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TV's landmark dads

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002


photo
Desi Arnaz

Some of these guys might not be the most positive father figures on TV, but here's my list of TV's most important dads, in chronological order, based on the year they first hit the small screen.

NO. 1: Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), I Love Lucy, 1951.

Remembered more as a husband than a father, Ricardo was still the first TV father to go through the whole pregnancy and birth process with his wife onscreen. How cool is that?

NO. 2: Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont), Leave It to Beaver, 1957.

Ozzie Nelson was the first suburban TV dad, but Ward Cleaver perfected the gig, with an unflappable authority that eased the Beaver's biggest blunders.

NO. 3: Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), The Andy Griffith Show, 1960.

Good thing there wasn't much crime in Mayberry; Sheriff Taylor was too busy fishin' and schoolin' his young son.

NO. 4: Mike Brady (Robert Reed), The Brady Bunch, 1969.

As patriarch of TV's best-known blended family, Brady helped the industry and viewers deal with the emerging reality of remarried parents.

NO. 5: Archie Bunker (Carol O'Connor), All in the Family, 1971.
The devolution of Dad
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Homer Simpson

On TV, father knew best, once upon a time. And then came along a descending display of dads who spit hatred, inane phrases -- 'D'ohhh! -- and merely drooled. How and why have TV's dads disintegrated? Story

Bigoted and archconservative, Bunker reflected a nation of dads left bewildered by the aftermath of Vietnam and then Watergate. Too bad some of the show's audience didn't realize Bunker was the butt of the series' satire.

NO. 6: James Evans Sr. (John Amos), Good Times, 1974.

Evans may have been the first working-class black TV father who stuck by his family and kept his kids out of trouble, navigating one of Chicago's worst housing projects -- at least until Amos decided to leave the show after its first year.

NO. 7: Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), The Cosby Show, 1984.

Huxtable was the ideal upper-middle-class '80s-era dad: funny, successful (yet somehow always around the house), sensitive and strict. That he refuted a boatload of stereotypes about African-American fathers was just icing on the cake.

NO. 8: Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta), The Simpsons, 1989.

Balding, addicted to beer and endowed with a Forrest Gumplike ability to turn blunders into achievement, Simpson is proof positive that dads don't always have to be good to be loved.

NO. 9: Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), The Sopranos, 1999.

He can shoot down his best friend for ratting to the cops but can't effectively discipline his son or keep tabs on his college-age daughter. He's a sensitive dad facing all the guilt and confusion many overworked yuppie fathers negotiate these days.

NO. 10: Ozzy Osbourne (Ozzy Osbourne), The Osbournes, 2002.

Befuddled, well-meaning and plagued by the effects of past excesses, Osbourne may be an extreme caricature of the modern-day dad -- perhaps the scariest conclusion of all.

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