A Father’s Day Toast to 10 Great TV Dads

“Thank you, Boston!” Nick Carter yelled into the microphone as the Backstreet Boys left the stage. I wasn’t ready for the night to end, but my father wanted to beat the traffic, so we gathered our things and headed for the car. My sister and I were deep in a Nick v. Brian debate when we heard it. It stopped us in our tracks. “You are my fire.” The Backstreet Boys had returned to the stage. They were singing “I Want It That Way” and we were three feet from the exit. My father knelt down, looked us eye-to-eye and very seriously said, “If we run, I think we can make it.” The three of us sprinted through the stadium like it was life or death, because it was life or death. It was “I Want It That Way”!!! We slipped back into the arena just in time for the second chorus and after catching our breath, we all sang at the top of our lungs to what is arguably the greatest song in human history. That was the moment I realized my dad was the coolest.

Every year on Father’s Day I thank my dad for being so cool with a golf shirt and ironic card. This year I’d like to take the time to thank some of the other dads who helped raise me as well. As it’s been said, “It takes a village to raise a child” and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without these men. So, here’s a toast to you, the TV dads of my childhood!

1. Danny Tanner, Full House

Now here’s a guy who knows how to give a heartfelt speech! The second that music starts to swell, you just know it’s coming: a Danny Tanner pearl of wisdom. He’s taught us that spending the night at our boyfriend Aladin’s apartment is unacceptable, sneaking our under-aged siblings into a PG movie is bad and that despite what the laugh-track might indicate, it’s not okay to starve yourself to fit into a bathing suit. Honestly, what didn’t we learn from this obsessive compulsive single father of three?

2. Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show

Don’t tell any of the other dads on the list, but Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is definitely my favorite. He’s a straight shooter who doesn’t coddle his children. Take this for example:

Theo: You’re a doctor and Mom’s a lawyer, and you’re both successful in everything and that’s great! But maybe I was born to be a regular person and have a regular life. If you weren’t a doctor, I wouldn’t love you less, because you’re my dad. So rather than feeling disappointed because I’m not like you, maybe you should accept who I am and love me anyway, because I’m your son.

Cliff: Theo… that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! No wonder you get D’s in everything! You’re afraid to try because you’re afraid your brain is going to explode and it’s going to ooze out of your ears. Now I’m telling you, you are going to try as hard as you can. And you’re going to do it because I said so. I am your father. I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out!

Simply the best. Never change, Dr. H.

3. Sandy Cohen, The O.C.

How can you not love the man responsible for bringing Seth Cohen into the world? Sandy Cohen is a pilar of righteousness in the murky waters of The O.C. He takes Ryan into his home and treats him like family. He understands how hard being a teenager is and is always there for his boys with a sarcastic one-liner and a bagel. You’re a real mench, Sandy. May all your Chrismakkahs be merry and bright.

4. Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Home Improvement

Tim, while being exceptionally bad at taking advice, is actually really great at giving it. He’s the kind of dad you laugh at, but also with. He loves his kids despite the fact that none of them show interest in tools or cars. Perhaps the most important lessons I learned from Tim were that it’s okay to make jokes at a funeral as a way of coping, so long as you’ve got the right audience and nobody likes a tattle tale. He once told Mark who was trying to tattle on Brad and Randy, “Unless it involves human sacrifice, I don’t want to hear about it.” Haruuumppp!

5. Alan Matthews, Boy Meets World

Alan Matthews is a great dad. He works twelve hour days, never sits down, eats his lunch standing up and then comes home and deals with his kids. He works as hard as he does so that his children will be able to stay kids for as long as possible. As Cory says, “It’s like he’s Superman.” He’s so super that Cory is willing to trade his Super Soaker 3,000 for two 1,500s so the two of them can have a water war in the back yard. Now that, my friends, is love.

6. Eric Camden, 7th Heaven

While most TV dads are strictly responsible for providing moral guidance to their own kids, Reverend Eric Camden has an entire congregation to worry about in addition to his seven children. Somehow though, he always manages to be there for everyone, guiding them toward the path of morality. He teaches us about the dangers of guns, huffing paint and drunk driving. Sure, his kids screw up vandalizing schools and killing classmates in car accidents every now and then, but he never stops loving them. Forgiveness is next to godliness, is it not?

7. Red Forman, That 70s Show

Red Forman invented tough love. He sets rules and expects them to be obeyed. Red says things like, “Responsible people don’t go around getting their nipples twisted.” and “Eric, didn’t I tell you to wash up for dinner? I know, it’s difficult to hear with your head up your ass.” Yet, beneath his tough shell he’s just a big ol’ softie and behind every “dumbass” is an “I love you.”

8. Jack Arnold, The Wonder Years

Jack Arnold is a man of few words. He doesn’t make big gestures or give emotional speeches. He works hard to provide for his family and is proud of his accomplishments. He has traditional values and while he often disagrees with his children regarding politics, feminism and sexuality, at the end of the day he doesn’t let these issues get in the way of his family. He even walks Karen down the aisle when she marries Ross Gellar, even though they had been living together out of wedlock. Now that is love.

9. Harold Weir, Freaks and Geeks

Harold Weir, like Jack Arnold, is a man of traditional values who struggles to relate to his kids. All he wants is to share his knowledge and protect them from the harsh realities of the world. Some of Harold’s greatest hits include:

“You know, I had a friend that used to smoke. You know what he’s doing now? He’s dead!”

“You know, there was a girl in our school, she had premarital sex. You know what she did on graduation day? Died! Of an overdose. Heroin.”

“You can’t cut corners in life! You know who cut corners? Kennedy! Kennedy cut corners when he was running the Bay of Pigs. A lot of good men lost their lives because of it. You know who else cut corners? Janis Joplin.”

“Well it’s true. There was this kid in my neighborhood growing up, Scott Byron. He kept on trick or treating until he was well into his 20s. You know where he’s living now? At home! With his ninety-year-old mother. He’s the laughingstock of the community. Never took a wife either.”

While your own flesh and blood might not take you seriously, you’ve certainly scared me straight, Mr. Weir!

10. Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

So, technically Eric Taylor came into my life during adulthood, but I don’t care. I can’t possibly write a thank you letter to TV dads and not include Coach Taylor. He loves Julie unconditionally and is there for her even when he doesn’t approve of her actions (cough Season Five cough). Outside of his family, he acts as a father figure to every football player that steps foot onto his field. He goes above and beyond, getting involved in their lives and making sure they’re living up to their potential. I think this exchange with Vince captures his fatherly essence perfectly:

Eric Taylor: I first met you, you were climbing out of a police car. People said you were a punk, you’d never last in the field. You know they still believe that?
Vince Howard: Screw them. I work hard for everything I’ve got!
Eric Taylor: I know you do and you ought to be damned proud about that. I am. I’m proud of you. Your teammates are proud of you. It’s about character. It’s about striving to be better than everybody else.
Vince Howard: Coach, my dad just got out of prison. He’s staying with me in my house… and I can’t stand him. My mom, she asked me to forgive him. To be ‘better’. And you’re asking me to be ‘better’. I don’t know how to be ‘better’ because he never taught me how! He never taught me how to be ‘better’! He’s not around! And I’m supposed to be ‘better’ than them? I’m supposed to be ‘better’?
Eric Taylor: Listen to me. I said you need to strive to better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the try.

Clear eyes, full hearts, great dads!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there both real and fictional! Enjoy your homemade ties and runny eggs! You’ve earned it.

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