Michael Bluth, Arrested Development
Okay, fair to say he's not the best dad in terms of his actual parenting. But, he does make me laugh, so that counts for something. I love how much Michael tries to be a good father, and in his opinion makes the right decisions, but fails miserably almost every time. I don't blame George Michael Bluth for being so....George, when his dad is Michael.
His false sense of righteousness and superiority within the Bluth family is what makes him one of the best TV dads, because we as an audience are all aware of how incredibly wrong Michael is, and it's comedy gold. The show portrays Michael as believing he is the only sane one in the family, when in reality he is just as unhinged as everyone else. He isn't the best dad because he's an actual good dad, but because he's a great character.
He's actually a pretty terrible dad, not even remembering his son's girlfriend's name. My favourite of the names he gave her was "Egg". Oh, and we'll forget the sub-plot where both he and his son are dating Rebel. And his deteriorating relationship with his son throughout the show. Wow, he really isn't a good dad in any sense. But, he does make me laugh. Happy Father's day!
Phil Dunphy, Modern Family
What can I say about Phil? He’s not the “cool dad” he’s convinced he is. Unless knowing all the dances to High School Musical makes you a cool dad. Although he’ll never get any awards for his parenting style, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a loving and supportive dad to his three kids. Phil would rather be seen as his kids’ friend rather than their father, leaving Claire to be the bad guy in the Dunphy household.
Despite his childish behaviour and need to be seen as cool by his kids and their friends, it’s this positive outlook on life that gets the family through tough situations. Who else would create a book of life lessons and call it “Phil’s-osophy”?! Even though this series quickly went downhill, it's still worth the watch to catch up with Phil's antics.
Ned Stark, Game of Thrones
Although we all know how this man’s story ended in nothing but tragedy, it must be remembered it was because of Ned’s duty to his family and his honour which landed him there. As the warden of the North, Lord of Winterfell and patriarch of House Stark, he instilled virtue and morality into his six children in a world ruled by corruption and greed.
Despite being the heart of the story for the first season, it was Ned’s heroism which made his death even more devastating to watch as his loyalty ultimately resulted in his downfall. And let’s not forget, this guy is great at keeping secrets. How he managed to keep Jon’s true lineage from everyone but himself for so many years is something I’ll always question. Let’s just say that had Ned divulged this secret to just one person, it would have likely resulted in a very different outcome for all the families within Game of Thrones. Ned Stark’s legacy lived on until the final season of the series, proving the impact he made both on screen and with real-life audiences as his wise words are still quoted by fans to this day. In spite of his flaws, there’s no doubt that Ned Stark was an honourable husband and father and stood up for what was right.
Philip Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Absolutely no list of TV Dads would be complete without the big man himself, Uncle Phil. Philip Banks is the uncle-by-marriage of "the Fresh Prince", Will Smith (played by Will Smith, don't get confused), who moves from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air to live with his well-off aunt and her family. While Philip is initially annoyed at Will and even begins to despise his very presence due to Will's non-conformance with the upper-society culture the Banks are part of and his various antics, he grows to love Will like a son over the series. It's some of the best done character development in a sitcom, and leads to countless heart-warming moments between the uncle-nephew duo. Will grows up without a father figure, so Philip's mentoring and guidance of Will over the series is much needed, and completes Uncle Phil's role as the man that raises Will through his teen years, being more of a father to will than his real dad ever was. Interestingly, Philip's occasional "tough love" demeanor towards Will makes him a better dad to Will than to his own children, who are spoiled beyond measure.
Their relationship is best showcased by the iconic moment in the season four tear-jerker, "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse", in which Will's real father re-enters his life, before abruptly abandoning him again. Will breaks down upon the realization that his real dad is still not ready to be a father to him, and Uncle Philip consoles and comforts Will. In the series finale, Philip tells Will "You are my son, Will. End of story."
The late, great James Avery's performance as Philip Banks will remain my favorite portrayal of fatherhood on television ever.
Martin Goodman, Friday Night Dinner
While he provides fantastic entertainment, Martin Goodman is very far down my list of dream fathers. Despite possessing many of the traits seen in "real-life" fathers, Martin is much like a caricature in that he embodies these all to the nth degree.
While many parents excel at embarrassing their children, Martin really is the personification of embarrassment. He is often topless, sometimes without explanation, but this doesn't seem to bother him, and to be honest he doesn't always seem to notice; he shows no shame in licking ketchup off his naked, and rather hairy, chest.
Table manners is something that Martin really struggles with, which is in equal parts disgusting and amusing. This is where he really relates to my own father, who never lets any scraps go to waste, but thankfully my dad doesn't joke that every meal contains squirrel. What is even funnier than his own eating habits is the family meal in the final episode of the final series, when Jackie is beyond herself with excitement at the prospect of both of her boys' girlfriends coming for Friday night dinner, when Martin somehow manages to break glass into each of the three courses of the meal. This is followed by Martin's hilarious attempts to cover up the mistake, leading to both him and his unsuspecting wife potentially ingesting some pretty dangerous quantities of glass.
Martin also has a magical way with words, with each sentences he speaks sounding almost poetic. Classic lines viewers are graced with include "shit on it" and "so...any females?", spaced between his lyrical musings on batteries and death dates. Martin drones on without perceiving whether his company is actually at all interested in his topics of conversation, much to the amusement of the viewers, though I am sure it wouldn't be quite so funny if we were all stuck at the dinner table with him ourselves.
What makes Martin all the more brilliant is that he doesn't intend to be funny, and often doesn't laugh at his own words or actions. This simply makes him all the more endearing.
Duke Ellington, The Story of Tracy Beaker
Duke may not be related to them by blood, but this doesn't stop him from becoming a father figure to many of the children living at the Dumping Ground.
In comparison to the other care workers at the Dumping Ground, Duke is immediately seen as much more empathetic. A direct contrast to the strictness of Elaine the Pain, Duke is regarded by the children as compassionate and loving, and his actions continually show his genuine desire to care for the children and keep them both happy and safe.
Alongside being an excellent cook and gardener, Duke is very fun-loving, and this is perhaps what allows him to resonate with the children so well. Despite being more than double their age, he has a youthful spirit and a mischievous streak, disposing of any "us-vs-them" mentality that other care workers at the Dumping Ground seem to foster. Duke is very much on the side of the children, yet he is still respected by them. In doing so he strikes a masterful balance between being a peer and a voice of authority, and this is what commands him the most respect from the children.