All over primetime TV there are fathers. Fathers who inspire and provide a steadfast guiding hand to their offspring and dads who can be mean drunks and blow of their kids to attend to their own selfish needs. As we celebrate Father’s Day, here’s a look at the fathers who populate the world of TV families on the likes of Parenthood, Modern Family and The Good Wife, just the good, the bad and the ugly.
Devoted & Doting Dads
Adam Braverman, Parenthood: A father of an occasionally rebellious teen girl and an autistic grade school aged boy, Adam is an involved dad who takes an interest in his children’s schooling, who used to coach his son’s Little League team and is supportive and loving to his wife Kristina. Adam once punched out a man at a grocery store when the guy smack-talked about his son, but it was a gesture of support and love for his kid, despite the violence involved. As of the season finale this spring, the uber-responsible Adam lost his job and learned that his wife is pregnant. And Adam laughed at the insanity of it all. When I looked over at my own husband Scott during that finale, he just raised his eyebrows, likely hoping there’d be no pregnancy surprises in our future given that we already have three kids.
Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights: The respected Texas high school football coach and father of two is the epitome of the devoted family man. Coach Eric Taylor been challenged this season as his oldest child, a teen daughter, dropped out of college and hid at home in shame after she had an affair with a married teaching assistant. In the midst of one of the games my husband was coaching for our son’s Little League team, I texted him Coach Taylor’s famous motto, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” It made my own Coach Taylor smirk.
Cameron Tucker, Mitchell Pritchett and Jay Pritchett, Modern Family: I love these guys. I really do. Each of these three Modern Family fathers are fabulous but in completely different ways. The adoptive dads of baby Lily, Cameron and Mitchell, Cam provides the heart and the emotional connection for the family while Mitchell provides pragmatism and overprotective caution. Then there’s Jay who already raised two kids and is stunned to find himself raising his second wife’s son Manny. But this time, Jay’s being a heck of a lot more sensitive and caring than he was during his first go-round with fatherhood.
Mike Heck, The Middle: Scott and I laugh out loud at least once during episodes of The Middle and adore the down-to-earth, sensible, loving parenting depicted by Mike Heck, a father of three. He invoked tough love when his slacker teen son Axl wouldn’t help around the house, he was supportive when his kooky middle school daughter Sue “won” an award for cross country (everyone got an award) and attempted to guide his grade school aged son Brick through his fear of bridges. Gotta love Mike.
Dramatic Diva Dads
Tom Scavo and Carlos Solis, Desperate Housewives: These dads are nearly as desperate as the moms on this sudsy drama. Tom, who has spent time as an at-home dad and this season became a hardcore corporate type, always seems to have something distractingly dramatic going on, especially with his wife Lynette. The same goes for Carlos who, though he loves his daughters, always seems to be issuing dictates to his wife (which wind up causing a family rift) and rarely spends time with the kids. And even though some folks say my husband looks a bit like Carlos, he acts nothing like him, or Tom, thank goodness.
Sam Bennett and Pete Wilder, Private Practice: Talk about drama divas . . . these dads are so into their own little worlds that they barely see anyone else’s needs, never mind their kids’ needs. Sam’s only child, a teenage gal, recently had a baby but Sam seems to be completely bored by it, disconnected, even broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted to have a child and he was, you know, like, totally done with all that kid crap. (Not that he was all into it the first time around.) As for Pete, he’s so sanctimonious when it comes to his patients at the ER and his private medical practice, that he’s barely got enough juice in his emotional reservoir left over for his only son when he gets home from work.
Dopey & Dunderhead Dads
Phil Dunphy, Modern Family: Maybe it’s the fact that my kids have said I can, on occasion, be Phil Dunphy-ish. Maybe it’s that he was part of one of the funniest kids-walking-in-on-you-while-you’re-doing-it-with-your-spouse scenes I’ve ever witnessed. But Phil Dunphy is a lovable doofus dad whose children adore him, despite his general cluelessness.
Crosby Braverman, Parenthood: A single dad who didn’t even know he’d fathered a kid until his former lover showed up at his doorstep, Crosby is a man-child through and through and has an inability to control his impulses, like sleeping with his nephew’s autism aide when he was engaged to his baby mama. He has irritated me from the first time I saw him on TV.
Billy Riggins, Friday Night Lights: Billy is a half-step removed from the category below (the Drunks and the Dreadfuls). He drinks too much beer. He started an illegal chop shop to raise money after he found out his girlfriend was pregnant and he let his brother take the rap for the chop shop. But this season he’s cleaned up his act and tried to be Coach Taylor-esque. Billy’s still pretty dopey though.
Drunks & Dreadfuls
Peter Florrick, The Good Wife: It’s hard to believe that this politician — who slept with a call girl, got caught and then convicted of public corruption and humiliated his wife and two children — isn’t real, given all the pols-gone-wild stories in the news these days. But Peter Florrick began this series as a cad who was trying to make amends. But no matter how he tries, he can’t quite escape the entirety of the lies and hurtfulness of his past behavior, which is why his wife left him at the end of the season.
Don Draper and Roger Sterling, Mad Men: Once you get past Don’s impossibly handsome face and Roger’s silver fox allure, you realize that these two 1960s ad men are crappy fathers. Don, a serial philanderer, allowed his marriage to collapse, started drinking very heavily, missed kids’ stuff, saw prostitutes, and then impulsively proposed marriage to his young secretary without getting to know her at all. Roger, a heavy drinker and philanderer as well, dumped his first wife (mother of their only daughter, who just got married) and married HIS young secretary, whom his daughter despises. He then proceeded to knock up his former, now-married secretary. Princes among men, these guys.
Tommy Gavin, Rescue Me: Haunted by serious substance abuse (so serious that he “lost” his alcoholic grown daughter when they went on a bender together) and by the losses his New York City firehouse sustained on 9/11, Tommy Gavin also seems to be grieving the fact that his only son was killed by a drunk driver years ago, even when he’s driving drunk all over the city. A checked-out dad, he has enough trouble with taking care of himself never mind his children.
Here’s to hoping that you’ll get to celebrate the doting dads this Sunday, and even the dopey ones as well.