Father’s Day 2013: Top Ten rad, bad TV dads

The dads on our list won't ever be mistaken for Ward Cleaver or Cliff Huxtable, but most of us can probably relate to them better.  Photo: Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter, Arrested Development / Netflix

SAN DIEGO, June 15, 2013 – From the earliest days of popular series television, beloved father figures have beamed into our homes, setting the Dad standard.

Ward Cleaver of Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963) is the classic 1950s TV dad. Andy Taylor gave his homespun advice to son Opie on The Andy Griffith Show throughout the 1960s while real life dads struggled with their kids becoming hippies. In the 1970s, we all wanted “Mr. C,” Howard Cunningham of Happy Days (1974 – 1984) to be our dad. Mr. C. passed the TV dad torch to Cliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show (1984-1992).

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Fast forward to the modern era and you have devoted fathers like Eric Taylor of the recent series Friday Night Lights and police commissioner Frank Reagan played by Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods.

Maybe you grew up with a dad like one of these men. But plenty of us grew up with a different sort of dad. He might have been a little rough around the edges compared to these guys.  Maybe he ticked off the neighbors. Or perhaps he scared off his daughter’s would-be dates. He had dirt under his fingernails. He swore in front of the kids. But these dads loved us just as much.

In celebration of these father figures, we offer up our Top Ten rad, bad TV dads who will never be mistaken for Ward Cleaver, in order of their appearance.  

Archie Bunker, All in the Family (1971-1979)

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Archie Bunker loved his daughter Gloria, so much he let her liberal pinko husband move into his house. Bunker was the first TV dad that dared to get mad, dared to offend, and brought the reality of a lot of households to TV. We couldn’t get enough of him. How many of us saw our own dads in Archie?

Beleaguered shoe salesman and dad Al Bundy, played to perfection by Ed O’Neill. Still in reruns on TBS. Photo: TBS.

Al Bundy, Married … With Children (1987-1997)

Where Archie Bunker left off, Al Bundy was just getting started. Rude, crude, cynical, vulgar, and socially unacceptable. But his kids weren’t bringing prizes home from school either. Who wouldn’t get irritated? Yet he stood by them and always hoped for something better. God bless you, Al Bundy, for never giving up.

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Frank Costanza, Seinfeld (1989 – 1998)

Costanza was a minor character who was actually played by a different actor in his first appearance. But when Jerry Stiller got hold of Frank, he embraced the out of control personality full of eccentricities and a cult following was born. Who didn’t love seeing Frank drive George crazy? And Frank gave us Festivus, sealing his place in TV history and our hearts forever.

Homer Simpson has been on television longer than any other TV dad. He must be doing something right. Photo: Fox.

Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (1989-current)

If this guy was real, he would have been arrested by now. Homer is the polar opposite of Ward Cleaver. He gets drunk, he’s strangled his son. He is a glutton, he is a dope and he is a bigot. He hates his job. America can’t get enough of Homer, making The Simpsons the longest running scripted show in television history. D’oh!

Tony Soprano, The Sopranos (1999-2007)

Tony Soprano is ruthless, greedy, violent, and unfaithful. But his loyalty to his family and his desire to protect them cannot be questioned. He’s the dad that would die for his kids. Who wouldn’t want a dad like Tony Soprano covering your back? Chances are pretty good no one would ever bully you at school twice, or take advantage of you in any way.

Jack Bauer, 24 (2001-2010 and 2014)

Everyone likes to think his or her dad is tough. But if your dad is Jack Bauer, is there much doubt your dad is the toughest guy on the planet? He takes on terrorists, he willingly risks his life to save the country, and he’s willing to die from torture before giving up state secrets. His one soft spot: his daughter, Kim, who he risked to save several times during the course of this series. We learned earlier this year that Jack will be back to do it again in 2014. We hope Jack hasn’t gotten soft during his absence. Welcome back.

George Bluth Sr., Arrested Development (2003-2006 and 2013)

Thanks to Netflix, Arrested Development is back and that means the return of a hot mess of a Dad, George Bluth Sr. He’s been in jail thanks to a few real estate deals with Saddan Hussein and a little creative accounting. He’s been a fugitive and faked his own death. And let’s not forget the infamous Boyfights videos. How did his son end up being anything close to normal? George, we’re glad to see you back and you haven’t lost your touch.

Bryan Cranston is the meth making bad dad of Breaking Bad. Photo: AMC.

Walter White, Breaking Bad (2008-current)

Bryan Cranston as Walter White is an amazing character in an amazing show. He is unapologetically bad ass, a guy willing to do whatever it takes to get by. Sure, he’s a meth dealer. But he’s doing it for his family. The most negative thing about a dad like this: he’s done, seen or willing to do every bad thing you could possibly think of, and you are never going to get anything over on him. He’s going to know about you getting in trouble before you do. Pretty effective parenting wouldn’t you say?

Eddard (Ned) Stark, Game of Thrones (2011-2012)

When your father is Lord paramount of the North and Hand of the King, he has a headstart on being a Rad Dad. Stark lived by a strict code, had to be able to fight and hunt, and despite being a womanizer was a devoted husband and father. He stood up for what was right, and after being betrayed by people he thought were allies, he confessed to protect his family and was willing to lose his head for his children. No other dad on our list can claim this. Since then, all his kids have been willing to die to avenge him, and one already has. That’s rad.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty is our top rad, bad Dad for 2013. Photo: AETV.com

Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty (2012-current) Our top TV dad is the real deal. Phil Robertson stars with his family in cable TV’s top reality show, Duck Dynasty. Millions love watching Robertson, his wife Miss Kay and their four boys who have all helped run the family duck call business. Robertson knows how to get rough and rock and roll, but he’s also radically devoted to the Lord. Robertson told Fox News his TV show so popular because people like watching a family working hard together. Now that’s a rad thought from a rad dad.

To all dads, rad, bad, and otherwise, Happy Father’s Day.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine and Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.   


Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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