Monday, February 21, 2011

Life with Homie - A sitcom?

 In a recent Parents Television Council study, it was reported that 83% of all prime-time family sitcoms involve some form of father-child relationship. If you do the math, that's a whole lot of TV dads. 

The study showed that, as a whole, television shows are increasingly showing more fathers who are involved in their children's lives.  According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI):
  • Fathers who live with their children are more likely to have a close, enduring relationship with their children than those who do not. 
  • Twenty-four million children (34 percent) live absent their biological father. Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
  • Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
With the history of television already spanning more than 50 years, there certainly are some fictional fathers that have struck a chord with audiences. But which ones? And why?

Another study conducted by applied a number of criteria to find out which are TV's most memorable dads. The criteria areas follows:

·  The character must primarily be known as a father;
·  The main purpose of this character is to be a father figure;
·  The show must appeal to men in general (so Danny Tanner from Full House is out)
·  The show may, or may not, currently be on the air 

So which prime-time daddy's made it on the list? Here are the results:
10. Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray)
  My Three Sons
Obviously, after 369 episodes, audiences got used to Steve Douglas. Behind the comedy, this sitcom addressed the real-life tribulations of education and what it takes for a man to be a perfect single parent, in a time when the image of the traditional nuclear family was still very strong in the media.

9. Homer Simpson (voice of Dan Castellaneta)
  The Simpsons
Homer is a lazy slob, a lovable goof who works at the nuclear plant. He stumbles through his life with a sort of cultivated indifference that only he can pull off. What's so great about him is that, even though his flaws are monumental, it's obvious that he really cares about his kids... even though it sometimes seems like he prefers beer and TV.

8. Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene)
Ben was a pillar of the community mostly because of his strength and righteousness. Even though the Bonanza storylines often focused on the sons, Ben was always on hand to offer them advice. And like any good father, he constantly helped out the neighbors with their problems.

7. Fred Flintstone (voice of Alan Reed)
  The Flintstones
Fred became a father when Pebbles was born (incidentally, the show featured one of the first pregnancies on prime-time television). A genuine blue-collar caveman from Bedrock, Fred means well and only wants the best for his family and young daughter, but his thirst for luxury keeps getting him involved in get-rich-quick schemes that never quite work out.

6. Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller)
One of the greatest supporting characters on the show was Frank Costanza, George's father. This was a man who took himself and life way too seriously, and whose regular tone of voice was characterized by shouting. He never smiled, he never laughed, and everything was a tragedy that required a harebrained idea (from the "Mansier" or the "Bro" -- a bra for men -- to "Festivus"). A great cook, he couldn't get over the fact that he once accidentally induced food poisoning to his troops during the Korean War.

5. Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill)
  Married... with Children
A shoe salesman, Al was fond of reminiscing about his fleeting glory on the football field of his youth. But it was really his nonchalant attitude that made him such a popular character. He acted like he didn't care about his wife and kids, as if they were the ones holding him back from greatness. Constantly grumpy, this was one of TV's most unsophisticated guys.

4. Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor)
  All in the Family
At the core of the sitcom was the relationship between Archie and his son-in-law Michael, otherwise lovingly known as "Meathead." While the latter was liberal in his ideas, Archie Bunker was a loud and rude conservative bigot, and proud of it. Basically, if his mouth didn't have a cigar in it, then his foot would be right there. He may have talked down to his wife Edith, but you can sense that he loved her.

3. Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont)
  Leave It to Beaver
Ward Cleaver was a businessman who worked in salt mines. He was not only very responsible in his career, but also in his duties as father. The model father that he was, he rarely raised his voice, admitted when he was wrong (which was rare), and was always very attentive to his loving family. Anyone who grew up during this period has on one occasion wished that Ward was their own dad.

2. Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby)
  The Cosby Show
Obviously, Cliff Huxtable found it easier to deliver other people's babies than to raise his own. His children would create most of the stress in his life, and he dealt with issues with witty one-liners and impersonations. Interestingly, since Bill Cosby holds a doctorate in education, he was able to use his creative control over the show to insert his views on childrearing. So Dr. Huxtable was funny and smart.
1. Jim Anderson, Sr. (Robert Young)
  Father Knows Best
The character and this show eventually reflected the ultimate fatherly ideal, a man who puts his family before everything. It's too bad that this show didn't have much of an influence on its actors though; Robert Young was an alcoholic and onscreen daughter Lauren Chapin became a heroin addict and prostitute. Still, this dad was the best.

 I like to think that my dad represents a little bit of all these sitcom fathers. While he does have his flaws, we all do. And I think the most important thing to remember is that since I was two years old, my dad has made a conscious effort to remain in my life and support me no matter what. Now that I am living with him, things are obviously a bit different, but at the end of the day he is still always doing what he thinks is best - which to me is all I can really ask for. 


  1. I've noticed that even commercials are starting to feature dads a lot more. Before it seemed like the mom was always the one taking the kids to soccer practice, changing the diapers, fixing up the boo-boo etc, but now dads are featured a lot more.

    I also thought the list was great - now I'm trying to figure out where my dad falls...

  2. I am surprised that certain primetime dads did not make that list. I think most notably, Danny Tanner. I don't think there was a better television dad than him, even if he was a bit corny and clueless at times. I grew up watching The Cosby Show and thought Dr. Huxtable was the best dad ever. He was always so fun and funny. I'm glad that he made number 2.

  3. I agree Courtney, I thought Danny Tanner would have been up there. I'd have to say Archie Bunker is my favourite, but only because my dad is so similar to him - somehow in a good way... if that's possible.

    I like that new shows are keeping the father role significant and timely. I think Sandy Cohen from "The O.C." was a great dad, he was tough and funny. But I guess he'd have to be considering what he had to deal with...