How does TV imagine fathers? In honor of Father’s Day, take a look at this random handful of TV dads.
They may not be the best dads – and some of them are downright flawed – but we think you’ll enjoy re-visiting these patriarchs in our Dad’s parade, including Kevin Costner, Terry Crews, Ray Romano, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Randall Park and Bob Belcher,.
John Dutton of Yellowstone
* He may not be the most loving father but Yellowstone’s John Dutton – as portrayed by Kevin Costner – has got your back.
If you cross any member of his dysfunctional family, he will wreak bloody revenge.
As Montana governor and formidable owner of the Dutton ranch, Costner’s patriarch loves his family even more than his land and cattle – and that’s saying something.
“Once or twice, you can side with your family over certain issues. But if they cross a line, I don’t think that’s the best measure of a family that one will tolerate something that is beyond the pale,” muses the Dances With Wolves and Bodyguard star.
Unfortunately audiences only have a few more episodes in which to enjoy John Dutton when Costner, 68, quits the hit series at the end of the current Season Five.
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Barone
* Already a popular stand-up comedian, actor and writer, Ray Romano become even more beloved as TV dad Ray Barone on hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, earning six primetime Emmys in the process.
Running for nine seasons, the show centered on the everyday life of Romano’s namesake sportswriter. Living with his family on Long Island, Raymond typically fell in the middle of family arguments, incapable of taking any decisive stand, especially if it might invoke his mother’s disapproval. Rarely taking anything seriously, no matter how troubling, he often avoided family responsibilities around the home, leaving this to his wife.
In real life, Romano hopes he does a little better. Married 35 years to Anna Scarpulla, whom he met when they both worked at the same bank, the couple have four children. Unlike his TV alter-ego, he tries to put family first, his daughter and three sons – all adults now – even returning home during the pandemic.
He was sad when the series came to an end, “All of a sudden I had this free time and I was excited but after about four months it was like you’d lost a family member and a sense of void. Not only that, I went from doing stand-up for 11 years, then all of a sudden I got plucked from New York and I was in this Raymond bubble for nine years. You’re like in a submarine and all of a sudden it just goes away,” recalls Romano, 65, who even consulted a therapist to deal with the sudden loss.
Julius Rock of Everybody hates Chris
* If everyone hated Chris in his 2005 – 2009 series, Everybody Hates Chris, then audiences sure loved Terry Crews, 54, who portrayed the comedian’s father, Julius, in this semi-autobiographical sitcom inspired by Rock’s teenage years.
Often considered one of the funniest and realest Black dads on TV, Julius was a devoted father who worked multiple jobs to provide for his family. As much as he was steadfast, levelheaded and easygoing, he was extremely frugal – so much so that his character inspired memes (“Eat that – that’s 30 cents worth of oatmeal”) and a money hack that went viral. Hilariously penny-pinching to the extreme, the only thing he ever wasted money on was the lotto.
Crews even joked how Julius served as an influence in his real life, stopping him from making extravagant purchases.
An easily-recognizable 80’s Dad archetype (he was tough on his sons but regularly spoiled his only daughter), Julius mostly left the disciplining up to his wife. Unquestionably, he worked hard to support his family, even if he stumbled over expressing his affections.
The series was created and narrated by Rock, who chose to cancel the show after four seasons when his character reached the end of his teens.
Modern Family’s Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker
* And what’s better than one dad? Two dads – as demonstrated by Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, 47, and Eric Stonestreet, 51, portraying married couple Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker respectively.
When the mockumentary-style family sitcom premiered in 2009, it was an instant hit, forever altering the television landscape.
If Sofia Vergara became an instant TV darling, then it was Mitchell and Cameron’s loving relationship that made LGBTQ+ viewers feel truly seen and represented.
Modern Family was the first time a major network had shown a long-term, committed queer relationship – between two of its lead characters. The writers didn’t hold back, portraying the couple as both loving and bickering.
In another layer of authenticity, Ferguson is gay in real life, wed ten years to lawyer husband Justin Mikita.
Raising a modern family all of their own, the couple has two kids via surrogate.
Fresh Off the Boat’s Louis Huang
* One of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation, Randall Park, 49, achieved mainstream success starring as Louis Huang, patriarch of a Taiwanese American family in groundbreaking sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat.
The first TV series featuring an all Asian American main cast to broadcast over 100 episodes, it went off the air three years ago after six seasons.
Set between 1995 and 2000, the series depicted the Huangs and their three kids, relocating to Orlando, Florida to open a cowboy-themed steakhouse.
Cleverly subverting stereotypes of the Asian American experience, Park’s patriarch was largely mild-mannered, embracing all things American. Growing up in Los Angeles, Park himself grew up with few Asian role models – beyond Bruce Lee.
“It would have meant the world to me to have seen a family like mine on television,” says the actor who famously played Kim Jong Un in Seth Rogen’s comedy The Interview.
Bob’s Burgers Bob Belcher
* And finally, one of our favorite TV dads isn’t even a real person, yet the animated character of Bob Belcher in Bob’s Burgers is still an inspiration.
Bob tries to balance out his restaurant life at Bob’s Burgers with being a good father and husband. Although he’s regularly late on the rent, struggles to make ends meet, and receives little respect from his kids, he powers on as a hardworking, family man.
Cursed with an unlucky streak, it’s a testament to his character that he faces life’s trials with enthusiasm. Voiced by Harry Jon Benjamin, 57, the actor has brought life to numerous animated characters including Sterling Archer in Archer and Carl in Family Guy.
Bob’s children treat him like buffoon and, he in turn, is brutally honest: “Listen, you’re my children and I love you, but you’re all terrible at what you do here and I feel like I should tell you. I’d fire all of you if I could,” he tells them.
Who’s your favorite TV Dad? Let us know in the comments!
Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.