Happy Father’s Day! Favorite TV Dads Edition

Phil and Claire sit together, cuddling, on the beach

Dads come in all kinds of forms. Some are sensitive, some are on the more gruff side, some are in-between. Some dads aren’t the best, and some dads try their hardest. Sometimes your dad is the male figure in your life who raised you, related or not. Father’s Day means celebrating your dad, but there are no limits as to who you celebrate. If they are the ones you consider to be your dad, then that’s the person to celebrate. For fun, you can celebrate some of your favorite TV dads, too.

Sometimes it feels as though it’s the parents on TV that get you, even when they don’t get their own kids, in an ironic twist. TV is entertainment as well as escapism in many ways; sometimes you need a break from your family and sometimes you just need to laugh with, or at, other parents. TV dads range from gruff to dorky, but we all have our favorites. I grew up watching all kinds of dads, from serious to sitcom-y, and in many ways I connected with them.

My maternal uncle was the male figure in my life that helped raise me. He taught me patience, wisdom, and throughout my school years, a lot of math. He has always believed in and supported me: attending graduations, listening to all my ideas, helping me when I need guidance. He makes sure I have everything I need and is always there for me. He is my hero, and he puts the TV dads I love to shame. Sometimes dads aren’t traditional, but my uncle is the best dad I could’ve ever asked for.

I have so many favorite TV dads it’d take more than just one article to discuss them all. But here’s a start…

Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)

I love Phil so much, and I only just discovered him. I’ve been watching Modern Family for a couple weeks now, and I can’t believe how much I’ve missed, but I excitedly look forward to catching up. I love Phil’s quirkiness. He’s not the traditional manly-man, but he is a traditional family man. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for Claire and their three kids. He may be oblivious at times, much to the consternation of Claire especially, but he usually makes up for it somehow.

Phil is fun-loving and will sometimes go to extremes to prove himself. I just watched an episode where Phil rode around on Jay’s motorcycle to look like a bad boy for Claire, and wound up stuck underneath it for some time before freeing himself and returning, only with his jeans cut on one leg from the thigh down. Sometimes Phil has to learn the hard way, but at least he tries.

Phil reading from "Phil's-osophy" with Claire looking uncertain beside him with a caption in the forefront in Modern Family

I have a few favorite Phil moments I’ve seen thus far. One was when he took Haley to tour his alma mater, and though Haley was embarrassed by him, the trip ended with the two riding down hills on cafeteria trays as Phil used to when he went there. That’s father-daughter bonding, as they’re just enjoying the moment and the two get to have another special memory before Haley departs for college life.

I loved the “Phil’s-osophy” book that contained Phil’s life lessons that he’d made for Haley to take with her to college. While not all lessons necessarily made sense, some were especially meaningful, like “success is 1 percent inspiration, 98 percent perspiration, and 2 percent attention to detail.” 101 percent success, as determined by Phil—I’ll always remember that. The book was sweet; Haley would have a part of her family, especially her dad, with her as she embarked on her new journey into adulthood and experienced a new chapter in her life. Even though she’s away from home, her family is there when she needs them, and so is her dad’s quirky and heartfelt advice.

Phil makes efforts to connect with Alex in another episode, wanting a special day to create a meaningful memory, but nothing goes right. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to happen. All it takes is effort, and Phil put in that effort, which Alex will always cherish and remember. Plus, he wrote her initials on the sign of the restaurant they stopped at to officially commemorate their father-daughter day.

Being a father is a full-time job, and Phil takes it on readily. Even if he screws up, he still means well, and his family is the most important thing to him at the end of the day.

Cam Tucker (Modern Family)

I wish Cam existed and was my next-door neighbor. I would enjoy his theatrical personality. Life with Cam in it is certainly never boring. Lily, and later Rexford, are lucky to have him for a father.

Cam has a big heart, filled with love to give. He’s always eager to help and he’s filled with all kinds of fun ideas. He’s a stay-at-home dad when audiences first meet him and he’s good at it. He’s a good balance to Mitch’s stricter and more uptight nature; together, he and Mitch make a great team. Cam’s parenting tactics may require revisions from time to time (like when he didn’t want to tell Lily “no” and could have lost a hand in the garbage disposal due to Lily’s penchant for flicking switches on and off), but he comes from a good, caring place, as he only wants to be the best parent he can be.

Mitch to the left and Cam to the right sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Cam wearing a purple shirt and Mitch a button-up shirt, Cam smiling happily and Mitch smiling awkwardly in Modern Family

He’s very sensitive when it comes to criticism and his appearance. While that’s not the best example to set for children, no parent is perfect. Perhaps Lily and Rexford grow up and learn from his flaws. Cam was an overachiever growing up; any criticism for him is hard to digest simply because he tries to be the best at everything, and when that illusion is shattered, it’s understandable that Cam has something of a meltdown as a result.

I love Cam’s anecdotes about life on the farm; it’s part of his bigger-than-life personality. It made him who he is, and though Mitch sometimes makes fun of Cam’s farm ways, Cam doesn’t hide his past. He’s proud of it, and that’s a good thing.

