Us, Gimme A Break, and, despite what my first grade class picture may lead you to believe, Punky Brewster). Did I forget anyone? Remind me in the comments!

UPDATE: Thank you, Chessa, for reminding me that I cruelly disregarded Dan Conner from Roseanne, aka John Goodman.


  1. You forgot Dan Conner, the biggest teddy bear of the Dad bunch. And frankly I can't even picture the Small Wonder dad.

    However, I am SO HAPPY that you found a picture of the Alien Crystal Sculpture dad!!!!

  2. TROYYYYYYYY!!!!!! Amazing. No one ever remembers that show when I try to describe it. Oh how I wished (still do) I had Evie's powers.

  3. A lot of people wouldn't have put the dad from Alf so high. A lot of people are insane. Well played. Those tortoise shell glasses he stole from my aunt Beatrice are absolutely KICKING, by the way.

  4. bridget2:30 AM

    Steven Keaton has always been my #1 Fantasy Dad. He's a kind-hearted, peace-loving hippy who works at PBS. What's not to love?

  5. I wasn't alive in the 80s but I would definitely want in at the ALF household. They take in aliens, you think they'd accept a girl from the future?!?


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