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Top Five 80s TV Dads

Cosby-sweater  Fathers Day is coming up this weekend, a time of year I find myself thinking a lot about those Coogi-sweatered, sensitive dads from prime time. Thus, consider this a special, Monday edition of Flashback Friday. Here are my top five dads of 80s TV:

1) Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

I know I'm not alone in thinking Cliff Huxtable is tops when it comes to TV dads of the 80s, if not TV dads of all time. A busy obstetrician, Cliff still managed to be a present and proud father to four five kids (I always forget Sandra), a romantic and thoughtful partner for his wife, Claire, and a good son to his own mom and dad. My favorite Cliff Huxtable moment will always be his 49th anniversary present to his parents—a lip-sync performance of "Night Time is the Right Time" by Ray Charles featuring the whole family:

2) Steven Keaton (Family Ties)

Steven Keaton earns the number two spot for putting up with an insufferable yuppie like Alex P. Keaton for a son. Seriously, how he never smacked that Reagan lovier on the mouth is beyond me. I guess hippies are supposed to be mellow and non-violent. Maybe a smack or two would have done Alex some good, though; I always imagine Alex growing up to become Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

3) Henry Warnimont (Punky Brewster)

Henry was often gruff and at a loss for how to deal with a precocious pre-teen with a penchant for mis-matched socks, but he wins a top three spot for taking in an abandoned child and her dog, despite being considerably less flush than his upper-class counterpart, Daddy Warbucks. 

4) Jack Arnold (The Wonder Years)

Jack was another gruff dad with a soft underbelly, and probably one of the most realistic TV dads. Jack hated his job. Jack yelled at his kids. Jack didn't cry much or have a tender moment with sappy piano music every episode. In spite of that, there was no doubt that Jack he loved his family fiercely.

5) Dan Conner (Roseanne)


Another blue collar dad, Dan was a drywall contractor who was often without work. Dan faced fatherhood with the kinds of working-class pressures the Huxtables and Keatons of primetime would never understand. Dan was plagued with a constant pressure to provide for his family, with the added frustration of a job market that often would not cooperate. At times throughout the show, Roseanne was the primary (or sole) breadwinner for the family, a circumstance that would at times make Dan feel like "less of a man." Dan was by no means perfect. Like Jack Arnold, he yelled at his kids and he didn't always say the right thing—just like your dad, I bet. Yes, he cheated on Roseanne later in the series, but this is a feature on favorite TV dads, not favorite TV husbands. The infidelity arc only served to further demonstrate that Dan represented a realistic but nevertheless loving and supportive father figure in a time when most TV dads would make you think only a dude with a six figure salary could be father of the year.

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Mighty Hunter

If I could be half the father that Dan Conner was on Roseanne, I would still be a pretty good father.

Fawn Amber

Excellent picks, all. I especially loved Dan Conner. He's the kind of dad I would have loved to have had.

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