By Magdalena Burnham
In the early days of TV, there was nothing more sacred than the idea of the American father, so TV dads tended to be all-knowing figures of unquestioned authority. This makes those old shows seem stale and unrealistic. Eventually, shows like The Simpsons and Married with Children took down the idealized father figure in a big way and showed that fathers could be far from perfect—in fact, they could be moronic jerks. This was a refreshing and deeply necessary change, but at the same time TV would be pretty depressing if there had been a complete shift into cynicism. I know I’m probably biased towards my own generation, but I have to say that I think current TV shows really have it right. Now we get on-screen fathers who struggle and have weaknesses, which makes it that much better when we see them overcome it all to protect their children. With that in mind, I present the best dads currently on TV.
A lot of fathers have trouble taking an interest in their kids’ pursuits, but not Martin Bohm. The man basically starts going on wild international adventures based on numbers he see his son Jake write down. Martin’s total faith in his son is definitely the most compelling part of the show. It’s also heartbreaking to see how badly he wants to communicate with his son and the moments when Jake returns his affection are the most satisfying parts of the show.
Chris Brinkley, Up All Night (played by Will Arnett)
A lot of what makes Chris Brinkley such a great TV dad is Will Arnett’s infectiously adorable performance. He really glows with enthusiasm, pride and love every time he talks about baby Amy. Couple his obvious love of being a dad with his total support for his wife and Chris is easily one of the best TV dads currently on air.
Jay Pritchett, Modern Family (played by Ed O’Neil)
Whether he’s bonding with his daughter Claire who is essentially a female version of himself, navigating the more tense relationship he has with his son Mitchell or trying to understand his step-son Manny enough to properly guide him through life, Jay is always there for his kids. Some of the best scenes of the series show him fighting his instincts to stay stuck in his ways and trying earnestly to understand the rest of his family.
Burt Hummel, Glee (played by Mike O’Malley)
How can I properly describe just how perfect Burt Hummel is? Throughout the inconsistent mess that is Glee, there has been one constant: scenes between Burt and Kurt are a joy to watch. The only thing better than watching how kind he is when he encourages Kurt’s dreams is watching how ferocious he turns the minute anyone insults his son or puts him in any danger. Seriously, I could watch Burt yell at Finn all day.
Bob Belcher, Bob’s Burgers (played by Jon Benjamin)
Characters play off each other and a TV father is only as good as his on-screen children. Bob works as a character because his children are weird. Tina has raging hormones and is very vocal about it, Gene is a gross fart machine and Louise might be a supervillain. But, Bob reacts to all of this with patience and understanding. He even shaved off his mustache just to give his daughter the perfect birthday party. And the man looks terrible without his mustache.
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