He’s the kind of dad that would do anything for his kids. He introduces them to new things (even pushing Lily to act at one point, despite Mitch’s disapproval), and he gives them adventures to remember. It certainly provides Lily and Rexford free reign to come up with fun ideas of their own for Cam to support and likely become involved in.

Mitch admitted in one episode that because Cam was so scared to be a parent prior to them adopting Lily, he thought Cam would leave. The fact that Cam stayed and became the awesome parent that he is, is testament to his character, and his dedication as a father. He faced his fears and he stayed, and his life, alongside Lily’s, Rexford’s, and Mitch’s were that much better and happier because of it.

Jack Fenton (Danny Phantom)

love cartoons. They hold a special place in my heart. I watch them religiously. They’re a break from adulthood and they make me happy. I’ve been watching Danny Phantom since it premiered, and I’ve long laughed at Jack’s antics and frequent screw-ups.

Jack smiling with an arm around his son, who looks up at him nervously as they sit at the kitchen table in Danny Phantom

Jack is goofy, clumsy, clueless, and a big fan of fudge. He parades around in an orange jumpsuit shouting about ghosts and constantly embarrassing his two kids. Yet, he’s unapologetically himself. What you see is what you get. He tends to get carried away with ghosts and obsesses about them often, but when it comes down to it, family matters more. He finds ways to bond with his kids, whether it’s fighting ghosts for a weekend with his daughter or taking Danny fishing. He’s protective of his family and would tear anyone apart “molecule by molecule” for messing with them. He maintains a childlike innocence about him by playing with action figures and getting excited about new inventions. He’s a cool dad in his own way.

What’s so funny about his character, however, is how clueless he is. While he’s shouting about taking ghosts apart “molecule by molecule,” he never realizes his son is a half-ghost and cringing nearby. Though, that wrong is righted twice, in both “Reality Trip” and “Phantom Planet.” Both episodes, Jack openly accepts Danny alongside his wife, despite having believed ghosts were scum beforehand. Jack’s ability to accept Danny despite his beliefs about ghosts means more, especially in regards to fatherhood, than words could ever say. It’s the ultimate show of unconditional love, and that’s exactly how a parent’s love should be.

Danny Williams (Hawaii Five-0)

I’ve mentioned before that the first episode of Hawaii Five-0 I watched was the second season episode in which Danny’s daughter Grace is kidnapped. The more episodes I watched, the more I loved Danny. He’d moved from New Jersey, the only home he’d ever known, to Hawaii, which he initially hated, just so he could be there for Grace, who had moved to Hawaii with her mother and stepfather. It’s almost Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire dedicated, minus the wig, bodysuit and make-up, of course. It takes a certain caliber of fatherhood to leave behind everything for your child, sacrificing as Danny does, and yet, he doesn’t complain about it (at least, not to Grace).

Danny eventually makes a home for himself and finds “Ohana” (family) in his friends at Five-0, especially Steve, but his sole purpose for just being has always been Grace. Steve becomes like an uncle to her, and though Danny complains about Steve’s influence, trusting his best friend with Grace is a big deal. Danny’s overprotective of her, especially when it comes to boys, and it’s shown time and time again the lengths he’ll go to for her. He’ll save her from kidnappers, protect her when her dance is taken over by criminals, and get her through a bad day. He’ll also be the disciplinarian when he has to be, like when Grace sneaks out to go to a Halloween party.

He’s definitely Father of the Year for many reasons. He goes the distance for Grace’s brother Charlie too, who Danny later finds out is his son from his ex-wife. Charlie has a serious illness, and Danny, despite having just found out Charlie was his, undergoes a bone marrow transplant to save his son. That’s the kind of father that deserves an award, but would never expect one, as he’d say he’s just doing his job as a dad.

Danny sitting on a bench with his arms on top of it looking at Grace to his left with Charlie sitting on his right in Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0 did a great job with Danny and his two kids, showing the things he’d do for them and the bond he had with them. They didn’t get shoved into the background like many police procedurals tend to do; they had episodes with storylines about Danny and his kids on plenty of occasions, always emphasizing Danny’s dedication to fatherhood.

My favorite Danny moment derives from the third episode of Season 1, “Malama Ka Aina.” Danny had taken Grace to a football game and to meet Steve, Chin and Kono, and unfortunately, a shooting erupted. Danny kept Grace safe, but still his ex-wife insisted they go back to court to renegotiate the terms of Danny’s visitation. Trying to plead with her to reconsider, Danny shows up at his wife’s house with a speech prepared:

“Before you sick your lawyers on me, try to take Grace away from me, I want to remind you of something. I moved 5,000 miles so that I could see Grace twice a week. Twice a week, okay, that is 48 hours, 52 times a year for a grand total of 2,500 hours. When you factor in sleep and school, I can really only count on about 400 hours of real face time each year, and that’s only gonna shrink when she starts making friends and then she goes off to college. So ultimately that does not leave me with a lot of time to spend with my daughter. Not as much as I would want. But I never complain. I never complain because every single one of those minutes reminds me of what I am doing and why I am here. That little girl is my life.

