Television dads have evolved, from the typical working dad in a suit and tie, to far more progressive and subjective views of what a dad can be. But that being said, the spirit of what makes a great TV dad is still the same. Our favorite TV dads are loving, dedicated, hardworking, and even sometimes downright hilarious.
Below is a list of our favorite dads currently gracing the TV screen.
(Note: Some spoilers exist below, so if you don’t know the show — and don’t want to find out too right now — we suggest you skip to the next one.)
No list of the best dads on TV today would be complete without Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia). Yes, (spoiler time) his character is actually dead, but he appears frequently in flashbacks. Incredibly loving and devoted, despite fighting his own demons, Jack will do anything for his three kids, including twin daughter and son, and a third son he convinced his wife to adopt at birth when they lost one of their triplets. (I mean, come on!) Everything Jack does is for his family, and even with through his own internal struggles, he still comes across as a near-perfect husband and father.
As far as goofy dads go, Phil (Ty Burrell) — the wanna-be patriarch (but often doormat) from this long-running comedy — takes the cake. He’s willing to take on any fun activity (trampoline jumping contest? Let’s do it!), and he’s constantly trying to be “hip” for his three teenage kids. His penchant for “dad jokes,” consistent unintentional humor, and obsession with magic tricks and technology make him the corny dad you want to roll your eyes at and hide from your friends, but secretly wouldn’t change for the world. Phil, by the way, was also named the best TV dad of the ’00s in our list of the best-ever TV dads last year.
His own daughter died of cancer at a young age, and Hopper (David Harbour) never quite recovered. But he finds a new lease on fatherhood in the second season of this series after hiding (spoiler time) Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) in his cabin for an entire year to protect her. As he cluelessly tries to navigate pseudo-parenting a teenage girl in very atypical circumstances, they get into very typical father-daughter slammed-door arguments followed by touching and tearful apologies. Things eventually become official when he’s made her adoptive father, and even lets her go to the all-important school dance. (Awww!)
While he appears only infrequently in this Emmy-winning series, Ramesh (Shoukath Ansari) steals every scene he’s in as lead character Dev’s (Aziz Ansari’s) traditional Indian father. Played by Aziz’s actual father, Ramesh is the relatable dad, constantly reaching out to Dev for tech support with his computer or tablet (“The volume is just off, dad!”) and trying to be “cool” for his son’s friends. But flashbacks show how deeply Ramesh cares for his son, and how he sacrificed everything he knew to move to America and provide for his family.
He doesn’t always make the best decisions, but Otto (Peter Gerety) is fiercely protective of his kids and grandkids, having taken in the latter when his daughter and son-in-law were killed in a car accident. He runs the family bail bonds business with his tough and savvy wife, Audrey (Margo Martindale), and sometimes has to make tough (er, illegal) decisions to keep things going. But it’s all in the name of family.
He played bad boy Dylan McKay on ‘90s sitcom Beverly Hills 90210, and now Luke Perry plays the father of Archie Andrews on Riverdale, with whom he shares a very close relationship. After Archie’s mother left, Fred raised Archie on his own, creating a special bond between them. Any dad who can have intense, heart-to-heart discussions with their teenage kids as Fred does with Archie is a great dad in our books.
Running the family burger joint, Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) works hard to support his wife and three kids, even if he isn’t exactly the best businessman. He didn’t have the greatest childhood himself, with a mother who passed away when he was young, and a stern father with whom he rarely agreed. But he turned that negative energy into positive to become a great dad, even when he has to deal with the utter weirdness of his less-than-obedient (but always hilarious) children.
The absolute personification of a Type A personality, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) is unapologetically uptight and anxious. But while his own anxieties and need for order even caused him to suffer a personal breakdown, they have never affected his ability to be a loving dad to his two children (thanks, also, to their equally loving mom). Present at every concert, pulling out all the stops to throw elaborate parties, and donning an apron to whip up homemade pancakes and eggs for breakfast all come with the territory. He’s so devoted, he even convinced his wife to adopt a troubled teenage girl so they could spread their love even further.
Constantly trying to balance his role as Sergeant at the 99th Precinct with his role as father to three girls, Terry (Terry Crews) is a big teddy bear who loves to annoyingly refer to himself in the third person. Often rife with guilt because he doesn’t want to miss out on anything with his family, he’s a dad who’s built like a linebacker, but will melt at the sight of his kids.
OK, so they aren’t exactly the picture-perfect dads: Haven’t they forgotten where their daughter was on more than one occasion? Still, these two dads — including uptight lawyer Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and flamboyant, football-loving country boy Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) — are gaga for their daughter. Constantly striving to be the best dads they can be, and questioning if they are doing right by Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), the two go to great lengths to give their child a loving home. In the end, they just want to ensure their daughter is not only well cared for, but also well-liked and accepted by her peers (and theirs!).
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