TIME Television

The Best TV Dads Ever

Bob Saget - Dirty Daddy Cover Art
It Books / HarperCollins

The Full House patriarch is in good company

For television viewers of a certain age, he’ll always be Danny Tanner, the dad from Full House. As a single father raising three daughters — well, four, if you count the fact that the youngest was played by both Olsen twins — with the help of his two friends, he taught the world that everywhere you look, there’s a face of somebody who needs you.

But he’s also a famously raunchy funnyman — and, in his new book, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian, he’s a little of both. In honor of the book’s April 8 release, TIME asked Saget to share his top five favorite dads in TV history. Here they are, in his own words:

CLIFF HUXTABLE (THE COSBY SHOW)

Bill Cosby worked so hard yet effortlessly on The Cosby Show as Cliff Huxtable, always explaining to his kids why things were the way they were. Cliff’s parenting skills were what every father strives to be: a loving husband and amazing dad — with four children, who Cliff always strived to communicate with through honesty and humor. And — he was an obstetrician. You just can’t be a better idealized father than that on television. I wish life was like this.

This scene with Cliff and his son Theo about “regular people” sums up smart parenting in just a few minutes:

LOUIE (LOUIE)

Louie is more realistic for me, being the father of three daughters. He has two, one less than me. I did the math. He loves his two daughters more than anything on this earth — to the point of obsessive hilarity. I can’t say anything else about him because everyone is aware of it.

I couldn’t get this scene out of my head since the first time I saw it — when he bought a doll for his daughter and it had no eyes:

ARCHIE BUNKER (ALL IN THE FAMILY)

Carroll O’Connor played a complex man. A man with a heart, who loved his daughter more than anything, except his wife Edith. He was one of my favorite television fathers because he was, in 1971, one of the most real representations of a real American working man that we had seen on television before. He obviously had many flaws: He was a profiling, small-minded man of few needs — his chair, his precious toilet time, and his demands as a man. But through all of this, he loved Gloria, his only child, with all his heart, though his own misgivings. And he wanted for Gloria to be happy — as long as she made the right choices from his point of view.

At 15 years old I had the good fortune of sitting in the studio audience at CBS Television City to watch a few tapings of All in the Family. It was watching the master class of acting and writing. Archie was a man we all loved, even though we didn’t always agree with or appreciate how he saw the world. Through it all had the biggest and softest heart for his daughter.

Here’s a scene where he meets his future son-in-law Mike for the first time:

TONY SOPRANO (THE SOPRANOS)

It doesn’t need to be said, but Tony Soprano, through the brilliant James Gandolfini, again redefined a television father who would go to any lengths to keep his family together, even when it meant blowing up the other things in his life.

This scene with his daughter Meadow, early on in the series, showed the foundation of what Tony was about at his core.

GERALD BROFLOVSKI (SOUTH PARK)

Gerald is not seen a huge amount on South Park but his presence as the father of Kyle is significant. He may not always have good solutions for his life and raising of his children, but for whatever reason, he loves his wife Sheila, who, for some, is not always easy to take. This makes him a tolerant man. And the fact that Kyle is such a good boy with such a big heart. I am drawn to Gerald because he must have done something right. Even through his own denial, the man is a cheerleader for his family.

In this scene, Gerald listens to his sons’ advice and comes up with his own solution to help his family become more motivated and progressive.

 

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