Danny always fights for his children, and his speech is proof of that. He’ll go to the ends of the Earth, and even beyond that, to be with his children. He could’ve stayed in New Jersey, but that was not the father he wanted to be. Despite his rocky journey, he was always the father he wanted to be, and always the father Grace and Charlie needed.

Dwayne Pride (NCIS: New Orleans)

Most characters in the NCIS franchise have complicated familial backgrounds, riddled with dysfunction. One of the things I love most about NCIS: New Orleans is that it’s different compared to its two predecessors. It has better functioning relationships, and that includes the one between Dwayne Pride and his daughter, Laurel.

Dwayne is getting divorced when the series begins, as his wife feels his job interferes too much in their lives and can no longer put up with it. The story is very different between father and daughter; Laurel has accepted Dwayne’s dedication to his job, admiring him for his work, knowing that she is still his priority and that he loves her more than life itself. The two have a good relationship, bonding over their love of music and cooking.

Dwayne and Laurel sitting in front of a piano looking down and smiling as they sit beside one another in NCIS New Orleans

They clash from time to time, like when Laurel secretly visited Dwayne’s father in prison, or when Laurel was infuriated with her father for starting a bromance with her boyfriend at the time, against her wishes. The two worked through those things, never letting grudges get in between them. Dwayne keeps what happened with Laurel’s mother separate from their relationship, which is especially helpful as Laurel has nothing to do with it and need not carry that burden. Dwayne is there for her, always, calling her “baby girl,” paying off her college debt, and helping her through relationship and life woes. He makes time for Laurel despite his busy schedule, reiterating that his family comes first.

The most touching father-daughter moment between Dwayne and Laurel comes in the Season 5 opener of “See You Soon.” Dwayne, dying from gunshot wounds sustained in the Season 4 finale, is dreaming as he slowly succumbs to his wounds. Meanwhile, Laurel struggles to get from New York to New Orleans, and she arrives at the perfect time, joining Loretta in the hospital room. In Dwayne’s dream, Laurel appears before he takes the final step to move on, and her shouting “Daddy!” stops him in his tracks, to which a determined look appears on his face and he declares, “Not yet.” Laurel’s voice was what he needed to hear; Laurel was what he needed all along to come back to life, essentially. Their bond is powerful enough to bring Dwayne back from the brink of death, literally. It’s touching, and I’m definitely all for happy endings.

Javier (Broke)

I started watching Broke because I was a fan of Pauley Perrette, but I stayed because I loved the characters of Javier and Elizabeth. A wealthy couple, stripped of all their money by Javier’s father to teach them a lesson, find their way to Elizabeth’s estranged sister and her son, and begin living with them. Chaos at first, it gradually becomes a working household with sisters reconnecting and family ultimately coming together.

I love Javier’s optimism and fun personality. There’s no darkness he can’t shed light upon, and despite having everything he ever knew ripped away from him, he finds his own path to make do in the meantime. He’s always moving forward to the next thing and is a wonderful and supportive husband to Elizabeth. She struggles more with their new living situation, but he keeps her grounded and happy. It’s beautiful to see that they truly love each other, and that despite losing all their money, it doesn’t break them up. In fact, it only brings them closer together.

Javier sitting on the couch talking to Sammy, who is sitting in front of him and looking up at him in Broke

Parent-wise, Javier makes a wonderful father figure for Sammy, the son of Elizabeth’s sister, Jackie. Sammy’s father is never around and always letting him down, but Javier shows up at just the right time in Sammy’s life, like losing his money was meant to be so he could be there for Sammy and better the lives of others. Naturally a kind and generous person, Javier jumps at the chance and bonds well with Sammy, more so than Elizabeth (at least initially).

Javier’s childlike enthusiasm is contagious and Sammy clearly loves his uncle, and it is clear that despite his father never being around, he’s grateful that his aunt, uncle, and their assistant are now more involved in his and his mother’s lives. Javier sets a good example in many ways, from his optimistic nature to his respectful and caring treatment of his wife and to her family. Javier introduces Sammy to church, which he loves, and proves to be a very positive influence in his life.

Sammy and Javier came into one another’s lives when they needed it most, and their bond will be unbreakable because of it. Sometimes bad things happen so better things can enter your life; I believe the right people come into your life when you need them most, and the best people stay in your life forever. Javier will always be there for Sammy and vice versa; if and when Javier ever gets his money back, he’d never abandon Sammy. Instead, he’d use that money to help Sammy any way he could, and take him on a trip or two. The incredible and heartwarming thing about Javier is that, while he may not be Sammy’s father, he chooses to take on the role as father figure, expecting nothing in return and only wanting to spend time with Sammy and be there for him.

Written by Kacie Lillejord

Kacie is a freelance writer versed in various forms. She loves pop culture, screenwriting, novels, and poetry. She has previously written for The Daily Wildcat, Harness Magazine, Cultured Vultures, and Screen Rant, with 25YL being her newest writing venture.

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