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TV's top pops: Why these 8 TV dads are some of the best

Being a TV dad nowadays is a lot tougher than it used to be. Sure, Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady were great, but all they had to do after a day’s work was settle in their chair and help solve the most recent family drama with a cup of coffee and newspaper in hand. Today’s great TV dads are a true reflection of the evolving times. They’re real guys, often bumbling (and grumbling) their way through work, marriage, intergalactic space (sometimes), and parenthood—and doing their best to juggle it all with heart and (more importantly) humor.

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s an eclectic list of some of the EW Community’s favorite TV dads. These are men who might not be perfect, but who get our hand-painted rock paperweights and “World’s Greatest” mugs for being awesome anyway. And yes, we know there are many we neglected to mention (hello, Danny Tanner), so be sure to add your pick in the comments below!


Zeek Braverman, Parenthood


Sure, Zeek might not have always been the warmest and fuzziest dad in the early seasons of Parenthood, but there was never any doubt that his kids and grandkids were the most important thing in his life. His thick layer of impatience and crankiness cracked more and more as the seasons went on, showing us that the true Zeek was compassionate, accepting, forgiving, and supportive—a father (and grandfather) you never had to doubt would be there for you as your biggest cheerleader, toughest critic, and best pal. There was never anyone or anything Zeek would turn his back on (Ryan, Amber, and Joel immediately come to mind), and time and time again he proved that in times of crisis, he was a rock. In one of his final scenes, Zeek asks Sarah if he’s been a good father. “The very best,” she says without hesitation. As someone who grew up without a father around and who often wished I was part of Zeek’s team, I wholeheartedly agree. Michelle Newman

Phil Coulson, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 


Okay, fine, so technically Phil Coulson isn’t a father, but if you squint, S.H.I.E.L.D. is just a show about a cool dad adopting a bunch of lonely kids and taking them on trips around the world. (And you don’t even have to squint that hard.) Papa Coulson, as he’s affectionately known within the fandom, even has his own Tumblr page. He and Mama May watch over their ever-growing brood while simultaneously saving the world. Honestly, the man will adopt anyone who stands still long enough.

This is especially true about Skye, the orphaned hacker turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned inhuman whom Coulson has a particularly strong bond with. He fills every father-figure role for her, which got awkward when her actual father showed up. Skye’s birth father, Cal, and Coulson literally got into fight because Cal was jealous of Coulson’s dad cred. S.H.I.E.L.D. shows that adopted dads are just as awesome as biological ones. Coulson would give his left arm to protect his team family (too soon?), fighting for them—and alongside them—no matter what the circumstances. That makes a pretty good dad, if you ask me. Samantha Swank

Phil Dunphy, Modern Family


When it comes to TV dads, Modern Family‘s Phil Dunphy is the closest thing to a new favorite that you can get. The college cheerleader turned second-best real estate agent turned husband turned father is probably the biggest child at the Dunphy house, but that’s what makes Phil so fantastic.

Clearly the yang to Claire’s yin, Phil takes his “peerenting” and makes the Dunphy world one that you wish you could be a part of. But whether he’s wooing his wife with a fake persona, causing havoc with his son, or giving his best go at being a cool dad, at the end of the day, Phil Dunphy steps up when he needs to be a real dad. And speaking of the steps, he just might get around to fixing that broken step on the staircase. Maybe.

P.S. Bonus points for Phil Dunphy being the hottest dad on the block, hands down.Justin Kirkland

Admiral Bill Adama, Battlestar Galactica (2004)


Bill was the proud military father of Zak and Lee in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series (2004). Bill was the very definition of tough love, setting high expectations for his sons, Zak and Lee, to follow in his military footsteps. After Zak’s death during his first solo flight, relations were strained between him and Lee. Bill was not only a father to Lee, but a father figure to the entire crew of the Galactica. When you are on a ship lost in space after your planet is destroyed, you need a parent to take charge. And that he did. As we all know, he made good on his promise from the first episode: He got everyone to earth to start a new civilization.Robin Hardwick

Murray Goldberg, The Goldbergs


On the outside, it may look like Murray Goldberg is a crusty dad who is unwilling to engage in the lives of his three children. But in reality, he’s a crusty dad who disguises his love and affection behind the phrase “you moron” whenever the opportunity arises. His daughter, Erica, is a colossal mystery. How is he supposed to relate to her scrunchies, acid-washed denim, and fluorescent billowy tops? Even though he chooses to never darken her bedroom door, a single grunt lets her know that she’s still his little girl.

Barry and Adam are a different story. Because his sons are on opposite ends of the spectrum, Murray is often forced to shout obscenities through the ceiling into their rooms. Heaven forbid if he has to get out of his chair and parent. That’s what mothers are for, right?

Murray isn’t a deadbeat dad. The Goldbergs are familiar with the environment in which they live. Murray is a big teddy bear, for the most part … unless you dare interfere with the 10 seconds it takes him to come home after a long day’s work, immediately remove his pants, and strut to his chair in his tightie-whities, where Magnum P.I. waits. Mess with that routine and all bets are off, you moron. Lincee Ray

Uncle Phil, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air


Sure, Uncle Phil isn’t really Will Smith’s dad, but it takes a big person (or a “big guy”) to take in someone else’s kids, even if it is your own nephew. Let’s not forget that Uncle Phil is also a father to Hillary, Carlton, and Ashley. He managed to give Will the same love and attention he gave his own children, which not only helped Will grow into the man we saw him become on the show, but also provided the father figure Will never had in his real life.

Remember that episode when we found out Will’s father was a no-good coward who couldn’t man up to his responsibilities as a father? Guess who was there to help Will through that tough time? That’s right: Uncle Phil. Monique Jones

Arlo Givens, Justified

arlo givens

While everyone might try to go all warm and fuzzy for Father’s Day, you can’t count out the hardass, degenerate fathers who failed their children miserably. Not everyone can be Mike Brady, after all.

Arlo Givens, father to Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens, small-time criminal, and all-around charmer, may have not been the best parental example, but he is probably one of the most colorful fathers on television. He cheated his son and schemed to undermine him in every way, but there was always a crackling dynamic that made it hard to look away.

The relationship between Arlo and Raylan was never romanticized or sentimental, but the effect these men had on each other is undeniable. Even as Arlo lay on his deathbed, audiences didn’t know whether to cheer or sniff, and it seems like Raylan was just as conflicted. He may not win the prize for Father of the Year, but he will absolutely go down as one of TV’s most memorable dads. Sundi Rose-Holt

Sheriff Stilinski, Teen Wolf


Mr. Stilinski became a single parent after the tragic death of his wife when his son Stiles was only eight years old. Add to that the challenge of being the sheriff of a town frequently plagued by werewolves, banshees, werecoyotes, kitsune, and shapeshifters, and you definitely have a candidate for Father of the Year. When Stiles finally explains the supernatural side of Beacon Hills to his father in season three, he ultimately takes the huge news in stride, realizing how much it explains and reopening old cases that make more sense in light of his new knowledge. While they’ve had their rough patches—as any father and son who have been through as much as the Stilinskis are bound to have—the sheriff’s inclusion in the inner circle has made him and his son closer than ever.

Whether they’re dealing with an exorcism, financial problems, yet another killing spree in Beacon Hills, or one of Stiles’ lacrosse games, the Stilinskis get through it together. Erin Conley

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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